ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover designed by: Lisa Marie Pompilio
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Green Bone Saga (Book #3 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 736 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 30th November 2021 by Orbit (US) & 2nd December 2021 by Orbit (UK)
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever read. Jade Legacy is an all-around masterpiece that certified The Green Bone Saga as my top favorite completed trilogy of all time.
“Good men are remembered with love by their friends… Great warriors are remembered with awe by their enemies.”
This review won’t do this book justice. Lee must’ve channeled—she must be a true Green Bone warrior—real magic to finish writing this ambitious concluding installment. Jade City and Jade War are some of the best books to exist in modern fantasy. I loved them so much, and my love for the previous two books in the series skyrocketed my anticipation and expectations for Jade Legacy. High expectation isn’t a healthy mindset to adapt as it tends to lead to disappointment. But occasionally, a special book can meet—and even exceed—those expectations. Jade Legacy is that kind of special book. Jade Legacy is unbelievably better than the previous—already superb—two books, and it’s a novel that’s equally traumatizing but more superior to the legendary A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin. There, I’ve said it. Tragic, soul-crushing, but also hopeful and filled with love. Enrich and break your soul; read this trilogy to its conclusion as soon as possible. If that’s still not enough to convince you, proceed to read my feeble attempt to write a review for this masterwork.
“When something has to be done, there’s always a way to do it.”
If you’ve followed Fonda Lee’s or Orbit’s social media, you should know by now that one of the reasons why Jade Legacy is an ambitious undertaking is due to the time span the plot requires. The story in Jade Legacy begins a few months after the end of Jade War, and the entirety of it spans more than two decades and multiple time skips. This is not an easy feat to do. The final book of a series usually doesn’t do this; it’s unconventional, and multiple time skips mean we—as readers—don’t get to read many events that the characters experienced. In some worse cases, they make the story feel disjointed, and they could end up halting organic character development. But rest assured, none of these applied to Jade Legacy. The multiple time skips give such an epic feel to the narrative. Plus, Lee always managed to fill in these gaps with crucial and necessary information at a terrifying efficiency and effectiveness. It’s insane. It’s nothing short of miraculous, and it worked. It bloody worked.
“Everything is a battle now… Every business, every town, every newspaper article or press conference or godsdamned vote in the Royal Council… There used to be a way things were done, under the eyes of Old Uncle. We used to be able to count on certain things. Now there aren’t any lines. Everyone in the clan is a part of the fight.”
The multiple time skips allowed Lee to tell a meticulously crafted novel that’s divided into four unforgettable parts. A story arc division isn’t something special; a lot of speculative fictions novel have done this. There’s, however, something different and impressive about each story part in Jade Legacy; every one of them felt like a novel on its own. Reading Jade Legacy is equivalent to reading a tetralogy. I’m serious. The first quarter of this book already made me feel like I went through an entire fantasy novel worth of reading; so many of my emotions were bled for these characters already. I’ve read plenty of trilogies with lesser emotional weight compared to the first quarter of this book, and I do honestly think the first quarter of Jade Legacy was already better than many trilogies I’ve read. It is THAT good, and it constantly gets more heart-wrenching, intense, and scintillating.
“No matter which part of the country you’re from, which clan you swear allegiance to, whether you wear jade or not, we are all Kekonese. We defend and avenge our own. You wrong any of us, you wrong us all. You seek to war with us, and we will return it a hundredfold.”
This means every act in Jade Legacy has a magnificent beginning, build-up, and climax sequence. The scope of the storyline is much bigger than its predecessors; reading this book made me feel like my heart went through an internal natural disaster multiple times. Yes, this book is an emotional bloodbath. In this heartrending story filled with themes about family, reconciliation, trust, legacy, sacrifice, power, money, and war, I‘ve shockingly let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding, and I’ve sagged like a melting potato. When the characters watched the news with dread, when they grieved, I felt all of that. Lee’s capability to shift a peaceful situation to a catastrophic event in a flash is just impeccable. And at the core of all its greatness, what elevated Jade Legacy to a masterpiece status was the extremely well-realized characters and characterizations.
“We don’t handle this world. We make it handle us.”
Personally speaking, with all my heart and confidence, I’m going to say that Kaul Hiloshudon has become one of my favorite characters of all time. Fonda Lee has done such an outstanding job in creating and building Hilo’s tremendous character development. If you’ve followed my reviews for years, you might know that Kaladin Stormblessed from The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. Hilo, to me, is on that same level as Kaladin. Hilo is not perfect; he’s flawed in many ways, but he’s also passionate, inspiring, and despite his flaws and temperament, he always tries his best to become a better version of himself.
“It was Kaul Hilo’s great talent. He could have a single ordinary conversation with a man and make him loyal for life.”
Well, I didn’t have a single ordinary conversation with him; it felt like I’ve known him for years through reading this trilogy. And I know it’s not fair of me to mention only Hilo. This masterful level of characterizations was applied to MANY other characters in the trilogy. The Green Bone Saga is an epic urban fantasy. It’s a gangster family saga featuring a LOT of key characters; Jade Legacy has more than ten POV characters, and whether they appeared briefly or not, every one of them has an undeniably distinct voice and characterizations. I’m not kidding; the characterizations in Jade Legacy is an absolute marvel. It’s definite that Lee understands her characters inside and outside.
“We’ve both hurt each other because we were both too stubborn about what we expected, and we paid badly for that. But what’s the point of life if we give up on the people we love?”
