Review: THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON by Fonda Lee

Publisher: Subterranean Press
Page Count: 144
Release Date: April 30th, 2022
Series: THE GREEN BONE SAGA, Book 0.5
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

The Jade Setter of Janloon

The city of Janloon is ruled by Green Bone clans, groups of warriors who gain super-human abilities from jade. While the clans may clash over much of the city, the shop of master craftsman Isin is neutral territory. Isin is responsible for crafting much of the jewelry and weaponry the Green Bones use to display and wear their jade, and no one would think of interfering with such a revered and essential shop. But when a priceless blade belonging to one of the clans is stolen from Isin’s shop, Isin’s apprentice Pulo Oritano finds himself navigating clan politics to find the blade. It isn’t simply the shop on the line: a fellow shopworker has been blamed for the crime, and if Pulo can’t find the real culprit, the clans will execute her for daring to steal jade.

THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON is a diverting story perfect for fans looking for a snack-sized adventure after the feast of THE GREEN BONE SAGA. Set two years before JADE CITY, it features cameos from multiple fan-favorite characters, and readers can appreciate nods to events that have not yet come to pass. If you haven’t yet experienced JADE CITY, I would recommend coming back later; while the author has done an admirable job of explaining how jade and clan politics work, the quick sketches of worldbuilding Lee does here pale in comparison to the heavy lifting done in the main series.

A lot of the enjoyment in reading THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON comes from already being familiar with the world. In some ways, it almost feels like a wild tour through the seedier parts of the city, as Pulo interacts with both No Peak and Mountain clan members. Pulo is a fairly active protagonist, but he’s not the main attraction, he’s the tour guide. I don’t know that I was particularly invested in his character arc, but I sure did enjoy seeing all my old friends and haunts again.

More importantly, however, the book is about those who fall through the cracks when neither police nor Green Bones claim a particular vice as part of their domain to regulate. For all that Green Bones operate on a code of honor, it is a city essentially run by the mafia, and if the Green Bones aren’t handling a matter directly, the police sometimes look the other way instead of wading into an issue that could potentially draw the ire of the clans if it pertains to one of its businesses. Pulo gets to see first hand what happens to those who can’t count on anyone for protection, forcing him to reexamine his place in the city of Janloon as a neutral entity.

THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON is a bit of fan service, but its well done fan service that will give you all the dopamine of seeing your old friends. If you’ve been hungering for a return to the world of THE GREEN BONE SAGA, this novella is the perfect snack.

Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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