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.
I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This book review contains minor non-explicit spoilers to Jade City.
It’s been four years since Jade City by Fonda Lee released. Four years since I fell unequivocally in love with the gangster urban fantasy series with wuxia elements, set in an Asian-inspired island called Kekon where fearsome Green Bones warriors and their creed ruled. Jade City explored family and honour and how the blood feud between the No Peak Clan and their rival, the Mountain Clan, began. It became my favourite book of all time.
And then in 2019, I read its sequel, Jade War, a story that elevated the story, expanded the world far beyond the small island of Kekon, and explored the cost and consequences of war. The characters we came to love in Jade City, more than ever, became morally grey characters – yet, despite their actions, I rooted for them because I came to understand and love them fiercely. The last few chapters had me pacing, sweating, and crying. It was then that I called Jade War my new favourite book of all time, a sequel that surpassed Jade City. And then, I wondered how on earth Jade Legacy could end when Jade War was, in my view, one of the best sequels, bar none.
Now, here I am in 2021. I had the great fortune to read Jade Legacy and be one of its early readers. Despite its doorstopping length – 736 pages, but don’t worry, the pace is immaculate – and my aversion to any book longer than 450 pages, I read Jade Legacy in four days. While reading Jade Legacy, my heart pounded so loud that I could hear it in my ears, I laughed, I cried. It’s a testament that Fonda Lee has proved me wrong two times: (1) that Jade City was my favourite book ever, (2) that Jade War was my favourite book ever, with now, the most up-to-date accurate statement: Jade Legacy surpasses Jade City and Jade War, and is my new favourite book of all time.
A while back when Fonda said that Jade Legacy would span twenty years, I think – and I can speak for all Green Bone Saga fans – the very idea that the characters we came to love, who were in their mid-twenties at the start of Jade City, would be growing old curdled our blood with fear and excitement. What social, political, and personal implications of the blood feud between the No Peak Clan and Mountain Clan have on the Kauls that we love so much? How would the Kauls grow and change? Thinking about what happens in Jade Legacy makes me shed a tear a little bit, but I can say that watching the Kauls not only grow, but also grow old, felt like an honour, a privilege.
Tangentially related, I’ve had some time to reflect on why Jade Legacy is such an amazing book. What is it about Jade Legacy that makes it such a successful conclusion to an epic saga? Starting Jade Legacy, I wondered this a lot too. Jade City introduced us to a world where warriors wear bioenergetic jade and hone martial art-like skills, a tragedy that ignites a violent blood feud between two clans, and the Kaul family of the No Peak Clan whom we would come to love. Jade War expanded Jade City, taking us overseas where war is brewing and powerful foreign governments and criminal gangs threaten the Kaul family and our favourite characters will have to make challenging choices with dangerous consequences.
Indeed, Jade Legacy spans twenty years, delving into the life-altering decisions and pivotal moments of the Kaul’s lives and how they fight a slow war, a power struggle less with fists and violence but instead fought with strategy, trade, and patience. No Peak’s expansion overseas and seeing the social, cultural, and political implications of their endeavours are fascinating and provide ample detail for readers interested in such machinations. Even if you aren’t into the politics, the mortal peril that the Kauls are perpetually under will keep you engaged, keen to see what happens next and what each development means for them. Because even if ‘nothing happens’, we know from both Jade City and Jade War that danger and potential death is at every corner – and that is indeed the case for Jade Legacy too. (So make sure you bring a pillow you can scream into and potentially some tissues for those moments that will leave you shocked and devastated.)
You see, that’s the thing with Jade Legacy and why it works so beautifully as a conclusion. Jade Legacy is a fantastic sequel and finale to the Green Bones Saga because it brings everything explored, experienced, and endured in the last two books together, elevating and honouring what is loved about this series by returning to the thing that we, readers, ultimately care about: its characters.
At the end of it all, Jade Legacy is a story about, as the title suggests, legacy. It’s about life, love, death, and what we leave behind at the end of it all. We see Hilo become a leader of his own right, going above and beyond what anyone – including us! – expected of him. We see Shae become formidable and powerful, as sharp and keen as Ayt Mada. We also see Anden, beloved Anden, become his very own person, forging a path and future for himself. We also see Wen, grappling with the events of the last book but also having one of the most gorgeous and heartfelt character arcs I’ve seen. We also see Bero, who, by the end, I no longer loathed but actually understood. And lastly, we also see Ayt Mada, Pillar of the Mountain Clan, and all I’ll say about her is this fantastic quote from the book: “Even the biggest tigers grow old… but even the oldest tiger was still a tiger. We also meet new characters and witness how their fates intertwine with the Kauls.
More importantly, we also see the the Kauls become parents, aunts, uncles, people who are loved not for their green and their power, but because they become human beings who are loved, who are family. We watch the next generation of Kaul children grow up and become their own people – and I loved seeing the dynamics the children have with their parents. We watch the Kauls grow up and we watch them grow old, and how that changes them. We watch them celebrate their victories and wins, yet also watch them grieve and endure their most desolate lows. At the heart of the story, Jade Legacy is about the legacies that we make and the power that people possess to shape the future, and that, despite it all, change is inevitable.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Gut-wrenching, satisfying, and action-packed, Jade Legacy solidifies the Green Bone Saga as one of the best SFF series in existence (and if you don’t enjoy that scale of hyberbole, which I firmly stand behind anyway, then: the best SFF series I have ever read, and may ever read, unless Fonda writes another series that blows the Green Bone Saga out of the water). Jade Legacy – and the series as a whole –is a masterclass in worldbuilding, character development, pacing, and telling a damned good story that stays with you. The ending is one of the best I’ve read for a series, and is an ending that fans of the series absolutely deserve.
And now I’m going to take my reviewer hat off for a second and I’m throwing articulate out the window, because I just really want to say this: The Green Bones Saga means so much to me. I can’t believe it’s the end. I’ve been a fan of this series for four wonderful years and it’s finally over. The Green Bones Saga been my favourite series for a long time – and I’m glad and grateful that Jade Legacy didn’t ruin the series for me, only reinforced my deep love for this series. Every book has been a joy (albeit stressful and heart-wrenching at times) to read, and I’ve been such a happy fan of this series for the last four years. I’m so grateful to this series and while I am sad that it’s ended, it was a wonderful end. Thank you, Fonda Lee.
Is this book for you?
Perfect for: Fans of the Green Bones Saga; readers interested in a story that blends martial arts and gangster drama with political intrigue; readers who love character-driven stories.
Think twice if: You aren’t a fan of worldbuilding that delves into political and economic implications.
Genre: adult urban fantasy
Trigger/content warning: death, murder, graphic violence, grief, drug use, torture