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Jade City by Fonda Lee


“Heaven help me, Shae,” he whispered into her ear. “I’m going to kill them all.” 

Jade City by Fonda Lee is a book I have had on my shelf for years but never got around to reading. If you have been pushing this book back on your TBR like I have, you are doing yourself a major disservice. Fonda Lee has perfected the fantasy genre with compelling characters, dynamic dialogue, and a fast-paced emotional plotline. 


In Jade City we are transported to Kekon, a country with a monopoly on jade, a resource that can only be handled by certain bloodlines and can grant superhuman abilities. The people that can wield jade are called Green-bones and two major clans of Green-bones run the country. The No Peak Clan and The Mountain Clan were once one when fighting off foreign enemies, but in peace time they split, dividing the capital of Kekon, Jaloon in half. We follow the No Peak Clan’s head family, the Kaul’s, as they struggle to keep their clan and each other from ruin under threat of an approaching war. This book is packed with action, politics, and turbulent family dynamics that make it almost impossible to put down.  

The Plot  

One of my major setbacks for picking this book up was the premise. Not that the premise wasn’t interesting, I just wasn’t sure if a mafia book needed to be almost 500 pages. Though this book goes so in-depth on a variety of topics that it has earned its page count. One thing I really enjoy in a book is politics, I like to know the complexities hidden behind large organizations, and in Jade City we get to see every aspect of clan operations from finance to lobbying. If politics isn’t really your speed, then this book also provides ample amounts of action and bloodshed, violent conflicts with an interesting magic system. And if you need a book with a major character focus on complex family dynamics and character growth, this book does not disappoint.  

Normally having all of this crammed into a book would be a downside for me, but the way that Fonda Lee organizes it all into different perspectives is masterful. There was never a chapter in this book that I thought was unnecessary, she planned out every word with a purpose which is a rare quality in such large books. The plot also never feels too heavy to read through, most of the chapters are short and switch perspective frequently to help maintain interest. This book reads like a master class on fantasy organization, its format is near perfection, and it speaks greatly on Fonda Lee as a writer. 


As I mention in almost every review I have written, characters are where books shine for me. While this isn’t the experience for every reader, if a book does not have compelling characters to attach too, I struggle to care about the plot. This book has 4 main characters, all with their own perspectives and all with their own flaws and motivations. These characters mostly fall into stereotypes we have all seen before in family dynamics but written in a way that allows you to see your own family in them. You will get frustrated with these characters, cry with them, and laugh with them.  

I will admit that I didn’t like Hilo as much as I believe other people who have read this do, but I understood him and why he acts the way he does. This was surprising for me because usually if I don’t mesh with a character’s personality, I find it hard to care about their character arc. But with Hilo I did care, and I think it’s because I know he is capable of change and I’m excited to see who he shapes into. All the other characters in this book are just as compelling, but focusing on my least favorite perspective will tell you how good the other ones were in my opinion. 

Final Thoughts 

Jade City is a book I regret not reading sooner but am grateful that I now have a complete trilogy waiting for me to read. Fonda Lee has proven herself to be an author I will be insta-buying in the future. Will obviously every book isn’t going to be universally loved, if you were ever hesitant to pick this book up, I would recommend giving it a shot. I find that sometimes our next favorite read is hidden in the one place we refuse to look.  

Final Rating: 4/5 

Check out Jade City for yourself at Barnes and Noble or your local bookstore!

Also check out Jaxson’s review of Helldiver II!

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