Jade City by Fonda Lee

The city of Kekon is run by the clans; families who fought for their home’s independence in a brutal war. Now there is peace, and the No Peak clan’s patriarch has stepped down to allow his grandson to take over as the clan’s pillar. Kaul Lan must carve his own way as leader of the clan—and gain the respect of the people he leads—all while avoiding war with the opposing Mountain clan.

Picking up this book can be a pretty big gamble. The plot doesn’t stand out over other fantasy books, but where Jade City really shines is the characters and the world they inhabit.

Lan is the new leader of No Peak clan. Newly appointed, he is having difficulty getting others in the clan to take his authority seriously—no one more than his grandfather’s Weatherman (business partner).

Hilo is the the middle Kaul child. Rash and impulsive, he leads Lan’s armies and maintains control over the clan’s territories. He is adorned in jade, which garners him great respect among the people of Kekon. Hilo is also fiercely loyal to Lan and would do anything to preserve No Peak’s position in Kekon.

Shae is the youngest Kaul child, and the only daughter. She has long been shunned by her family for besmirching her honour and attending University in a foreign nation as well as her choice to not wear jade. Upon return to Kekon she is welcomed back with open arms by Lan, a move heavily questioned by their traditionalist grandfather.

Anden is a Kaul in all but name. He was orphaned as a child when his mother became sick from the Jade she was carrying. Lan welcomed Anden to the family and gave him a place at Kaul Du Academy, a school that trains people to wear Jade.

The final POV character is a minor, but important one. It is Bero, a thief who is caught trying to steal Jade from No Peak at the beginning of the story. He is spared by Lan and heads down a path to bring about the fall of No Peak.

This book may not be for everyone. Rather than reading like an epic fantasy series, it comes across as a political thriller with magic kung-fu. However, the characters are brilliant and feel alive within the world that Lee has created. The first half of the book is slower paced, taking time to familiarize the reader with the characters and how they fit into the world. The second half is more fast paced as tensions rise between clans. I would say that if you can forgive a slower plot for excellent characters, give this book a go.

I give this book 3.5/5 stars for excellent characters and a beautiful setting, and I look forward to seeing what Lee does with the next book!

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