ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Green Bone Saga (Book #3 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Published: 30th November 2021 by Orbit (US) & 2nd December 2021 by Orbit (UK)
Devastatingly brilliant, Jade Legacy is a triumphant finale in Fonda Lee’s emotionally powerful character-driven masterpiece.
When I first picked up Jade City a couple of years back, it was a breath of fresh air in urban fantasy which brought back many memories growing up watching Hong Kong gangster movies. Asian-inspired fantasy had so far been based more on older historical settings of the old dynasties, but that was the first time I’ve read something closer to the era when I was born. As I’ve mentioned in my earlier review, the island of Kekon brings to a mind a vibrant blend Hong Kong and to a lesser extent Shanghai. In so far as worldbuilding is concerned, I was immediately on board to the concept of such uber powerful clans controlling and protecting their territories, and where violence is an accepted way of life.
“Perhaps that was the greatest tragedy of jade warriors and their families. Even when we win, we suffer.”
What made The Green Bone Saga from the usual mobster story was the jade. Jade as a source of ultimate power – whether from its special bioenergetic energy which endowed its wearer incredible physical attributes, or its status as the most valuable resource in the world. Kekon’s history and unique advantage as being the only place where jade could be mined made for a fascinating backdrop against which the two most powerful Green Bone clans clashed for supremacy while foreign powers vying for access to jade were also waging proxy wars. Lee utilised this setting to good effect by also extending a much appreciated narrative on the Asian diaspora as the Kekonese migrated to foreign lands.
“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.”
However, what made this series truly exceptional was the phenomenal character development. The Green Bone Saga was predominantly a character-driven story with the clan wars providing the backdrop in which we get to see and experience the growth in the characters, especially those of the Kaul family. I was so glad to have reread both Jade City and Jade War before I started Jade Legacy because it revived emotional investment for the characters. The fallout from the events which occured at the end of Jade War had deep reaching consequences, and the first few chapters of this book clearly showed this causing much heartache in my part.
“There aren’t real second chances. Even when you live through the worst parts, life doesn’t go back to what it was before.”
While I loved a considerable number of the characters, all whom were immensely well-written and felt authentic, one of them stood apart of the rest. Kaul Hiloshudon was already a firm favourite of mine going into this final book, and by the end of it, he has catapulted to one of my top all-time favourites. The growth in his character was one of the most captivating I’ve ever read. A man of barely restrained passion, who undoubtedly loved his family and clan almost to a fault, he would do anything for the safety of his loved ones. His empathy and understanding of people made him an extraordinary leader who commanded undying loyalty from his followers. He’s by no means perfect, and his flaws only made him an even more compelling character. From a character standpoint, this trilogy was to me about Hilo and the people whose lives were impacted by him – either directly or indirectly. And one of those people was me, as I was bereft when I had to take leave by the end of Jade Legacy.
“I could always count on you. That’s why I’ve always asked for too much. I’m asking you for one more thing now, the last thing I need from you. I’m asking you to live.”
Aside from being a much bigger book, this final volume was also structurally different from the previous books. The narrative spanned a considerable number of years, 20 years to be exact, with multiple time jumps. It also subjected me to one heck of a rollercoaster of emotions throughout as I was put through not two, not three, but four climaxes which kept me on the edge and wrung me out like a well-used dishcloth. And when I say climaxes, I don’t mean the awesome jade-powered action scenes, but highly emotionally charged ones – I actually had to take breaks to recover from them. This book completely bled my emotions dry, and as we reached its final few chapters, I was dreading the inevitable and tried to savour what time I have left with these characters who felt so real and dear to me. Jade Legacy is undoubtedly now one of the best books I’ve read and The Green Bone Saga one of my all-time favourite trilogies.
“The clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master.”
Fonda Lee is my Pillar.
My words truly cannot do justice to this phenomenal trilogy and all I can do is to plead all readers, even those who are not typically fans of fantasy to pick up The Green Bone Saga. Aside from the seemingly magical properties of jade, this story is at the end of the day is an empathically and powerfully written family saga with strong themes of love, loyalty and honour that should be accessible to most readers. I especially implore the Asian reader, especially if you’re part of a diaspora to read this.
The Green Bone Saga: 14.5/15 stars
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Official release date: 30th November 2021 (US) & 2nd December 2021 (UK)