JADE LEGACY by Fonda Lee (BOOK REVIEW)
Note: this review may contain spoilers for Jade City and Jade War.
“Green Bones revered jade, but it was not the gems themselves that were worthy of reverence. Jade had meaning because of the type of person one had to become to wear it. Jade was the visible proof that a person had dedicated their life to the discipline of wielding power, to the dangers and costs of being a Green Bone.”
What a book, and what a conclusion to the Green Bone Saga!
Jade Legacy by the masterful Fonda Lee was everything I had hoped for, an exceptional ending to a phenomenal trilogy. Throughout each book we have traversed an epic journey of clan rivalry, of Green Bone magic, of economic expansion, political warfare, and family drama. Now the time has come to raise a glass of hoji and bid farewell to Kauls.
In the aftermath of Jade War, tensions have risen higher than ever. Jade is no longer exclusive to Kekon and the Green Bone warriors. Countries throughout the world, from governments, to gangsters and even as far as movie studios, now have their eyes set on using jade and its associated powers. The Kekonese are losing their tight hold on their most sacred heritage, foreign influences threaten to destroy their way of life, and they are desperately trying to protect it with their life and blood. Yet change is inevitable, and if jade is to be coveted then the clans now rival for who will control its distribution. In the midst of this turmoil the Kaul family have taken some knocks—bitterness, resentment and regret haunt their steps. If their clan is to survive and thrive then old wounds need to heal and difficult choices need to be made. Though a new generation are coming into their own, they will be the future of the No Peak clan, of the Green Bones, but what kind of future will their parents leave them to face? One of peace or further strife?
From the very beginning of Jade Legacy, Lee wastes no time with getting her readers back into the shady world of The No Peak clan. We see new and old threats are taking hold of the city of Janloon, and whilst Kaul Hilo, Pillar of No Peak, and his sister and Weather Man, Kaul Shae are both dealing with that, they also have to contend with keeping one step ahead of their long-term rival Ayt Mada, Pillar of the Mountain clan, and find a way to finally destroy her once and for all. In this final instalment there is a vast amount to cover, yet Lee leaves no stone unturned and spans her novel’s timeline through two decades. There are several time jumps throughout and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a novel which does this in the final act, but Lee makes it work superbly and delivers an utterly satisfying conclusion, though more than a little heartbreaking. We watch as Hilo, Wen, Shae and Anden grow older, we see their hardships and their moments of happiness. We also witness their tragedies.
Family drama has always been pivotal to each book’s narrative. In Jade War we saw Shae and Wen deceive Hilo and in doing so Wen is left seriously injured. In the opening chapters of Jade Legacy the relationship between Hilo and his wife Wen is more than a little strained, as is the relationship between Hilo and Shae. Hilo has consistently been a character quick to anger, stubborn, not afraid to go to any lengths to protect his family, and his moral compass is more than a little off point. My god does Hilo grow and change in this book, he was already my favourite character but this book cemented that further. His growth felt natural, having lived the life he has you can see why Hilo begins to face his mistakes and regrets.
Lee spends much time on reconciliation and each member reestablishing their roles within the family and clan unit. I really loved seeing Wen’s character develop, showing the true strength we always knew she had. Wen may begin broken but as time passes she shows she’s just as capable as any Green Bone of advancing and ultimately bringing the clan into a new era. Shae also evolves greatly, not just within her role as Weather Man but also in her personal life. Then there’s Anden who fulfills his desire to become a Green Bone doctor, he has always been of the mind that jade could be used to heal instead of kill and it was so pleasing to see him prove that.
Most notably we witness Hilo’s and Wen’s children Jaya, who was so much like Hilo, Ru, a Stone Eye finding his worth within the clan even without the use of jade, and Niko who was so much like his late father, Lan, it made me teary, grow throughout their teenage years. It was quite amusing to see them stress their parents out, to challenge their ideals and eventually choose their own path instead of the one one their parents wished for them to take.
“The brotherhood of the clan was a promise that its warriors were not alone. What was the point of Green Bone oaths, of all the sacrifices his family had made, of the relentless war against their enemies, if in the end, the promise couldn’t even be kept for him and those he loved?”
The new generation in many ways are forgetting their heritage, instead favouring to adapt into Espenian society. The old traditions are being forgotten, a sense of community is being lost. Lee explores this in great detail, with the No Peak clan heading into financial uncertainty, their businesses in Espenia become more vital than ever, but on both fronts there is resistance. Kekon citizens do not want foreigners having a supply of their sacred jade, and the Espenian government does not want jade to be distributed widely, they want restrictions so they can take control. Expanding business abroad in Espenia is becoming more vital than ever for economic growth, and that is where No Peak are heading, to the dismay of those who want to keep clan business, Green Bone warriors and jade to Kekon alone.
The political warfare demonstrated in this book is so phenomenally woven into the story it plays into every aspect; with No Peak and Mountain constantly vying to outmanoeuvre each other and become the most powerful. By the end we see it shape every single character and shape the future of the clans themselves. That’s not to say this book lacks in action and favours politics, quite the opposite really, as Jade Legacy features some incredible, utterly thrilling action scenes. Once again Lee shows the powers of jade in all its glory, its ability to give Strength, endurance, Perception and even healing. She also demonstrates its limitations as over exposure causes pain, sickness or insanity, even to those who have used it their entire life. At the time of writing this review it was announced that a possible adaptation of The Green Bone saga which had previously been green-lit had unfortunately fallen through. I cannot express enough how disappointing that is, this entire trilogy would be perfect on screen, Lee’s scenes are cinematic, breathtaking and would be visually stunning.
From 2019 when I first read Jade City I instantly fell in love with the Kauls, No Peak clan and their shady immoral world. Living a life of warfare, duelling, wielding jade and preserving honour has its consequences, and the gods know Lee makes those consequences apparent in Jade Legacy. Devastating, brutal yet a truly worthy ending to one of my favourite trilogies of all time.
“You’d think it would be easier to face death as you get older, but it doesn’t work that way. You get more attached to life, to people you love and things that are worth living for.”
ARC provided by Nazia at Orbit Books UK in exchange for an honest review – Thank you for the copy. Jade Legacy is out now.