Welcome fellow fantasy enthusiasts and other mortals who have found my blog,
This is the special section on my blog dedicated to the beauty of fantasy stories.
THE LITERACY POWER OF THE GREEN BONE SAGA BY FONDA LEE AND WHY YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE.
*gets emotional even thinking about this series and its sheer beauty*
about the series
TWO CRIME FAMILIES, ONE SOURCE OF POWER: JADE.
Jade is the lifeblood of the city of Janloon – a stone that enhances a warrior’s natural strength and speed. Jade is mined, traded, stolen and killed for, controlled by the ruthless No Peak and Mountain families.
When a modern drug emerges that allows anyone – even foreigners – to wield jade, simmering tension between the two families erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all in the families, from their grandest patriarch to even the lowliest runner on the streets.
Jade City is an epic tale of blood, family, honour, and of those who live and die by ancient laws in a changing world.
REASONS TO READ
(ONE) a “wuxia gangster saga”* fantasy
“There wasn’t any room in this world to be soft.”
“It takes place in a modern world with guns and cars, but where combat is hand to hand and power rests with those that have jade”*. I think this blend of wuxia and gangster films appeals to so many people… PEOPLE THAT SHOULD BE READING THIS SERIES. Not only does it sound great, but the execution is phenomenal. It has the grit and heart of gangster films. It is complex, dark, organised and ever-present. Plus, it had the skill, craft and cultural presence of martial arts. Both of these in a fantasy series was something I didn’t know I needed.
*quotes from Lee in the Q&A at the back of Jade City
(two) Distinct characters
Lan: the sensible, appeasing eldest brother. He portrays the image of being perfect and hides his struggles.
Hilo: the wildcard. An aggressive, well-trained, successful fighter who is emotional, intelligent and engaged in the community.
Shae: the independent, strong (only) sister who makes her own choices and encourages the world to adapt to her visions. She has a strong sense of the balance of give-and-take the world requires.
Anden: the young, bright, obedient, reserved cousin who is a student at the academy. He is trying to establish and earn his place in the world. But his past and insecurities can motivate his present decisions.
Distinct characters are such a crucial part of any book. The way the characters were crafted in the Green Bone Saga was simply satisfying to read about. They were individualistic, nuanced, imperfect and fully fleshed out. Each character had a distinct personality, but it was more than that. The premise is surrounding the conflict between two clans, primarily from one clan’s perspective. Even though the characters are on the same side, they weren’t treated as if they had a unanimous mind. They all have different reactions, methods and approaches, adding a lot to the plot in the most captivating way. This was true for all characters, even the enemies. It really amplified them, so they felt real and complete. Plus, it made the character interactions downright entertaining.
I loved how the characters had a ‘reactionary’ development as well. New situations, life changes and time passing affected them. Such is real life. It fleshed them out as they adapted but kept their core personalities true to themselves.
(three) the human exploration of flaws and reality of errors
Another point towards the character is how their flaws and errors were written. It wasn’t rose-tinted for once. It didn’t feel like the imperfections were there to prove to us they were complex or growing. These flaws were part of who they were and added to the plot naturally. It didn’t always make them likeable, but it made them real, especially for the world in which they existed.
“The most honest prayers were inspired by terror.”
These books also dealt with characters making errors in very human ways, from bad decisions, emotional reactions and more. It didn’t romanticise the mistakes either. There were severe consequences, and the characters changed. It made for a very gripping read because it was never easy.
(four) multiple POV
Each perspective is added with a purpose. To add to the plot, characters and journey. I loved how it allowed readers to get to know each character on an intimate level. Who they are and why they make the decisions they do. Not only this, but readers could experience multiple aspects of the plot. Through a variety of perspectives, it added complexities and intrigue, pulling at understanding the contrast of decisions made by each individual. It provided further insight into smaller moving parts, typically not shown in books. Readers can experience why the plot goes the way it does and feel every different emotion along with it. When you see multiple moving parts, it makes a difference.
(five) family centric plot and multi-generational saga
You don’t get a lot of family central plots in fantasy, but I think it is a great idea. It is perfect for bringing relatability into fantasy novels. It conveys a lot of themes as well, like this series did, from sibling relations, familial obligation, hierarchy, responsibility, love, changing times and more. Plus, you can see the characters in different lights as they interact with all family members.
“It’s obvious you’re not a father…. or you wouldn’t feel so invincible.”
The Green Bone Saga covers a lot of time, especially in the finale. This can be difficult to do, but it can add a lot. Different themes, immense changes, new challenges and epic overarching plots. It raises the level and creates the feel of a complete, transformative story. This series delivered it all.
“Even the biggest tigers grow old.”
