Jade War by Fonda Lee

I received an ARC of this book from the publishing company Orbit in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is book 2 in the Green Bone Sage, so beware of spoilers for book 1. Check out Tam’s review if you’re new to the series!

Well, in short, I loved it!

Jade War picks up about a year after the events of the last book. While the No Peak Clan and the Mountain Clan are officially at peace, the truce remains exceedingly uneasy. Furthermore, a proxy war is brewing in a neighbouring country, and all the interested powers want jade to support their soldiers. Hilo and Shae must deal with pressure from outside and within, from governments and smugglers, from enemies and allies, if they want their clan to survive.

I think the best word to describe this sequel is bigger. The setting is expanded from one city in Kekon to include multiple other countries. The web of tensions are expanded from between two clans to include up-and-coming rogue jade users, jade smugglers, foreign governments, foreign gangsters, and immigrant communities. And the time period of the book is expanded from months to years. To be completely honest, I was a little overwhelmed at first. But eventually it clicks and when it does — oh wow. The scope just makes it feel so real, with the same messy complications and maneuvering as in our world.

Fortunately, the book is grounded by its strong characters, who are just as fun to follow as all the machinations. It continues to revolve primarily around the core of the No Peak clan: Hilo, Shae, Anden, and Wen. I loved the continued focus on family; the sisters-in-law relationship between Shae and Wen shone especially bright for me. However, what I find most fascinating is how easy it is to accept the clan’s worldview and forget that they are, well, fucking brutal gangsters. (Except for Anden, who’s a sweetheart even when he’s beating up some dude for insulting his honour.) It’s only when they stand in contrast to non-clan-involved characters that they slip from anti-hero to anti-villain. To be honest, if the whole saga ends in tragedy for them, no matter how much I adore them, I’d find it fitting.

For people who loved Jade City for its action, I have to say that Jade War felt a bit calmer in that respect. With the increase of politicking, there’s a corresponding decrease in crazy street brawls. For me though, there were definitely enough badass, brutal fights to quench my desire for blood to satisfy me. And even when there’s no violence, there’s always the threat of it, and that keeps tensions high for a lot of the book — especially the last third. I think there was a point that I actually had to stand up and pace for a bit before I could continue!

One last thing I wanted to mention was how much I loved the main new setting outside of Kekon: an immigrant community in Espenia. The culture there is Kekonese-but-not, some parts exactly the same, some parts more traditional than that of the rapidly changing homeland, and some parts integrated Espenian. It’s truly Kekonese-Espenian, a “hyphenated culture”, and I think it’ll ring true for a lot of people who are or have been part of an immigrant community.

Altogether, Jade War is a wonderful book and a wonderful sequel. It retains what made people fall in love with the first book, while also expanding on almost every aspect. If you loved the first one — what’re you waiting for?

Jade War comes out July 23rd or July 25th depending on your region.

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