Book Review: Jade Legacy

Jade Legacy (The Green Bone Saga #3)
Fonda Lee
640 pages
Expected publication date: November 30, 2021

The Kaul family, leaders of the No Peak Clan, faces an uphill battle as they move into the future. The Mountain Clan seems to be anticipating and countering their every move, while a new anti-clan movement is on the rise in the lower echelons of Kekonese society. Outside the country, allies and enemies of Kekon conspire with and against each other as they seek to gain a foothold in a long closed-off society and claim its most precious resource, the mythical jade, for themselves. As the world rapidly changes and modernizes around it, Kekon and its clans must keep up with the pace of it all. With enemies at every turn, the Kaul family faces the greatest test it has ever encountered, and if any of its members make the wrong decision or trust the wrong person, the entire clan may fall.

World Fantasy Award-winning author Fonda Lee found her initial inspiration for the Green Bone Saga in the films she grew up watching: Asian action films starring martial artists like Bruce Lee, wuxia films where the heroes flew through the air to fight in the sky or among the treetops, and crime movies about the politics of Yakuza or Mafia families. In the Green Bone Saga, the island nation of Kekon is unofficially ruled by its two largest, rival clans, No Peak and the Mountain. The clans are made up of those who can use the magical stone jade, which grants them superhuman abilities of perception, strength, and speed among others. These jade warriors live by an ancient code of honor that pervades every part of Kekonese society as the Saga progresses, but not without showing its flaws or its age. This code, aisho, determines how the clans’ warriors deal with their enemies (often with violence), their allies (with respect), and with those they’re honor-bound to protect.

But as the world outside of Kekon forces changes within Kekon, the younger members of the Kaul family push back against the expectations of aisho and the rest of their culture. What place do centuries’ old practices have in an age of cell phones, movies, and designer drugs? This question is at the core of Jade Legacy, and the Kauls struggle to find answers. The things their forbears did now seem out of place or irrational, especially as external influences grow. To the rest of the world, Kekonese ways seem barbaric and backward. How does a culture deal with such a perception while maintaining its history and values as it races to keep up with everyone else’s norms? How does a society with such a firm grip on the past reach out to the future?

The three novels of Lee’s Green Bone saga have dealt with these questions, though in a different way. The first book, Jade City, looked the most at Kekon’s past with a new generation taking over from the older one. Modernization wasn’t yet the force that it became, and the siblings Lan, Hilo, Shae, and their cousin Anden seemed to know exactly what was expected of them– until events turned their world upside-down. In Jade War, the Kaul family has maintained a tenuous grasp on their power and has managed to walk a razor’s edge as neighboring countries begin to truly encroach on Kekon. The present power is theirs to win or lose, they just have to keep up the status quo. But that approach will no longer work in Jade Legacy. The world has changed too much, and Kekon– and the clans– must change, too. How and by how much are the primary questions. Is aisho still a practical way of dealing with people? Do other countries have better ways? Is Kekon stuck in the past?

Jade City dealt with the past. Jade War dealt with the present. Jade Legacy deals with the future and all that entails. As a new generation grows up and begins to influence events, it’s clear that things are changing. How the No Peak Clan will deal with it is the question that drives the story. Will they succeed in modernizing? Or will they be devoured by a rival who seems to know everything they’re going to do?

At 640 pages, Jade Legacy feels at times both too long and too short. Too long because of the occasional passage that merely narrates events that have happened over the course of months or years. This is a necessity, given the amount of time that passes across the book’s entirety– nearly twenty years. But it also feels too short, particularly at the end, when all the threads Lee has spent the entire trilogy weaving into the story begin to come together to reveal the full pattern. A series lives or dies by its finale, and though Jade Legacy has its flaws, it ends on a perfect note.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Jade Legacy

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed the series. I’ve been curious about this one, and it’s always nice to hear a series I’ve yet to try ends well. Gives me a bit more incentive to start it. And that it was inspired by wuxia gets me just that much more excited for it 🙂

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