(six) next level worldbuilding
The Green Bone Saga is a Chinese inspired fantasy in a new urban setting, Kekon. The world felt so convincing, which is the best compliment you can give to a fantasy world. It is full of rich, intricate, yet not overwhelming, detail. Including the history, laws, international relations, education, culture, norms, conflicting and changing views, politics, religion, celebrations, media, and savoured traditions. I don’t feel like I am overstating when I say IT IS ALL THERE. It was more than just the level of detail. It was also in how it was delivered. It wasn’t displayed like a list of facts but assembled into a rich tapestry creating a complex society developed with a deep awareness of human nature.
“Funny, isn’t it? No matter where you are in the world, the one thing that keeps men from killing each other is a fear of what’ll happen after they’re dead.”
I liked how you weren’t just given a worldbuilding fact or an info dump. You got the context and significance of its existence. It is a mind-blowing, complex, devastating real world that I can only admire.
(seven) a fresh approach on powers
Sometimes it feels like you need a ‘brand-new, never seen before’ magical concept for it to be worthy of merit. This series made me feel different. Lee said herself, “the idea of magical gemstones or ores is certainly not anything new in fantasy fiction”. It is in how the author makes it their own and executes the idea that gives the fantasy element the wow factor.
The power of Jade was inspired by how precious Jade is in Asia, especially China. It has cultural significance and divine powers, so Lee making it literally magic was beautiful. The system built around the Jade was extraordinary. From its history, laws, power system, limitations, training, combat rules, cultural norms, opposing views, and the influence of advancing civilisations/ international relations. It was well developed and integral to society. You could tell me ‘Jade of Kekon’ was real, and I’d believe you. It was painstakingly developed magic.
(eight) the solidness of the plot and use of multiple influences
Now I have complimented the characters and the world, I want to take the time for the plot. The plot was one of the most gripping ones I have ever read. It was entertaining and calculated. It ensured I never felt bored with the story. It had the perfect balance between the characters pushing the plot forward and the plot compelling the characters.
Every detail is there for a reason, to add new layers, challenges and suspense. I never wanted to put the books down. It was a genuinely intelligent plot.
Another thing I really admired was the use of multiple influences. Sometimes stories favour main characters in a way where everything evolves around them. I get it, but it’s unrealistic. The Green Bone Saga took side characters and made them think for themselves, having roles that influence main events for their own reasons. This series really was a cleverly interwoven masterpiece. It added to my reading experience and the realism of the plot by enhancing the development of the setting and people.
(nine) edge of your seat and risk-taking moments
As you can imagine from the plot premise being a mix of gang films, martial arts and fantasy, it had to have action and big ‘what is going to happen next’ moments. And it did… it definitely did.
The books were full of drama and suspense. These scenes shook and stayed with you in the best possible way. I was on the edge of my seat, with my heart in my throat. The whole sha-bang! It was able to do this because it took risks. Characters weren’t protected with the famous “plot armour”, it leaned into characters’ flaws and mistakes. It wasn’t afraid to make them lose.
“When is life ever like a story where the characters get exactly what they deserve, good or bad?”
It took risks, and they paid off because it was a truly unforgettable read.
(ten) no nonsense writing style
I will admit it took me a little while to get used to the writing style. It meant business. It didn’t focus on embellishing moments for the sake of enjoyment. Every word had an intent adding to either the plot or characters. It suits the books so well, allowing it to achieve a tone that I now believe is crucial for this series.
I liked how there was a purpose behind every word, how addictive it became to read and how it still made me cry multiple times. For a crime gangster fantasy series, I believe this writing style fitted best. It suited all the dark, political and action-packed scenes. It was incredible.
(bonus reason) it’s perfect
“Good men are remembered with love by their friends, great warriors are remembered with awe by their enemies.”
I know this series isn’t for everyone (what is?). It had distinct approaches and resolves, but I still feel fully confident in saying it is perfect. Perfect because I can’t imagine better. The meticulous detail that was taken in orchestrating political movements and downfalls. How characters were crafted with faults so intricately designed for their mistakes and successes. It was tragic, it was clever, it was emotional, it was savage. It was unforgettable and excelled in so many areas, I honestly struggle to comprehend the craft of detail that went into these books. This series reminded me why I not only love reading but why I am happily consumed by my love of it. Perfect. The end.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AKA THE ARTIST
Fonda Lee is the author of the epic urban fantasy Green Bone Saga (beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and the forthcoming Jade Legacy) and the science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo and Cross Fire.
Fonda is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, as well as a three-time winner of the Aurora Award (Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award), and a multiple finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and the Oregon Book Award. Her novels have garnered multiple starred reviews, been included on numerous state reading lists, named Junior Library Guild selections, and appeared on Best of Year lists from NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. Jade City has been translated in multiple languages and optioned for television development.
In addition, she has written acclaimed short fiction and comic books for Marvel. She is a frequent speaker and instructor at writing workshops including Viable Paradise and Clarion West.
Fonda is a former corporate strategist and black belt martial artist who loves action movies and Eggs Benedict. Born and raised in Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.