Jade City will definitely rank as one of my top reads this year. I know there’s still a fair amount of the year left, but without doubt, it will sit in the top ten, and very likely even in the top five.
Jade City combines the best of kung fu films and gangster movies. It feels like if you mixed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with The Godfather and mixed in a healthy dose of fantasy. In short, I think it might have been a book written just for me.
The book follows the Kaul family, the head family of one of two large clans of a small island nation. Their clan, No Peak, is struggling against a larger, stronger clan, the Mountain. Their warriors, given superhuman abilities by jade, fight on the streets and argue in councils.
Two aspects of this book resonated strongly with me. The first is the world Fonda Lee has created. Jade City takes place in a fairly modern fantasy equivalent of Hong Kong. What fascinated me was how the story, which is limited tightly geographically, still paints a picture of a much larger world. Not only are the clans fighting among themselves, they are balancing the needs of their country in a world that is changing quickly. This is fertile storytelling ground, and I fully expect the next books to explore this more deeply.
The other aspect of this book that kept me flipping pages was the characters. Every point of view character is complex, struggling between conflicting values throughout the story. Personally, the character that interested me the most was Shae, the youngest daughter of the clan, who had left the island to study overseas in a university. One of her struggles is between her knowledge of the wider world and the traditions within her family.
To top off this delicious book are fight scenes and a magic system that I found completely enjoyable and captivating.