Book Review: Jade Shards (The Green Bone Saga, #0.75) by Fonda Lee

Book Review: Jade Shards (The Green Bone Saga, #0.75) by Fonda Lee

This review is a copy of the transcript of my video review on Jade Shards

Cover art illustrated by: Charis Loke

Jade Shards by Fonda Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Green Bone Saga (Book #0.75 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Urban Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Pages: 136 pages (Hardback edition)

Published: 31st July 2023 by Subterranean Press

Jade Shards is an incredibly well-written farewell titles for the fans of Green Bone Saga.

“This one’s for the fans.”—Fonda Lee

Reading Jade Shards felt bittersweet. How could it not be? I am happy to attain this, but Jade Shards has been confirmed to be the final set of new stories in the world of The Green Bone Saga. I am not ashamed to say I am a diehard enthusiast of the The Green Bone Saga series. I consider the main trilogy in The Green Bone Saga the best trilogy I have ever read. Upon the completion of the main trilogy, my heart soared with joy when Fonda Lee said there would be two more books in the series. The first one is The Jade Setter of Janloon prequel novella that I read and loved last year, and the other one is Jade Shards, a collection of four prequel short stories centering on the early life of Ayt Mada, Kaul Lan, Kaul Hilo, Wen, Anden, and Shae. And this is precisely the nostalgic and heartfelt prequel titles for us, fans of the series, to part ways with the world and characters.

“These books are how I discovered I’m a character writer. Seeing readers fall in love with these fictional people, as I have, has been one of my greatest professional satisfaction.”—Fonda Lee

A few things of note first before I start talking about each title. Although Jade Shards is structured as a collection of prequel short stories, these four stories are presented in chronological order, and it turned Jade Shards into a form of a full novella. But as Lee herself said in the introduction, familiarity with the world and characters are necessary to enjoy Jade Shards to the fullest. This is not like The Jade Setter of Janloon, which can be treated as an appetizer or dessert of the series. I am so appreciative of Fonda Lee for saying this. This shows care for the reader’s enjoyment. Many fantasy authors I know, every time they write a prequel or sequel series, seem to mention their newest book in the same specific world can be treated as a standalone to drive up sales. Even when the main characters are still the same! I am not a fan of this practice. Connection with the characters and the world means a lot, especially when we are going to start reading a sequel series. So if you have not read the main trilogy in The Green Bone Saga yet, I implore you to read them first before reading Jade Shards. Or at least, read Jade City first. You will do yourself a huge favor. Now, let’s proceed to my brief thoughts on each short story.

Picture: Jade Shards by Charis Loke

The Witch and Her Friend

The first short story, The Witch and Her Friend, takes place 25 years before the events of Jade City. The blurb may lead you to think this is a story with a high focus on Ayt Mada, and you are not mistaken. Ayt Mada always has that intimidating presence whenever she appears, and it is the same here, but this is not the full scope of the story. The Witch and Her Friend is a snapshot of events and friendship between Aun Ure and Ayt Mada. Specifically in three timeframes; when Ayt Mada was 13 years old, 19 years old, and finally, 24 years old. However, the story itself is not told from the perspective of Ayt Mada, but instead, it is told from the point of view of Aun Ure. This title and direction are something I did not expect, and the story is better for it. If you have read the main trilogy, you might know who Aun Ure—or The Witch—is. I will not be the bearer of spoilers, in case you don’t know, but let’s say this. Not only The Witch and Her Friend is an instantaneous display of how good and efficient Lee is at characterizations, dialogues, developments, and time jumps in her narrative, but this title also enhanced some moments in the main trilogy. One pivotal moment in Jade Legacy felt more enriched with subtleties and significance for me now. It is a magnificent short story; a great choice to start the collection.

“A family can’t survive when divided by secrets. I learned that the hard way.”

Not Only Blood

Not Only Blood starts 3 years after The Witch and Her Friend. The second short story is the most family-focused title in the collection, and it several times brought a smile to my face. Told from the perspective of Lan, Not Only Blood delves into the relationship and interaction of the Kaul family back when none of them were in a position of power yet. Yes, you will see 23 years old Lan, 15 years old Hilo, 14 years old Shae, 6 years old Anden, and more in this title. The story itself centers around the cause and Lan’s insistence to adopt Anden into the Kaul family, and readers of the main trilogy will know just how important this decision is. However, what made this one stands out even further is seeing the relatively innocent days of the main characters—except Anden, who went through a lot of trauma here—from the main trilogy. As the title says, not only blood determines what forms a family. Lan made that clear here, and to me, it felt like a reunion seeing all my favorite characters in the series again. Even more so because I know how far each respective main character of The Green Bone Saga soar in the main trilogy. Some passages, like the one below, reflected that, and I couldn’t be happier. Not Only Blood is definitely one of my two favorite short stories in the collection. Or ever.

