ARC was provided by the publisher—Subterranean Press—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art illustrated by: Charis Loke
The Jade Setter of Janloon by Fonda Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Green Bone Saga (Book #0.5 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 144 pages (Hardback edition)
Published: 30th April 2022 by Subterranean Press
The Jade Setter of Janloon is an exhilarating and heartfelt appetizer or dessert to The Green Bone Saga, depending on when you start this novella.
It is not a secret knowledge that I am a diehard fan of The Green Bone Saga. All Jade City, Jade War, and Jade Legacy are all in my list of favorite books of all time. Jade Legacy was my number one favorite book of 2021, and I consider The Green Bone Saga trilogy as the best-completed fantasy trilogy I’ve ever read. And honestly? I don’t think this prestigious achievement will be replaced anytime soon. My love for The Green Bone Saga actually made me bought the Subterranean Press limited edition of The Jade Setter of Janloon. Buying a novella as expensive as this was unprecedented to me. I spent about $72 (in total) to get this novella in its physical format. I couldn’t resist. Other than the fact that this is an entry in The Green Bone Saga, which guaranteed this to be another awesome read for me, I also think the cover art by Charis Loke is absolutely stunning and beautiful. This is the kind of cover art the The Green Bone Saga deserves, and I simply couldn’t pass the chance to get a physical copy of it. But enough about this introduction. All of this is just to say that I am, probably, what you’d call biased about this series, this world, and the characters. And as predicted and expected, The Jade Setter of Janloon ended up becoming another incredible entry in The Green Bone Saga for me. Even if it made me crave for more by the end of it.
“You’re asking me to bring you into the business, but do you want to be brought in?… You have all the skills to follow in my footsteps if you choose. But a jade setter’s life is dedicated to uncelebrated work that might be undone. Every day, we give ourselves to the craft of setting jade that will give power to others. They do with it what they will, and we keep none of it for ourselves. That’s our place. Do you want that?”
The Jade Setter of Janloon is a standalone prequel novella in The Green Bone Saga series. For those new to this world and series, the novella takes place in the rapidly changing city of Janloon, a city ruled by jade. Jade is the rare and ancient substance that enhances the abilities and status of the trained Green Bone warriors who run the island’s powerful clans. The main character of this novella, Pulo Oritono, is not one of those warriors. He’s simply an apprentice jade setter under the tutelage of Isin with dreams of securing clan patronage and establishing a successful business. His hopes of achieving this, however, are dashed when a priceless jade weapon—a moon blade—is stolen from the shop where he works. Now, Pulo has three days to hunt down the thief, retrieve the moon blade, and return it to its rightful owner. In 140 pages long, Lee managed to tell a satisfying standalone story filled with great characters and a compelling narrative. Revolving around the themes of justice, vendettas, corruption, honor, and power, I finished the The Jade Setter of Janloon in one sitting. This isn’t to say The Jade Setter of Janloon is superior to the main novels. Its shorter format already put the novella in a disadvantageous position compared to any entry in the main series. However, as a novella, The Jade Setter of Janloon is terrific. As I said, by the end of it, I want to read more stories in The Green Bone Saga.
“Once the big clans move, they’re like trains that’re too fast and heavy to be stopped. People like us can only get out of the way.”
Before I started this novella, I knew I would end up demanding more stories in The Green Bone Saga. Don’t get me wrong. The main trilogy has been concluded extremely satisfyingly. But I’m not saying no to any standalone or spin-off story in this world, and this is what I’m getting in The Jade Setter of Janloon. More stories, standalone, or spin-off in The Green Bone Saga means I’ll be reading more new characters to care about. And with Lee’s magnificent capability in crafting fully well-realized characters, it is practically confirmed I will feel invested in the characters and story. Again. And yes, I did get what I wanted from reading Pulo Oritono’s story. I found Pulo to be an endearing and passionate character. He or Isin’s dedication to their craft was so admirable to me, and Lee superbly polished their characterizations within a relatively short time. Personally speaking, I think one of the most refreshing things about this novella is readers, especially us who’ve read the main novels, get to experience more of the events and conflict in Janloon from the perspective of the weaker citizens of Janloon. In the main trilogy, we’ve seen the brutal and deadly confrontation between the two of the strongest and biggest clans of Janloon—The No Peak Clean and The Mountain Clan, and eventually more—directly from their perspectives. But Pulo Oritono or Isin doesn’t belong with any one of the big clans. They have always been neutral and having Pulo as the main character really put things into perspective, once again, on just how terrifying The No Peak Clan and The Mountain Clan are. I loved it. Not saying that we didn’t get to see any of that in the main novels, but having an entire novella dedicated to someone being put in this position, and reading it from their perspective entirely, definitely added depths to the world and the effect of the catastrophic rivalry between the two big clans for me.
“He picked up the moon blade. It was heavy in his hands—a priceless, one-of-a-kind object, a warrior’s treasure. He wanted to melt it down into slag. He wanted to throw it into the sea. It was worthless, just steel and wood and jade. It wasn’t alive, it didn’t love or feel, it didn’t hurt or mourn or suffer from guilt or the pain of failure. And yet it was coveted and considered more valuable than some lives.”
One more thing before I end this review, I need to elaborate upon the opening of this review. I started reading The Jade Setter of Janloon equipped with the knowledge and investment I attained from reading the main trilogy. And this undoubtedly enhanced my feelings and experience of this novella. However, if you have not started any of the books in The Green Bone Saga, I do objectively think this would work well as an appetizer to the series. But speaking from my own experience, one of the main highlights of the novel is seeing some of my favorite characters from the main trilogy appearing again here. I missed them. Seriously, I do. From looking at the cover art, those who have read The Green Bone Saga trilogy will know who appeared in this novella. Yeah, you guessed correctly. Lan, Hilo, Ayt Mada, Gont Asch, and a few more characters appeared in The Jade Setter of Janloon. And I can’t emphasize how much their appearance made my heart and soul happy. We, The Green Bone Saga fans, and this is not a blanket statement, but our love for the characters runs DEEP. Like really deep. I mean it; it is likely only those who’ve read and fallen in love with the series will know the immense depth of our love for the characters and the world that Fonda Lee has crafted. This is why getting to see these beloved characters again, even if only briefly, means a lot to me.
“A man doesn’t have to be unkind or unlikable to have enemies… Sometimes, it’s good people who’re hated for who they are.”
My recommendation, if possible, try to read The Jade Setter of Janloon after you’ve read Jade City, Jade War, and Jade Legacy. At least Jade City. But if that’s not possible, and you want to treat this novella as the appetizer before you dine on the main course of Fonda Lee’s talent, I believe this novella will still give you a captivating reading experience. I can’t fully gauge this, but I think I would’ve given The Jade Setter of Janloon a 4 stars rating if I haven’t read the main novels before reading the novella. But because I have, I’m giving The Jade Setter of Janloon a 5 stars rating. As a novella, it is an absolutely compelling story from an exceptional author. I have been treating The Jade Setter of Janloon like a dessert I knew I’ll love to devour but didn’t for a while because I know I’ll crave more. And now I’m both satisfied and sad that I’m done with the novella. If I’m not mistaken, there will be another novella in The Green Bone Saga. Or a collection of short stories, to be more precise, and the title will be Jade Shards. Until that day, this will have to do. Thank you so much, Fonda Lee, for writing another story in The Green Bone Saga.
“Even a place with long and respected history needs new blood to change it for the better, and it’s good to have something that all Green Bones in the city can agree on.”
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