Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2) | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.
Beyond Kekon's borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon's most prized resource, could make them rich - or give them the edge they'd need to topple their rivals.
Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival - and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon."
Jade War is the second novel in The Green Bone Saga, an adult fantasy series by Fonda Lee.
This was okay...I guess? I knew I was in for a bit of a rough ride when I picked this up. It took me almost an entire month to get through the first book, because I just found it very dense, and I was expecting this to be no different. This time around, I managed to finish this in five days, but those five days felt like an eternity.
Don't get me wrong though, this was well-written and compelling, but very dense as it is full of long descriptive paragraphs.
In order to get into what really bothered me about this book, I am going to have to go into spoilers. I will be sectioning the spoilers off though, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you can stop reading when prompted.
Now, let's get into the details.
As I said in the introduction, this is a very dense book full of long descriptive paragraphs. That is exactly why it takes so long to get through because there is just so much information to digest.
One issue I did have with the format of the book was the perspectives. While we mainly follow Hilo, Shae and Anden, we get the occasional chapter from other characters. It is the chapters from other characters I had an issue with, because they were rather random and few and far between, and it ended up taking me out of the story a bit.
Another huge issue I had was with the passage of time. Huge chunks of time pass by throughout the book, but it didn't feel like it because it was only mentioned in passing how much time has gone by. For example, by the time you get halfway through the book, three years have gone by since Hilo's failed assassination attempt in the last book. That is a lot of time to go by casually, and I wish that the dates were included at the beginning of the chapters.
Admittedly, this book is on the dryer side if you are expecting a series full to the brim with action. Instead, it focuses more on the political side of things, which I personally don't find to be as interesting. In all honesty, not too much happens in this. It is a slow-burn of a story that is very plot-focused with very little action to help break up the moments of tension.
There was also just a lot going on in this book, due to the multiple perspectives and plotlines. Enough so that it ended up taking away from the brewing war, which was mostly kept in the background. There were just so many chess pieces on the board that, while I was able to easily follow along with it, it created a story that may have been too long and drawn out.
We end up following the ripple waves the Oortokon War is causing on the surrounding areas, including Kekon and Espenia. Hilo, now the Pillar of the No Peak Clan, is dealing now only with the Mountain, but with several issues that pop up along the way. As such, there is a lot of traveling in this (possibly a bit too much since it happens a lot).
There were some plotlines, or one in particular, that I thought could have been taken out entirely (if it doesn't have an impact later on in the next book at least). Not only did it just take a long time to get anywhere with it, since the chapters talking about it were few and far between, but it didn't amount to anything in the end.
I was also not a fan of the direction the story went in at the end. A lot ended up happening in the climax, which makes me worried about what is going to happen in the next book.
I mentioned earlier on in the writing section that I had an issue with the progression of time, which ultimately ended up affecting the plot for me. Because such large amounts of time went by without the reading knowing, we ended up missing out on certain plotlines being fully developed.
One thing that is done really well though is exposition. The author does a really good job at going into detail about (almost) every aspect of the world and plot. While again, it may be the reason for the dense read, it demonstrates clear attention to detail.
In general as well, even though it is dense and there isn't a lot of action, it isn't boring. You do end up getting sucked into the lives of the No Peak Clan and all of their issues. And, while I don't like the characters nearly enough to hope that they will come out on top, it does make you wonder how this is all going to end.
While the maps are very bare-bones, we get three of them, three! We get a regional map, then one for the city of Janloon, and then the island of Kekon. The maps for Janloon and Kekon should have probably been switched, but they are appreciated nonetheless.
What still stands out to me about this world is the strong repercussions of using jade. Sure, every magic system should have its benefits and deficits, but in this, the deficits outweigh the benefits. Like drugs, although there is the use of shine in this, they use jade which can enhance their strength, but also can make them addicted. It is also just the perfect item for this mafia-like world since it is what fuels not only the clans but also the characters and their motivations as well.
One thing about this world, which is mostly my fault, is that I feel like this shouldn't be set in modern times. In my mind, I keep thinking that this is set during the Industrial Revolution or the early 1900s, because the image fits. But it isn't though, so when they mention commercial planes I end up confusing myself.
