Serena’s Review: “Jade Legacy”

Book: “Jade Legacy” by Fonda Lee

Publishing Info: Orbit, November 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

Book Description: Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

Previously Reviewed: “Jade City” and “Jade War”

Review: This has been one of the biggest break-out, surprise fantasy trilogies I’ve read in a while. I went in with pretty much zero expectations and have come out having read something so unique and so precisely written that I struggle to find apt comparisons. With my expectations sky high, I was both really excited to start this final chapter and incredibly nervous. The end really makes the entire thing, and what a tragedy would that be for it to crash?

What had been distinct and local to Kekon has blown up the outside world: Jade and it’s incredible powers to enhance human abilities. Not only does this type of powerful substance shift political powers and economies, but the tradition and regulation that grew up around it on Kekon is shaken by exposure to outside forces. The Green Bone way of life teeters on a perilous balance, and the Kaul family feels the threat to their clan and way of life. The walls are closing in and soon they may be forced to make a terrible choice to ensure their continued existence.

It has become increasingly clear as this trilogy has continued that it is largely a political fantasy. Arguably, the first book has more of an action-feeling and is largely concentrated on smaller, more individual stories, thus making it feel like a more straight-forward urban fantasy story. But the second book blows the scope outwards, landing several of our characters in other countries. On top of that, we begin to see Jade trickling out into this greater world. But here, in the last book, all of that comes fully into its own. All of the pieces that were laid down into the foundation of the political struggles ahead come to fruition, and the story fully embraces the larger, political clashes as the focal point of the story. Depending on your enjoyment of political fantasy, this will either be a boon or a bit of a let-down. I feel like it has built steadily in the first two books, and as I enjoy political fantasy, I was more than down to read a book that really delved into the complicated political maneuverings required in this new world order that involves Jade.

This switch in focus is even more apparent given the story’s generational approach. While the first books focused on smaller chunks of time and a fairly steady cast of characters, here the story jumps in huge leaps and bounds. Readers are left to either keep up or fall behind. I typically don’t enjoy stories that involve huge jumps in time. And while I think it worked here (indeed, I’m not sure how the same story could have been told without using this device), I will say that I did miss the closer character work that I had seen in the first two books. I’m a very character-driven reader, however, so this is definitely a subjective perspective.

The ending is everything the trilogy deserves. I think it may also be a bit divisive. There are a lot of twists and turns within the story, with it rarely going the direction I had anticipated. And the ending is no different. I think it ties everything up perfectly, but throughout the story, Lee doesn’t shy away from getting her hands dirty with the realities of the world she has created. I, for one, found this book to be a surprising, yet pitch perfect, end to a fantastic urban fantasy trilogy.

Rating 8: Magnificent. With this incredible conclusion to the Green Bone Saga, Lee has vaulted herself into the realms of the likes of N.K. Jemisin and other award-winning fantasy authors of the day.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Jade Legacy” is on these Goodreads lists: Best Asian Diaspora Sci-fi and Fantasy Books and Best Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy Trilogies.

Find “Jade Legacy” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

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