“Hilo, as unruly as he was at school, was too martially talented, too obviously destined to become a high-ranking Fist at the very least. No amount of suffered exasperation could blind the Pillar to the fact that his younger grandson, properly trained, would become a fearsome asset to the clan.”

Better Than Jade

Since Jade Shards was announced, way before I even knew the title of this short story, Better Than Jade was already destined to become one of my favorite short stories in the collection. Aside from how superbly written, everything comes down to a simple point: Kaul Hilo is one of my top favorite characters of all time. Honestly, reading Hilo going on grocery shopping would’ve been enough to earn a 5-star rating from me. I am that biased and attached to this character. And to have a romantic, sweet, and spicy story about Hilo and Wen, to go back to the days of their early courtships, from their first dates to their first sex scene, I absolutely loved it. This is the only title in the collection featuring two POV characters: Hilo and Wen, one of my favorite couples in the genre. Those who have read the main trilogy will understand this. The realistic depiction of the relationship between them, the up and down, the trust, the struggle, the understanding, and their love through the happiness and perilous hardship in their lives are nothing short of outstanding. It felt wonderful to go back to the days of their innocence when lives were still simpler. Not even five pages of detailed sex scenes, which usually bores me, in this title could diminish my enjoyment of being back with Hilo and Wen again. And it is not only about the relationship with Wen, of course, but the impactful respect that Hilo and the Maik Brothers have for each other. Better Than Jade is easily one of the finest short stories I’ve ever read.

“We’ve been friends since we were kids in the Academy. Why wouldn’t I also want your sister to have a good life? So what if she’s a stone-eye? Not all men are so superstitious they can’t see other good qualities in a person… A man can’t ignore his feelings about something important, no matter what.”

Granddaughter Cormorant

Finally, we arrived at the final title, Granddaughter Cormorant. This one is about Shae, and the story begins 3 and a half years before the events of Jade City. Granddaughter Cormorant gives more details on why Shae is not in Kekon at the beginning of Jade City. Unlike the previous three titles in the collection that were written in 2021, Granddaughter Cormorant is a title written and available exclusively to Jade Shards. Tense and meaningful dialogues with impact aren’t the only skillsets often wielded by Lee; terrific action scene is one of them. And Granddaughter Cormorant is the only title in the collection to exhibit that specific skill of Lee as a storyteller. I did not love this as much as the previous titles, but this is still a strong plot-focused short story to wrap up the collection.

“No matter how much jade Kaul Sen awarded to his granddaughter, no matter how many parties he threw for her or how much he bragged about his “best grandson” to his friends, he could not, even as the Pillar of the clan, give her true greenness, the simple respect accorded by and to men, friends and enemies alike, honestly earned.”

This is the end. With this review posted, I have written more or less 10,000 words of review in total for the books in the series. The Green Bone Saga is a special series for me. It will always be that way. I even spend my money on the expensive Subterranean Press hardcover edition of The Jade Setter of Janloon and Jade Shards because I love the series that much. And I will do my best to get the Subterranean Press edition of the main trilogy, too. Jade Shards is the bittersweet and heartfelt prequel stories to send us off on our next adventures. As Fonda Lee said at the beginning of the book, the Kaul family deserves their rest. But nothing can stop me from reading The Green Bone Saga again and again in the future. The collection of short stories in Jade Shards was written as a passion project, and I am thankful Fonda Lee decided to share them with the fans. Thank you so much, once again, for crafting The Green Bone Saga. It goes without saying I always look forward to reading Fonda Lee’s books, whether in The Green Bone Saga or not. I believe the author’s storytelling is a blessing to the genre, and if you haven’t read The Green Bone Saga yet, do yourself a huge favor and witness the Kaul family’s tale. And if you are a fan of the series already, well, you owe it to yourself to experience the early days of these characters in Jade Shards.

“A beautiful thing about stories is that they exist forever suspended in time. Opening a book transports you instantly to the time and place on the page. It’s easy to turn back the clock on the years, to flip to page one and begin the journey all over again. It turns out I wasn’t quite done with the Kaul family after all. But perhaps, they are done with me. After everything tragic and triumphant they’ve been through, they deserve their rest.”—Fonda Lee

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