Review: JADE WAR by Fonda Lee

Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 587
Release Date: July 23rd, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

Note: I was provided a full review copy by the publisher in return for my fair and honest review.


41716919The clan of No Peak is in a period of recovery.  Although they recently lost their leader, they have survived the Mountain Clan’s attempt to utterly destroy them.  Now led by Hilo, with support from his sister Shae as the clan’s top advisor, No Peak has come to the realization that continued survival may rely on working with the country of Espenia – an especially tough pill to swallow as the island nation of Kekon is incredibly suspicious of outsiders.  Espenia faces a looming war with rival country Ygutan, and that means that they are demanding an ever-increasing supply of magical jade.  But jade itself has become a contentious issue across the world.  Jade grants powerful abilities to those with the right genes, and thanks to the discovery of drug called SN1, even those without the gene can wield those powers.  Crime syndicates in every country fight to control jade smuggling and the illegal distribution of SN1, and will go to violent means to secure that market, both inside their country’s borders and without. The resulting chaos is enough that many countries begin banning civilian jade outright.  At the crux of all these mounting pressures sits No Peak, who must navigate these new international tensions if they are to have any chance of staving off yet another coup attempt from the Mountain Clan.

JADE WAR is an enthralling tale that continues the saga of the No Peak clan while elevating the characters to a whole new level of playing field.  From the moment I opened my copy of JADE WAR, I knew that I was in for a very different beast than JADE CITY.  The very first map you are given is a world map, full of continents and countries I was only vaguely aware of in the first book.  You know right away that unlike before, when we were almost solely concerned with the events in a solitary city, JADE WAR is turning its eyes to the international scene, and the ripple effect No Peak’s actions have had on the world.

This has resulted in a slightly different pacing than JADE CITY.  Book one was constantly driving forward, never overlapping timelines, taking place over the course of several months.  JADE WAR is much more sprawling by its very nature.  We are now concerned with characters in multiple countries, over the course of four or five years.  This made the book feel a bit more languid, but never dull, as we jump from event to event, skipping ahead a few months at a time to pick up threads. Through it all, JADE WAR effortlessly juggles personal, national, and international struggles.  Hilo and Shae don’t merely have to worry about the Mountain knifing them in the street. With Shae hoping to establish businesses overseas, they suddenly have to care very much about their relations with the Espenian government, meaning there is frequently a delicate dance as No Peak tries to maintain their code of honor, while also needing to make concessions to their foreign allies.

But what really sells JADE WAR, like its predecessor JADE CITY, is the characters.  Lee does an amazing job of writing character POVs, putting you in their headspace without ever demanding that you sympathize with them. One incident with Hilo particularly underscores that ability, as he commits a heinous act midway through the book, one that I will never forgive him for.  Yet the scene was written in such a way that I completely understood his mentality.  He believed he was acting in the right, that he was to be obeyed as head of the clan, and nobody else’s wishes mattered.  It is written with utter conviction that I “got,” even as I condemned him. (And no, if you are worrying, the act is not remotely related to any kind of sexual assault.)

JADE WAR is everything you could hope for in a sequel.  It’s a fresh angle on the world you loved in JADE CITY, forcing the characters to consider the effects their actions will have on an international level.  Fans of the first book will feel right at home, and if you haven’t read JADE CITY, here’s my whole-hearted recommendation that you jump on the train now before the third and final book comes out next year!

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