#REVIEW: Jade Legacy, by Fonda Lee

I have begun many a review with a disclaimer to this one: I can get caught up in my own enthusiasm about things from time to time, and sometimes it’s good, when I find that I like something, to sit on it for a couple of days and see how or whether my feelings about that thing abate a bit with the passage of a little time.

Jade Legacy is the third book of a trilogy called The Green Bone Saga. The first volume, Jade City, was my favorite book of 2018. The sequel, Jade War, was better than Jade City. I compared it, with no fear of being accused of hyperbole, to The Godfather, Part II. It was my favorite book of 2019.

Jade Legacy concludes the trilogy. I got an early copy. The damn thing’s not even out for you regular people until November. I was scared to read this book, guys. It’s hard to imagine a book heading into a stronger headwind than both of the books before you were the best books I read in the year they came out. The only book series I’m aware of that can even come close to claiming a stronger first two books are The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, and we all know what happened to ASoIaF. Further complicating things, I went into Jade Legacy knowing that the book covered a roughly 22-year timeline, considerably longer than either of the first two books. Which … that’s tricky, right? You have to keep a narrative thrust going when some of your characters are literally starting the story as children and ending as adults. And there’s no way that doesn’t introduce a tonal shift of some kind from the first two books. But the book had the word Legacy in the name, and it was damn well going to earn it.

I am, in recognition of the fact that this book is not out for several months yet, going to write this as a completely spoiler-free review. Other than the timeline, I’m not telling you a single damn thing about this series. If you want to know the premise, go read my review of Jade City.

Here is the closest thing to a bad thing I can say about this book: it is not quite as good as Jade War. Maybe. I’m not even sure that’s true, actually. I think it’s the best book of the series about 40% of the time I’m thinking about it.

This is the best trilogy I have ever read.

Period. There are no exceptions. The Lord of the Rings is a more important series of books to me; I am too old for anything to manage to eclipse the level of importance to my life than those books have had. But I have never read a trilogy this good. Ever. Yes, that means it’s better than ASoIaF. Much better, in fact. It’s better than The Wheel of Time and the Shannara books and The Kingkiller Chronicles (let’s be real, though, we’re never getting Book 3 of that series) and anything else in the fantasy genre you might care to mention, classic or modern.

This is a work of simply staggering quality. It blows my mind how young Fonda Lee is, and the idea that she will be around to continue to write more books for a long time is just amazing.

If you haven’t read Jade City yet, you can go start now. You have time to read it and War by the time Legacy comes out. You can thank me later.


A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a publicist at Orbit Books, who noted that I had read and favorably reviewed the first two books in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga trilogy, and was asked if I’d like to receive an early promotional copy of the book.

An early promotional copy of the final book in a trilogy where both of the first two books were my favorite book released in the years they came out?

An early promotional copy of the single book I’m looking forward to most in 2021, if not the single literal thing I’m most looking forward to in 2021? Four months early??

I think the first line of my reply to her was “Oh, Jesus Christ, absolutely.”

Like, this makes every second of the last eight years of blogging, or however long it’s been, completely worth it.

And now it was here. It’s not in great shape– I was going to do a whole unboxing thing, but the book was supposed to be here yesterday, and from the condition of the packaging I think UPS had it strapped to the bottom of the truck, and it was halfway out of the package anyway, so I just took it out and gave it a little hug to make it feel better.

I will now go finish Empire of Gold, which I have maybe 50 more pages of, and then we’ll see how fast I can devour this book. If there’s not a review up by this weekend, it’s because something’s gone terribly wrong in my life.

#REVIEW: JADE CITY, by Fonda Lee

34606064Every so often, shit ends up working out the way I want it to.

I bought Jade City effectively at random– I was at a Barnes and Noble with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and desperately searching for anything at all in the sci-fi section that looked like it had been written by a person of color.  Jade City was on my Amazon wish list, so I’d come across it the title before somewhere, but at the time couldn’t remember where– and, in fact, still can’t.  So I really bought the book for no other reason other than it was there, and it took me a while to get around to reading it.

You should go grab it and read it right now.

A Goodreads friend asked me the other day what “flavor of fantasy” this book was.  It’s a trickier question to answer than one might think, because here’s the thing: this isn’t really all that much of a fantasy book.  The best comparison I can make for it, honestly, is The Godfather.  Except in pseudo-Japan, which in this book is called Kekon, and while the Corleones were pretty explicitly all criminals, the No Peak clan, which all of the main characters in the book are members (or aspiring members) of, is almost more like a local governing agency than a mafia family.  The trappings are there, sorta?  And no one in the book is ever averse to using violence or various other forms of street mayhem when it’s necessary?  But there’s really no element in this book of having to hide from police, and if anything the book goes out of its way to emphasize how the clans help regulate the actual criminals.

So, the fantasy element: Kekon is the world’s only source of jade.  Jade, in this world, provides superpowers to certain people, known as Green Bones, who keep it in contact with their skin.  The more jade you can handle, the stronger you are; powers include strength, invulnerability, speed, enhanced perception, the usual bundle of Superman-esque abilities, more superhero-style than magical.  Not everyone can use jade, though; some people are simply immune to its effects where others (including most foreigners) are quickly driven crazy by exposure to it.  Jade exposure can also harm veteran Green Bones if they wear too much jade or go too far when using it.

So, yeah: Kekon is controlled by clans, and the clans tightly regulate the supply of jade and how much each clan has access to, and also how much can be exported to other countries.  There’s also a drug, called Shine, that cuts down on jade’s negative effects somewhat, allowing foreigners to use it at high doses and cutting down on jade sickness in Green Bones in smaller doses.  The drug is also pretty tightly regulated, although other countries are working hard at synthesizing it so that they can have their own Green Bones.

Take all of this and drop a clan war on top of it, along with a subplot hinting at no small amount of international intrigue– like, I can see future books in this series easily incorporating spy elements– as one clan begins smuggling jade to other countries without the others knowing and the other countries make plans to take control of Kekon’s jade production entirely.  Throw in a pretty damn compelling intergenerational family story that doesn’t even need the fantasy elements, a couple of awesome woman characters, and a subplot involving a petty street thief and you have what is easily my favorite book of the year so far, and an early frontrunner for best book of the year.   Fonda Lee is the shit, guys, and I can’t wait for the second book in this series.

Go read it.