Petrik's Reviews > Jade City

Jade City by Fonda Lee
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, owned-physical-books
Recommended for: Asian-inspired fantasy and urban fantasy fans

4.5/5 stars

Incredible, the multiple nominees and awards this book has won are all well deserved.


Jade City, the first book in The Green Bone Saga series is also Fonda Lee’s adult fantasy debut. Ever since I knew about the existence of this novel, it has always been a book I wanted to read. As usual, the unbeatable TBR pile delayed me and I was so sure that I won’t be getting into this one until next year. However, after seeing the non-stop praises that Fonda Lee and the book constantly received, as an Asian and avid adult fantasy reader I knew that I couldn’t delay this any longer. I’m really happy that I gave this a read now because lately, I’ve been craving a fantastic Asian-inspired fantasy and Jade City delivered a spectacular Asian-inspired urban fantasy debut.

“Any old horse will run when it's whipped, but only fast enough to avoid the whipping," Hilo said. "Racehorses, though, they run because they look at the horse on their left, they look at the one on their right, and they think, No way am I second to these fuckers.”


If you want to know what the general plot of the book is about, read the synopsis on Goodreads or Amazon, it’s completely spoiler-free and I won’t be bothering you with my dumb and unnecessary paraphrasing of the plot description. Jade City is a brilliantly imagined urban fantasy. Growing up as an Asian in a Chinese household, it’s practically impossible not to watch a gangster or martial arts movies. This novel reminds me a lot of my love towards those movies. It did take me a while before I was fully engaged with the narrative; if you’re reading the book and at first you feels the same as I did, be patient. Trust me, it’s worth it. The first 31% of the book was just the calm before the storm. Once the story went past the first interlude, the storm of blood and tension compelled me to continue reading non-stop. I immensely enjoyed reading Jade City, it was a fantastic read where honor, loyalty, wealth, greed, and family took the center stage of the story.

“Sometimes even the most loyal and devoted men make mistakes when they’re forced to make decisions under terrible circumstances.”


As for predictability, I won’t lie that there were some parts of the storyline which was quite predictable, but did it diminish the quality of the book? Absolutely not. Jade City contains a lot of factors that made the book received so many praises. Originality in world-building? Checked. Freaking badass combination of magic and martial arts in the action sequences? Checked. Wonderful pacing and momentum building? Checked. High-quality prose? Also checked. But among everything, the single most dominant factor that ties every great element in this book into something more was the amazing characterizations.

“Sometimes, Andy, the people you think you can count on, they let you down in a bad way, and that’s hard to take. But for the most part, you give a man something to live up to, you tell him he can be more than he is now, more than other people think he’ll ever be, and he’ll try his godsdamned best to make it true.”


The characterizations were masterful. The four main characters: Lan, Hilo, Shae, and Anden were flawed, realistic, easy to relate to, and extremely well-written. I didn’t even realize when because I was so immersed with the book but somewhere along the way of my reading journey, my perception of reality has been clouded due to the strength that the characterizations hold. Seriously, everything just clicked because the characters’ personality was so well fleshed out. Their honor, their determination to put their family at the top of their priority despite their differences; the interactions and relationships that the main characters have with each other were glowing with a brilliant aura. As always, I put characters at the top of everything in my reading experience and clearly, the characterizations in Jade City were simply stupendous.

“Expectations are a funny thing,” Wen said. “When you’re born with them, you resent them, fight against them. When you’ve never been given any, you feel the lack of them your whole life.”


Jade City deflected the notion I had that somehow the book won’t live up to my high expectation, but it managed to not only live up to it but exceeded it. Fonda Lee channeled palpable tensions into the deadly political machinations, the descent into the bloody conflicts, the typhoon of battles, and the dynamic interactions between characters; they were a sheer joy to read. With Jade City, Fonda Lee has created an adult fantasy debut that is up there with The Lies of Locke Lamora in quality and magnificence, and that’s not a praise I easily hand out. I absolutely look forward to reading Jade War next year!

You can buy the book with free shipping by clicking this link!

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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Reading Progress

May 27, 2018 – Shelved
November 8, 2018 – Started Reading
November 10, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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Maia I loved this book! I almost dnfed at the beginning but like you said when you keep going then you can't put it down. I feel like the rest of the serie will be epic!


