Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
First up: new rating system! I had wanted to use the emoji potted plants because they are adorable, but my silly computer doesn’t want to see them so the little seedlings it is. It feels so weird to be using something other than the hibiscus-stars, but I’m entering my third year of blogging and I wanted a bit of a change.
On to the review!
“If the clans stop defining the meaning of jade, then others will take that power from us. They’ll amplify all the worst parts and preserve none of the good.”
This is it.
The final book in the Green Bone Trilogy.
How do I even begin to sum up, much less review this 752-page behemoth?
And sure, there are lots of books that are longer. Practically every single Brandon Sanderson or Diana Gabaldon.
But the scope of this book. The sheer breathtaking ability to encompass everything that is jade and will be jade and was jade, and arrange the same 26 letters of the alphabet the rest of us use and come up with this?
“Sister Shae, when is life ever life a story where the characters get exactly what they deserve, good or bad?”
This is the saga of the Kaul family. Jade City crawled so that Jade War could run so that Jade Legacy could win a marathon. I know I can’t stop talking about the scope of this thing, but its incredible. Jade City was pretty centralized to Janloon, the capitol of Kekon. Jade War expands a little, stepping into Estonia past Southrap and touching upon some of the other bits of the world. And Jade Legacy expands to encompass the world itself, just as jade and its imitations take over the world.
When I talk scope here, I’m not just talking world-wide. This book covers twenty mother-fucking years.
And I’m not gonna lie. It was a slog through the first four hundred pages or so. But then I hit that scene (you’ll know the one) and I was hooked and blazing through in two days what had taken me a week to get through earlier.
However, due to the vast nature of the story, sometimes the scenes flipped by, bap bap bap, leaving little time for the right emotional build-up to hit where it should, leaving me in an almost constant state of shock, of wondering what the fuck comes next. There is build-up to the end, however, and some events that hit so hard and sudden I wondered how the Kauls would manage to survive or weather this new storm.
“Young men do stupid things sometimes,” Hilo had sighed in commiseration with Kitu’s father.
But overall, the real delight in this story was watching Hilo mature.
He was one of my favorite characters in the previous two books, for his interesting grey morals and bullheaded courage and the sheer luck and force through which he managed to get through the Ayt’s strategic snarls and tangles. Here, he ages and grows old (old for a Green Bone), and has several moments where he realizes that he’s older than Lan, has ruled No Peak longer than his beloved brother, that he’s older than his father, that he’s walking on untrodden ground in terms of longevity.
Reading how he—a once kinda progressive Green Bone becomes considered incredibly traditional and working on moving into the future—building the future for his new generation, and creating a jade legacy that will resonate through the world (although not in such altruistic terms, this is No Peak, after all), was absolutely fascinating. And, I loved how his mind changed. He was always Hilo, easily bored, hot-tempered, and loving the dramatics of it all, but he slowly learned that winning didn’t always mean killing the enemy and that change and progress doesn’t have to be driven by just one person, which just delightful subtleties.
And I loved reading about the new generation, who were all children of this new and rapidly changing world.
Anden was another favorite from the series, a man who slowly accepted his insecurities, set aside his legacy, and forged a new path forward for himself while also maintaining ties to his family.
The one character who had I wanted to love so much for the previous two books but literally just could not was Shae. I wanted her to be something more than she was, I think. Where Hilo got his conniving old man strategery and Andy his doctoring and diplomacy successes, I felt that Shae was always struggling to keep up with everything, always battling with Ayt-jen in their weird duel, always losing some battle or another or getting captured. I think I wanted her to engage in an epic showdown and win, dammit, but Shae’s strength always lay within the family itself, and I really felt for her struggles as a woman in a position of power in a patriarchal society, balancing being a mother and Weather Man.
Anywho, much of this book feels like an allegory between Asia and the rest of the world, and it was done so fucking well and again, that scope and thinking of all of those logistics and the sheer size of the worldbuilding was just breathtaking. There’s colonialism and the Kekonese diaspora and gentrification and cold wars and internal and external politics and economy and drug smuggling and fucking Bero and portfolio diversification and tradition vs change and it was the entire world but with humans able to manipulate magical stones.
So, to sum up, a slog for sure, but a brilliant slog.
And I so, so wish that this had been made into a longer series to really break down everything that was happening, but I can see why the choice to keep it one book was made.
Long live the Kaul family.
“You give me too much credit,” Shae said. “It was a full family effort.”
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.