Hilo aside, there were more than ten characters in this trilogy that I would consider as my favorite characters as well. Whether it’s out of love, belief, or personal reasons, the conflicts and clash of ideals felt believable. And they all made mistakes; sometimes, my favorite characters—Hilo included—made decisions I don’t agree with, and that’s okay. I don’t have to agree with everything my favorite characters do to love them. The contrast in their virtues and flaws just made them more genuine and authentic as a character. If you can’t tell by now, the characters in The Green Bone Saga are real to me, and I feel like I’ve really known them and their personality. Understanding, forgiveness, loyalty, overcoming weaknesses are all integral in the development of these characters. The love, hatred, admiration the characters have for their loved or hated ones felt palpable; I wish I could elaborate and tell you what made each character—one by one—in this series so compelling. But it would make this review longer than it already is, and I risk the possibility of this review going beyond the allowed word count on Goodreads.
“We all make mistakes. Sometimes terrible mistakes we can barely live with. But we learn from them. And maybe… Maybe we can forgive each other.”
I can, however, tell you one essential element that Lee employed to heighten the tension and stakes of the series: the character’s actions—from the previous books and this book—have consequences. Actions and decisions in this series matter. This is something that Fonda Lee emphasized in the narrative, and she wields it like a clean blade to incite incredible effect. Repercussions from the events of Jade City and Jade War were monumental; the chain of events build-up were terrific, and pivotal—or relatively small—decisions often result in permanent consequences. One out of many examples, I never expected a few nobodies from the first book would become some of the most memorable supporting characters here. Not only Lee isn’t afraid to kill off or damage her characters brutally, but the powerful emotional investment I have with the characters of the trilogy also enhanced the dangers in the narrative even further. The characters in Jade Legacy suffered a LOT. And before we get to reach the peerless finale, we’re guaranteed to suffer together with them first.
“Perhaps that was the great tragedy of jade warriors and their families. Even when we win, we suffer.”
It’s easy to praise Lee’s vivid and savage battle scenes; she’s one of the best combat scenes writers in the genre. Since Jade City, the hard magic system revolved around jade rely on six abilities: Deflection, Perception, Lightness, Channeling, Strength, Steel. And these abilities never get old. It’s amazing what Lee can do with these six abilities by adding martial arts, guns, cars, airships, and explosives to it. Every tempestuous violence in Jade Legacy always felt refreshing, pulse-pounding, and cinematic. This is one of a few fantasy series that could work wonderfully adapted as manga, anime, video games, TV shows, or movies; take your pick. So yes, her prose when it comes to the art of descending violence was extraordinary as always. But I need to highlight one more thing that Lee excels at, the dialogues. The quality of Lee’s expertise in dialogues is incalculable.
“At times, when faced with difficult decisions, he would think back to the duel that had dramatically earned him his jade and reputation, and he would remind himself that sometimes the most obvious solution required only the willingness to take the most unreasonable of actions.”
Similar to the heart-pounding battle scenes, the conversations between characters frequently have stakes, murderous intent, or emotional weight imbued into them. Negotiations always felt perilous; instant oblivion waits for them at all times. Blood must be paid with blood, and one wrong word or sentence uttered could invite immediate ruin. This is Lee’s design for devastating conflicts: supercharged battle scenes and dialogues. I totally loved reading Lee’s prose; they all flow so smoothly to me. The pacing was unputdownable, the plotline and actions were breathtaking, the world-building was intricate, and the character’s arc was so immensely rewarding. I’ve shared a lot of quotes in this review, and I wish I could share more of these gems with you because I’ve actually highlighted 48 passages. But I can’t due to spoilers. You should read the book as soon as possible and find out for yourself. Do it!
“The mind cannot adjust quickly to a fundamental change in reality without breaking. If the moon vanished from the sky, people would not believe it; they would think it was a trick of light or clouds.”
I loved The Green Bone Saga so much that I reread both Jade City and Jade War first before I dive into Jade Legacy; as much as I want to, rereading isn’t something that I often do due to my infinite TBR pile. And it was so worth it; I know I’ll reread this divine trilogy over and over again. The ending stunned me completely; I sat and stared at an empty wall for hours. Fonda Lee’s exceptional achievement in creating Jade Legacy—and the entire trilogy—earn her a spot in the pantheon of fantasy greats with a commanding finality. I’ll give Jade Legacy 6 out of 5 stars if I could. I’ve read more than 500 fantasy books in my life, and Jade Legacy belongs in my top 10 books of all time. The words Lee crafted in The Green Bone Saga pierced through every armor in my heart with ease; my eyes turned glassy four times reading this superlative culmination. Jade Legacy is a supremely stunning and page-turning masterpiece, a novel that’s too good to be true but ended up being a reality. The Green Bone Saga has become my number one favorite completed trilogy of all time. No, you’re not reading that wrong; it’s at the number one spot. This urban epic fantasy has successfully dethroned my beloved Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington.
Thank you so much, Fonda Lee. You have my utmost gratitude for writing this series. I’m a clan loyalist for life. The clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master. Under the eyes of all the gods in Heaven, I pledge this. On my honor, my life, and my jade.
“And here we are. So many good things have happened since then, and also so many terrible things that it’s hard to be afraid of anything anymore. Whatever’s going to happen will happen, so the most important thing is that we appreciate what we have and the people we care about.”
The Green Bone Saga: 15/15 stars
Official release date: 30th November 2021 (US) & 2nd December 2021 (UK)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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