Fantasy readers have been calling out for more diversity and Jade City is a resoundingly good response.
The urban fantasy setting that heavily evoked Chinese gangster/crime syndicate movies, which I’ve grown up on, is a paradoxical breath of fresh air that carried the scent of nostalgia. All that was needed to make it even cooler and awesome was magic and martial arts.
I will not rehash the plot since the blurb said it all without spoilers. I found the world-building both refreshing and familiar. The island of Kekon in my mind was a vibrant blend of Hong Kong and Shanghai where both the seedy and sophisticated sat side by side, controlled and protected by powerful clans in exchange for tribute money.
It was the way of all things, to live and die at the whim of powerful creatures.
I loved how the author used jade as the source of power – both magically and monetarily – as this gem has always been viewed as the most venerated of all in East Asian cultures. The magical attributes of jade to those who can wield it, i.e. the Green Bones, reminded so much of Mistborn and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, which can only be a good thing since I adored everything that Sanderson has written. The same goes for the action scenes, which depicted with great efficiency the power of the Green Bones through superhuman abilities and kung-fu. What I appreciated, even more, was that there is a cost to wielding such power. Such rules within the narrative help to keep the story honest and hopefully not fall to silly deux ex machina traps.
Now to the best part, the characters. I swear that I felt like I was watching one of those old Chow Yuen Fatt movies again – respected clans and families, honour and duty. The solid and sensible leader of the family, an older brother who is overshadowed by his more adept and fiery younger brother, who commanded unfailing loyalty from his followers. While this is not original, it makes for a truly compelling story. Lan and Hilo are the two brothers I’ve mentioned and their stories are my favourites. Especially Hilo, whom I found incredibly attractive. He was not physically described in detail at all, but his charisma and his barely restrained passion which makes him volatile and violent pulled on me like a lodestone. It took me a while to warm up to the other main characters, Shae and Anden. But by the time the book ended, I was completely invested in what the future holds for them as well.
The clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master.
And the real war is coming…