"Jade War" review
Title: Jade War
Author: Fonda Lee
Subgenre: Urban fantasy
2021 Bingo squares: Set in Asia, Cat squasher, Chapter titles
Jade War continues where Jade City left off, with No Peak struggling to keep up with their rival Mountain clan in Janloon on the island nation of Kekon, and while the focus remains on this struggle, the struggle itself adapts to a more international scale as a proxy war breaks out in Oortoko and clans pick sides. Even more so than in Jade City, there’s no single focus to the plot; instead, we follow the lives of the major characters across the globe and over a time frame of several years, watching them adapt to new circumstances and new challenges. And like Jade City, it’s utterly captivating.
Don’t take that description of the pace to mean that nothing happens. On the contrary: Jade War is full of tension, action, love, heartbreak, and everything else that you expect after reading Jade City - and additionally three years worth of local family life events as well as geopolitical developments in the background, many of which directly affect the Kauls. The in-your-face action of the first novel is certainly toned down in the sequel, but Jade War doesn’t need this type of action. It’s a slow burn of dramatic turns.
Let’s also talk about worldbuilding. In Jade City we got to see what it meant to live a violent but privileged life as a Green Bone of the Kaul family; in Jade War, we now also get to see life elsewhere in the world. Anden, sent to live in Espenia, struggles to adapt to the immigrant Kekon culture there, and so Fonda Lee constructs the Espenian culture, the Kekonese culture (which of course we’ve already seen), Anden’s experience with the Kekonese culture as a member of the Kaul family, Anden’s experience of the Kekonese culture as a half-blooded Kekonese person, and finally also the immigrant community’s culture. Somehow, all of these are shown in a believable manner, colored by Anden’s narrative voice, and it’s as if this is a real place we could actually visit. And that’s just one location.
This trilogy has been incredible so far, and I’m so excited to read the third book now.