Jade City by Fonda Lee

I just finished Jade City and loved it. Fonda Lee writes some amazing characters and creates a compelling tale of magical gangsters in fantasy Hong Kong. I’d heard some really great things about Jade City going into the reading, so had some really high expectations. I was not disappointed.

Jade is a magical substance which gives the wearers assorted different magical powers. The green stone is the resource of the island, Kekon, and controlled by the different gangster clans. The story follows the Kaul family as clan rivalries and disputes kick into gear. Characters are put into stressful situations and some flourish while others flounder.

One of the really amazing things about Jade City is the character development. Stressful times are upon the Kauls and they’re facing new challenges to the clan and their jade. With different personalities between the characters, clashes often occur inside the Kaul family as well as between the clans. I really loved the characters, but often found myself annoyed at some of the (very justifiable) decisions they were making.

Jade City is full of fantastic worldbuilding too. The culture and economy of Kekon are built around the clans and how jade impacts the way of life. There’s mythology on how jade came to be and that’s it’s a gift from the gods, conflicts with other nations, and much more. There are so many interesting things going on, and I want to know so much more about the world.

There are also some really awesome things going on with the martial arts in the book. From her bio, I can see Fonda Lee is a black belt martial artist, and that really shines through in her fight scenes. They’re so incredibly realistic, I can visualise them easily, while also using my own martial arts experience to come to the conclusion I’d do something similar in the situation—not something I can often say when reading fights in fantasy.

Overall, Jade City was a fantastic book and I will be reading the sequel as soon as I can get my hands on it next year. I highly recommend to people who enjoy:

  • Asian inspired fantasy
  • Gangsters
  • Great fight scenes
  • Well developed characters
  • Consequences for actions
  • Diverse character casts


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