Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City (Green Bone Saga, #1)

by Fonda Lee

"Stylish and action-packed, full of ambitious families and guilt-ridden loves, Jade City is an epic drama reminiscent of the best classic Hong Kong gangster films but set in a fantasy metropolis so gritty and well-imagined that you'll forget you're reading a book."
– Ken Liu, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and author of The Grace of Kings and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories


Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion. Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon's bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

JADE CITY begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.

Reviewed by Austine (NovelKnight) on

4 of 5 stars

For all my love of fantasy, I was a bit leery of Jade City. The magical element drew me in but the integration of crime akin to The Godfather/mafia I wasn't keen on. That being said. . . this book was written by a master.

Jade City feels at home with Asian inspired fantasy but is also something completely different altogether, with its own history and culture. You're not expected to know everything about it, mind you. This isn't an info-dump kind of book; they come gradually and naturally through the story. I'm honestly struggling to describe the depth of Lee's world because the layers go beyond the characters and their backstories. There's the culture they're ingrained in, the dynamics between clans and individuals. The practices and customs. The very setting. If you're looking for a richly diverse fantasy then you need to pick this book up.

It's also hard to speak of the characters in any level of detail because there is so much detail. You know every little bit about these people, every decision they want to (and do) make, and why. At times it was a bit too much for me. I felt spoon-fed information rather than inferring from character actions. I consider it a byproduct of the third person viewpoint we see the story from as it shifts through characters.

Now, my one "issue" with this book wasn't the story or the characters. It may not have even been the writing. But it took me a long time to get into it. I wasn't hooked early on and never fell into the world despite the level of detail and work put into creating such a rich, vibrant setting (and story). I can't really call this book boring because of how much is going on but the way it's written, as a whole, didn't let me sink in more than knee-deep.

Without breaking down this entire book in a review (since y'all should just read the book at that point), let me just say that this book is descriptive and vibrant and wonderfully crafted. If a fantasy riddled with a magical jade mafia sounds like something you'd be interested in, definitely go grab yourself a copy. If not for the fact that it took me so long to get into, I'd give it 5 stars but it just didn't quite work for me from an enjoyment standpoint.

Last modified on

Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • Finished reading
  • 2 June, 2017: Reviewed