Book Review: Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Wow. The thrilling conclusion to the miraculous Green Bone Saga left me breathless till the very end, not wanting it to end and to find myself torn asunder from this incredible universe. Typically I am wary of fantasy series and have a bit of a stigma about trilogies; so often they are publishing’s way to make a commercial success of an idea that only has the stamina for one book. This was thankfully not the case with Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee, the third and final book of this gripping and adventure-filled Asian-inspired fantasy series. 

In this book, a 713-page whopper, we are once again thrust into the fortunes, tragedies and loves of the Kaul family, the leaders of the No Peak clan as it seeks to assert itself in the geopolitical tides beyond Kekon’s borders. A now familiar and well-loved cast of characters has become as familiar as a family we’ve grown up with, watching with awe as they earn our trust, respect and loyalty. Make no mistake, I’m a Green Bone loyalist. I am a complete and total nerd for this series. I’m not even a big fan of martial arts flicks or gangster movies and books, but this series is so much more than that. This series won my heart and makes me want to be green in the soul. 

In the third book we watch Anden find love, become a doctor, use his influence with the clan as a way to win international respect for jade medicine, and soar to even greater heights, all without using jade to become the killer he had once feared he’d become at age 18. We follow Shae as she finds love with her longtime advisor, gives birth to a daughter, and realizes that what makes jade special is not the gemstones themselves and their unique power, but the integrity of the warriors who wear them. We also see her grow the Weather Man’s office into a complex, powerful international enterprise. And finally there is Hilo, who started out as a hotheaded, reckless young Pillar and has since evolved into a compassionate leader who commands respect even from his enemies. 

That’s the core part of this family but then it has grown, to include Lan’s son Niko, Hilo’s children, and others. One of the things I really love about this series is its ability to make you care about even minor, unlikeable characters who have done despicable things. We meet Bero, for example, the jade-addicted youngster eager to throw his weight around, in the opening scene of the first book, and that thread is carried through to the final scene, but not in the way you would expect. Even cruel baruken gangsters (half-blood jade-wearing mobsters) spill the beans to protect their secret families. 

In this new world the clans must contend with geopolitical forces and encroaching modernity, like the radical terrorists of the Clanless Future Movement, who see the clans and the Green Bone way of life as obsolete. You see not only characters evolve, with the stakes raised ever higher until you’re clinging to the story with a torrent of emotions, but the clans themselves. 

Infusing an impressive cast of characters with such warmth takes great skill and sophistication. Then there is the Green Bone way of life itself. Foreigners see it as barbaric and outdated, but when you become immersed in it, when you follow everyone’s story arcs and the bold, immutable dignity with which they lead their lives, you realize that this is a way of life that is noble, and one worth preserving even as the irrepressible tide of modernity seeks to crush it. Like Shae, you realize that what makes No Peak rise above its enemies and secure its place on the world stage is not any special advantage other than family. It is a family filled with unconditional love for its disparate, unwanted, cast-aside parts, and these parts fit into a puzzle that propels No Peak, and jade itself, into a place of destiny. 

The clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master, as the oath goes. I swear allegiance as a reader and a fan. 


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