Book Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee


jc-coverThe Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.



It’s hard for me to review this book because I know so many people loved it and it just felt…very okay to me. I think it’s definitely a case of it being me and not the book. I’m not exactly sure why this one didn’t click with me and I’m pretty bummed about not being more excited about it.

Let’s start with the good! The world building here is fantastic. I love theΒ  setting and the whole ‘gang’/’mafia’ culture the story revolves around. I could say more about the actual setting but just know that the world is very fleshed out–everything from commerce to culture is presented here. The gangs, or perhaps clans is a better term, are all family based. You’re either born into it or adopted into it so it very much reminds me of the mafia in that way–although adopted members seem to have more issues being accepted into the family. The story is about two rival clans and their battle for territory and control of certain enterprises. The other important thing about the world building is the magic and this is where the title comes into play. Jade is sort of a stone with powers that can only be used by those of a certain heritage. At one time they were reviled but now they’ve come into power and they use jade to be faster, stronger, etc. As a consequence their warriors are hella strong especially when combining jade with martial arts training.

I thought the characters here were good, definitely well written–they each have very definite arcs. But because the two clans are very similar in how they operate and what’s important to them, I’ll admit that some of the characters kind of started running together after a while. I had a tough time keeping track of who was with which clan and actually who was who altogether. I don’t think any of the characters really stood out for me in the crowd except for Anden because he seems to always be caught between two worlds and has a hard time reconciling what he thinks he wants with what he actually feels through most of the story. There is one moment regarding one of the characters that should have been quite shocking for me but I just kind of took it in stride because I found myself not all that invested, unfortunately. Perhaps part of my issue here was that I listened to this in audio and while the narrator did a fantastic job, sometimes my focus isn’t great in that medium and hence things ran together for me. I think I may have liked this one better if I’d read it in print.

The one other thing I did appreciate about this story, however, it does center around families. We don’t often see stories around families in fantasy so I think that’s something it really has going for it.

Overall, there are lots of things to love about Jade City–even if it was an average book for me maybe you’ll find something to absolutely love about it! I might still check out the next one, maybe I’ll be more in the mood for it next time around. 3.5/5 stars.

30 thoughts on “Book Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

  1. Ola G says:

    I had the same feeling – this book felt just ok for me. I found the characters not relatable, and I didn’t feel invested in the story at all. It was well written, but that was the only positive for me. Cool review, Lisa!

  2. Captain's Quarters says:

    This was actually one I abandoned and couldn’t bring meself to love. I could see that it was well-written and the world building was lovely but it was too long and I got everyone mixed up. I only really cared about Anden and the one sister but basically felt bored. And I wanted to love this one.
    x The Captain

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I got everyone mixed up too! It might not have helped that I listened to this one in audio but I’m not sure the text would have been much better… I only really liked Anden too. I also felt disappointed because I wanted to love it like so many other people.

  3. Tammy says:

    It’s tough when everyone loves a book except you, believe me, I’ve been there too! I still haven’t read this but I think it will be one of my quarantine reads, so hopeful in the next month or so😁

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yup. I was starting to get into it by the end, so I might still give the next book a try at some later point. (There are MANY times that I didn’t love book 1 and then ended up loving the series after later books).

  4. dinipandareads says:

    Great review! Glad that you got through this one. Maybe I should give the audio a try… I started it but like you said, there’s a lot going on on with the world building and characters and I just feel like right now is not the right time to read this. So I’ve put it down but I am going to come back to it. I was enjoying it but like you, it just didn’t pull me in as quickly as I expected it to… It’s definitely put-downable right now. Will you be picking up the sequel?

    • waytoofantasy says:

      The audio is good but it didn’t help me avoid any confusion with the characters unfortunately. I will probably still check out the sequel somewhere down the road, there are ton of books where book 1 wasn’t a huge hit with me but later books were so you never know!

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    Oh I loved this book! But I can understand how it would be tough if you can’t connect with the characters, I recently had the same problem with a book everyone seems to be enjoying. Anyway, you’ve reminded me I need to get started on the second one.

  6. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    Creating an emotional tie with characters does not work differently than it does with real people: it’s a matter of “chemistry” and the combination does not always go as expected… I did enjoy this book, and look forward to reading the second installment, so I hope you will find it more to your tastes. Happy reading πŸ™‚

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I guess I haven’t thought of it like that where books are concerned. I think it’s possible for me to connect later, that’s happened to me before where book one was very ‘meh’ and later books I really loved and got into the characters a lot more. Thanks!

  7. JonBob says:

    I’m a bit sad you didn’t really connect with it, but these things are all very subjective. Personally I think this and Jade War is the best fiction I’ve ever read in my life, nothing short of genius. On to the next book though and I hope your next read works out better for you =)

  8. @lynnsbooks says:

    Interesting, I still haven’t read this and everyone seems to love it but now I’ve read your review I’m a little less anxious to push it up the list. I think I’ll sit on the fence a little longer.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

  9. Zezee says:

    Yea, sometimes a book just doesn’t work out. Sucks that this one didn’t work you. It’s received a lot of notice, but I haven’t drummed up much interest in it yet to add to my TBR.

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