My friends, pick this up right now. I’m telling you, I read a lot of fantasy, and Green Bone Saga is UP THERE. One of the best fantasy series I’ve read so far – although it’s not the fairy tale, dragons, and wizard type of fantasy. Seriously, I can’t stop gushing about this series.
The first book of the Green Bone Saga introduces us to the iconic Kaul family. The Kauls are the head of the No Peak Clan in the city of Janloon. Janloon is rather like 1970s Hong Kong except with jade. Jade in the whole series is a source of magical powers which Green Bones can tap into, endowing them with superhuman abilities. Naturally, such a substance is coveted throughout the whole world, from street rats to presidents.
Fonda Lee‘s worldbuilding is superb, complete with political power plays that reminded me of the first book of Game of Thrones. Of course, Green Bone Saga quickly exceeds Game of Thrones, in my opinion. The Kaul family relationships and dynamics drive the whole series. Let me say that I love every single one of them! All the characters in the Kaul family are complex and morally gray, but HEAVEN HELP ME I am in love. Their struggles are so relatable, especially if you’re Asian or familiar with Asian culture and the clash with “modernity”.
The second installment took the whole thing to another level. As the political groundwork was so meticulously laid out, the pay off and stakes are visibly high. Plot wise Jade War is riveting. But the greatest joy of this book is seeing the main characters of the Kaul family really grow into leadership. Not only that, they also start influencing the wider world.
Kaul Hilo, I have no words. I am simping over this character – literally drooling. Anden Emery, the adopted son of the Kauls, actually has the most unexpected arc. His being half in and half out is an issue for him (though not for anyone else, it seems) and he really grows a lot in this book. Now Kaul Shae, this lady is larger than life here. There is a scene in which Shae duels the long-time family enemy: Ayt Mada of the Mountain Clan. This has got to be the most exciting scene in the whole series. Fonda Lee really knows her action flow.
The last and thickest book of the series (I finished it in two days) is thoroughly satisfying in story, but heartbreaking. I’m shattered, and will likely never recover.
Jade Legacy uses time jumps to cover the span of the decades. Some readers on Goodreads mention this to be skimming the story. I don’t mind because it actually works as a storytelling device, allowing characters to look back and reflect on key events. In this way we can also see the impact of those events on the characters’ lives. Fonda Lee milks these internal dialogues so that we really get closer the characters.
The arcs of the “main” generation of Kauls: Hilo, his wife Wen, his sister Shae, and his brother Anden, all wrap up very well. Even Ayt Mada’s arc was well resolved. The younger generation, Niko, Ru, Jaya, could have been given more treatment but then that’s probably a whole new series in itself. Which I wouldn’t mind, by the way.
There is one trope in this book that seemed to be a repeat of something in Jade Legacy, so that was kind of cliche for me. Other than that, however, I find myself a complete fan of the series, and will be reading the novella The Jadesetter of Janloon. After my jade withdrawal symptoms have slightly receded, of course.
Since I’m a fan of booktok aesthetics, here is the best fan made aesthetic I’ve come across so far for Jade City. Oh and the sexy voice? Kaul Hilo would approve.