Something I noticed though was the lack of religion. Whenever a character mentions someone who has passed, they always say 'le the gods recognize them.' The issue here is that, again, there has been no mention of an established religion.
Going into this book, like the last one, I was pretty lukewarm about the characters. I didn't like or hate them, and I wasn't particularly enthralled by them. Coming out of this book, however, was an entirely different story. I will get more into it in the spoiler section, but we hit some really low points in this book due to some character decisions that just weren't justifiable.
Now, this is a mafia book, so the characters are meant to be flawed, but because of what happened I was no longer able to read about the characters without thinking about it, which ultimately impacted my overall enjoyment of the book. Shae, even Anden and Wen, and especially Hilo all make really bad decisions in this. I say Hilo especially though because his character is really backwards and hypocritical in this one. He upholds the values of the Green Bones but willingly breaks their laws as he sees fit.
In all honesty, the only character I ended up liking was Ayt Mada, because she knew exactly who she was, what she wanted, and what she had to do to get it. That being said though, the author has created complex characters that get a reaction out of you, even if it is a negative one.
While I got through this a lot quicker compared to the first book, it was still a slog to get through. I do think that I enjoyed the first book more, partly because I didn't hate the character then, and because there were higher stakes and more action in it.
I can't deny that this is a well-executed book though. This is an extremely well-received series, and while I may not hold it up to the same standards, I can see why it is.
Now, it is time to get into those spoilers I mentioned.
WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD - PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Oh man, everyone was an absolute mess in this book. Let's start with the least severe case - Anden. I originally liked Anden in fact, since, while he was a bit naïve, he was brave enough to step away from jade because he knew it would destroy him. Where he goes a bit wrong for me is when it comes to Cory.
After Hilo and Shae force him to go abroad to Espenia, he ends up meeting the son of the local Pillar (of sorts). While that romance we didn't actually get to see develop due to the time skips, which is a whole nother issue, he ends up pushing Cory away when it is almost time for him to leave Espenia. He didn't really think things through, but also didn't hesitate to throw the guy he was with to the side, which was disappointing to see.
That being said though, that was the least severe thing a character did in this, as we move on to Hilo. I know that a lot of people didn't like Hilo because he was a hotheaded boy, but I was pretty indifferent towards him. That was until, upon discovering that Lan's ex-wife had a child, who was, therefore, his nephew, he saw to track her down.
She, understandably, just wanted to be left alone, but Hilo was not going to let her take his nephew away from him, so he killed her and her boyfriend, and took the now orphaned kid with him to raise as his own. I just...no, absolutely not dude. After this happened I spent the rest of the book internally cursing him every time he was on page. And, sadly, Shae was not better, as she not only knew what he had done and just accepted it, she crossed some lines as well.
Shae begins a romance with a man named Maro in this book. While things seem to be going steady, she ends up delivering a one-two punch to him without him even knowing initially, begins she decided to ignore him than face him. The first thing Maro learns was that, in order to get Ayt Mada off her back, she rather recklessly challenges her to a duel, and almost dies.
And she doesn't bother telling Maro anything, with the excuse that it what goes on with the clans has nothing to do with him. Not telling your romantic partner that you are going to fight in a match possibly to the death was a bad move, and it only gets worse.
When Maro confronts her after she had been ignoring him for a while now, she blurts out that she had been pregnant, but chose to undergo an abortion. Now, ultimately that is her choice since it is her body, but to not tell her partner about it was just a lot to grapple with, and it was a decision that crossed the line for me.
Even Wen made a really bad decision in this, which I am not too happy about mainly because it is going to drive Hilo's character. There was conflict going down in Espenia, and Wen decided that it would be a good idea to go over there herself to deal with it because one of the Maik brothers died because of it. Now, things end up going very wrong, because of course they did, and Wen had to be revived by Anden.
Several problems here. First of all, Anden has to use his jade again, which may cause problems in the future. Second of all, because he revived her after there were no signs of life, while he was successful, she was left with permanent debilitating damage. This leaves me very worried about how both Anden and Hilo will act in the next book.