"Jade Legacy" review & reactions
Title: Jade Legacy
Author: Fonda Lee
Subgenre: Urban fantasy
2021 Bingo squares: Set in Asia, Cat squasher, Chapter titles, Published in 2021
Recommend: Obviously yes, but you were already going to read this if you got this far in the trilogy
You know that video with the couple on a picnic blanket that zooms out until you’re looking at the entire galaxy? In Jade City we were on the picnic blanket. In Jade War we zoomed out and saw three entire years of life. Now with Jade Legacy, Fonda Lee spans decades to conclude the saga of an entire generation of Kauls, ushering in the next. It’s a work of art. It’s everything you could ever ask for. It will leave you emotionally bare at every twist and turn as No Peak and the Mountain continue to fight each other at home and abroad, and new enemies await both clans at every moment of their journeys.
Major spoilers for the entire novel after the cover.
The first thing I want to talk about is Bero. Oh man do I hate this character. In a good, well-written, excellent character way. He got everything he deserved. And what a perfect ending! Bero was the opening to the story, and his prologue was the perfect teaser to the series. We think we’re getting a story where the underdog street kids are going to fight their way up in this oppressive gangster-family-controlled city, and we’re totally going to root for these underdog street kids, and then the tables are totally turned on us and we get the literal opposite: the street kid becomes one of the major antagonists of the first book, kills off the hero halfway through, and totally gets away with it! What the hell!
Side note: Who is dumb enough (in Jade War) to sell all their shine while complaining about running out and needing to procure more? What an idiot lol
And then he never dies! But instead he lives a totally pathetic life, alone, many years spent in exile, the rest of it as a lonely has-been who can’t even be acknowledged for his miserable claim to fame by his victim’s son.
And because Bero is the framing device, in this amazing almost-breaking-the-fourth-wall sense, even Fonda Lee herself refuses to acknowledge Bero’s past relevance by not even giving him the dignity of the epilogue being from his point of view, the way one normally would with a framing device.
Absolute goddamned brilliance. I love it.
Actually a happy ending
I’ve read a lot of people saying that the ending of Jade Legacy is “bittersweet.” I would like to politely disagree. This is a completely, no-holds-barred happy ending. But Hilo dies! Yes, Hilo dies. That’s a happy ending for him! You think he wanted to live to old age? Hilo died surrounded by family, with his entire clan outside chanting their loyalty to him and yes oh my god I’m tearing up while I’m writing this, yes it’s DEVASTATING but he died to defend the peace, he died defending the life of his son, and he died of injuries in battle. Here is Hilo’s “happily ever after” (there’s a six-year time-skip after this):
Wen cupped her trembling hand against his jaw. “The clan is my blood,” she whispered, her voice thick with emotion, but perfectly steady. She bowed her head and pressed her mouth to the hollow of his throat. “And the Pillar is its master.”
Admittedly there’s a lot of tragedy in between here and the actual end of the novel, but I firmly believe that Hilo’s death is meant as a happy ending for him, and not bittersweet at all. He was a wartime Pillar and the war is over. And he hated his grandfather in old age, so he is saved the fate of growing old himself.
From the opening of Jade War (Hilo’s POV):
If, in the final years of his life, with dementia and declining jade tolerance, Grandda had become a cruel, unbearable old man made bitter by regret and loss, who had nothing but unkind things to say about the leadership of the No Peak clan passing to his least favored grandchild—well, that was something the average citizen did not know.
Hilo is completely saved this fate, while Ayt Mada is condemned to live alone, jadeless, and exiled. Happy ending.
Ru had heard other adults call Juen Nu a modern Horn, a manager Horn. It was said that he commanded the military side of No Peak not with the street charisma of Kaul Hilo or the stoic gravity of Maik Kehn, but with the organizational prowess of a man playing three games of circle chess at the same time.
I love it. There’s glory in being an effective logistics manager, for winning the war of multiple fronts on one other than the local streets. It’s not something you expect from a fantasy novel, even a modern urban fantasy novel. It’s been a theme the entire series, that there’s multiple ways to be “green” (and one of them is organizational management! And logistics!), and finally in Jade Legacy, everyone’s recognizing it.
I’m going to believe she goes on to star in Kekonese cinema thank you very much.