What I thought about Jade City

Armed with a new kindle and a resolution to read some more books, I went on a buying spree at the start of 2021 for some new fantasy novels and world that I hadn’t read before. Having joined “bookstagram” over the pandemic, I’ve been exposed to a lot more diverse authors and stories that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of – great for my TBR list on Goodreads!

One of the books I brought was Jade City by Fonda Lee which I have seen recommended throughout bookstagram. It’s the first book of a trilogy, focussing on the lives of the Kaul family who are embedded in a decades long crime war with the rival syndicate. We meet three members of this family – Lan, Hilo and Shae who each have a part to play in the unravelling stability and ensuing chaos and war as violence erupts in the city.

I will admit, I did find that Jade City took me a long time to read. I think that was a combination of using my Kindle for the first time and getting used to reading on an e-reader, as well as the slow-burn pace of the plot. That’s not to say that the slow plot is a bad thing – in fact I think it allowed the story to breathe with incredible complexity and depth that you would have otherwise missed out on. However, for someone who was looking for a new book to get back into the reading habit, it probably would have been better to pick another book on my TBR list.

The one stand out point that I really enjoyed about the book was the complexity of it. If I was to compare it to other fantasy books (especially epic fantasy), the setting of the story is simple – it is centred around the island of Kekon and the use of a material called jade, which for some people gives magical abilities. However, the complexity of this book comes from the depth of the culture, characters and interactions that take place in the city. It is a remarkable read – a very good read if you want to learn how to write intricate systems of culture and magic, as well as a masterclass in revealing character backstories and motivations.

I’m not one to normally read urban fantasy, but I did enjoy this story. It is definitely on my “to re-read list”, and definitely one I will look at the remaining books in the series about!

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