Petrik Maia wrote: "I loved this book! I almost dnfed at the beginning but like you said when you keep going then you can't put it down. I feel like the rest of the serie will be epic!"

YES, Maia! The beginning was a bit rough and it took quite a while to get started but oh boy... once the story found its stride, it was unstoppable!!! Can't wait for the rest of the series now that we're familiar with the characters and setting already! :)


message 3: by Em Lost In Books (last edited Nov 10, 2018 06:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Em Lost In Books Brilliant review, Petrik. :) Now like everyone else who loved this wait for the sequel which sucks or are you getting the arc?


message 4: by Travis (new)

Travis Amazing Review! This book has been in my wish list for a long time!


Petrik Manju wrote: "Brilliant review, Petrik. :) Now like everyone else who loved this wait for the sequel which sucks or are you getting the arc?"

Thank you, Manju! I certainly hope to get the ARC just so that my memory of the book ill still be good when I start the second book! :)


Petrik Travis wrote: "Amazing Review! This book has been in my wish list for a long time!"

Thanks, Travis! Go for it! It's fantastic!!


Colleen Great review! You had me at magic and martial arts! XD


Petrik Colleen wrote: "Great review! You had me at magic and martial arts! XD"

Thanks, Colleen! So damnn fun and intense! xD


message 9: by Shree143 (new) - added it

Shree143 Whoa! Comparison with The Lies of Locke Lamora, that's a high praise indeed! Adding it to the tbr


Petrik Shree143 wrote: "Whoa! Comparison with The Lies of Locke Lamora, that's a high praise indeed! Adding it to the tbr"

Enjoy! It's a different kind of story but in terms of quality, this is seriously up there imo! :)


message 11: by Rinaldo (new) - added it

Rinaldo I follow Fonda in twitter and it seems she's a big fan of wuxia. Also she used to practice martial arts herself. Will definitely dig in this book sooner or later!


Petrik Rinaldo wrote: "I follow Fonda in twitter and it seems she's a big fan of wuxia. Also she used to practice martial arts herself. Will definitely dig in this book sooner or later!"

I didn't even know that! Thanks for letting me know! No wonder the portrayal of martial arts were really good in the book!


message 13: by Birte (new) - added it

Birte I understand your craving for Asian inspired fantasy! This sounds so great. I only put this on my tbr because I trusted you and knew absolutely nothing about this book, and now it was again proved to be right. :)


Petrik Birte wrote: "I understand your craving for Asian inspired fantasy! This sounds so great. I only put this on my tbr because I trusted you and knew absolutely nothing about this book, and now it was again proved ..."

Aww that's awesome! You really should give this a go too! It was super good! :D


Nicole Wonderful review! Just added it to my list :D


Petrik Nicole wrote: "Wonderful review! Just added it to my list :D"

Thank you, Nicole! Yayyy! :D


message 17: by David S (new) - added it

David S Meanderings) I am really thankful that I read the part of your review that said to wait until the 30% or so part of the book to make a judgment. I'm about 20% and finding it really hard to get fully engaged I'm the story. I just dont feel like much has happened yet. But that is really encouraging that not much farther down the line things start to get really interesting


Petrik David S wrote: "I am really thankful that I read the part of your review that said to wait until the 30% or so part of the book to make a judgment. I'm about 20% and finding it really hard to get fully engaged I'm..."

No worries, David! I think many readers have agreed that the first quarter or so of this book are a bit difficult to get into. Don't worry, it will get better soon! :)


message 19: by Lucia (new) - added it

Lucia I LOVE well-written characters! Characterization always makes or breaks book for me. Synopsis sounds perfect as well (I used to watch plenty of asian marcial art and gangster as kid as well :) ) so this looks like no-brainer - I'm going to read it!


Petrik Lucia wrote: "I LOVE well-written characters! Characterization always makes or breaks book for me. Synopsis sounds perfect as well (I used to watch plenty of asian marcial art and gangster as kid as well :) ) so..."

Wow... What are you waiting for!? It sounds like this book is really for you, Lucia! I hope you'll enjoy it! :D


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