Welcome to my stop on the Jade War Tour, guys, gals, and enby pals! Thank you so much to Shealea @ Shut Up, Shealea, Caffeine Book Tours, Orbit Books, and of course Fonda Lee for letting me be a part of this blog tour, and for sending over an ARC of Jade War, a pin of Empire of Sand (click the link to read my glowing review!), and a letter from
the Pillar Fonda Lee herself! The personal touches were the best thing about this package in my opinion, and I can’t think Fonda enough not only for bringing the Green Bone Saga universe into being, but for also taking the time to connect with her fans!
This is probably gonna be a long ass review, so grab your drink of choice and get comfy!
I did my best to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but of course, tread cautiously!
Let’s get started!
Title: Jade War
Author: Fonda Lee
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Gangster Fiction
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.
Content warnings: Rape, violence, torture, substance abuse, shades of homophobic language
As you’ve no doubt noticed, this review will be structured a little differently from my other book reviews. I made a separate section to discuss all of the themes and ideas presented in Jade War that I feel are important, and through that, I also discuss what I loved about this book.
So, yes, this is actually more of a discussion post than it is a review!
Let’s get started!
The reality of Espenian imperialism
Right off the bat, I could immediately tell that an allegory for US imperialism and its presence in other countries was going to be something that heavily featured in this book. Of course, we have the naval base on Euman Island and the aid Espenia feeds into Uwiwa – clear representations of the naval bases the United States keeps around the world as well as the foreign aid it gives to developing countries. On the surface, it seems benign: a wealthier nation helping others with security and economy, right?
As we say in the Philippines, may kapalit ‘yan.
(There is no direct translation of this phrase. Literally it means “there will be an exchange”, but it’s more often used to mean that when something good happens, there’s always something bad waiting around the corner.)
We can clearly see this happening throughout the book as Espenia offers help to the No Peak clan in their covert war against the Mountain clan. In exchange for favorable terms for No Peak’s business interests in Espenia, Espenia expects No Peak to do its part in equipping its special forces with more jade – a resource that is culturally and spiritually important to the Kekonese, but for Espenia only means tactical advantage. (The Middle East and Southeast Asia collectively heaves a huge sigh.)
One of the things that I really appreciated about the way this issue was handled was the no holds barred way Fonda approaches it. One of the most emotionally difficult scenes for me was where a Lantern Man goes to Hilo demanding justice for his daughter, who was raped and beaten by Espenian servicemen. This is not a thing that is entirely fictional, nor is it something that only used to happen in the 50s to the 90s. To this day, Scott Pemberton, a US Marine who murdered a Filipino trans woman named Jennifer Laude, has not had to face justice. This murder happened in 2014.
The scenes with the leaders of the Espenian military demanding more jade from the No Peak clan were so realistically frustrating and angering, and, ultimately, familiar to anyone whose country has been colonized by the United States.
Globalization and its effects
Whereas Jade City focused more on things that happened within Kekon, Jade War expands and shows us what the rest of the world in the Green Bone Saga looks like. We’re introduced to other places such as the Uwiwan Islands, Oortoko, Stepenland, Ygutan, and we’re shown even more of Espenia in the form of Port Massy, the entry point into Espenia for many immigrants (I can’t decide if this is meant to be a fictional representation of San Francisco or New York).
I immensely enjoyed getting to see what other cultures existed in the Green Bone Saga universe, and I think Fonda wrote them into existence masterfully. I’ve always said, in literally every blog post about a fantasy book that I’ve ever written, that world-building is super important to me. Not only has she created a universe in Kekon that I found fascinating – she managed to expand it into a fully functioning world that is highly believable (including immigrant and refugee populations in the various countries – your fave could never!!!). The best world-builders in my opinion are those who make you want a D&D style guidebook or a Wiki page to your universe, rather than making you feel like you’re reading one. Fonda Lee achieves this rather handily.
The thing that impressed me the most about though about the world-building is how Fonda was able to put in commentary on the state of globalization and its effects, both positive and negative. On the one hand, a more interdependent global arena ensures the decline of ethnocentric isolationism, not to mention a wider and more socially aware viewpoint for people like the Kekonese. On the other, we can also very clearly see how globalization has led to the systemic abuse of Kekonese, Uwiwan, and Oortakan laborers, as well as the exploitation of resources like Kekonese jade and Uwiwan land because of war profiteering.
Kekonese-Espenians and Kekonese immigrants
I absolutely loved the thought and care that went into displaying what immigrant Kekonese experienced in Port Massy, Espenia. We were able to see the circumstances under which they fled Kekon and came to settle in Espenia, not to mention the community they’ve built for Port Massy and the ways they continue to try and keep their culture alive. We also see how they deal with the xenophobia and racism from Espenians. (Every time I read someone say the word “keck”, I could feel my blood boiling.) I can imagine that seeing that representation must be really meaningful for Asian-Americans.
However, as a homeland Asian, one aspect of Jade War that I found very interesting was the characterization of Coru, the son of Dauk Losunyin, the Pillar of the Kekonese-Espenian community. Although he adheres to Kekonese principles according to his father’s wishes, he doesn’t see the point, and in fact, sees the Kekonese way of life as backwards and unnecessary in modern times. To me, this represents the closed-mindedness some Asian-Americans display when talking about cultural practices from their homelands, unwillingness to learn from those who didn’t leave the country, and the way that they can sometimes talk for and over these people – as though growing up and being educated in the west makes them more credible.
When the subject of diaspora folk comes up, the discussion often revolves how they feel disconnected from both sides – not western enough, and yet also not enough for the homeland their parents or grandparents come from. And this is indeed a valuable discussion, make no mistake! But often, the voices of homeland folks get lost in that din, and sometimes, we do end up feeling talked down to or talked over, dismissed as backwards and ignorant, and sometimes outright misrepresented. Coru and his friends for me represent that aspect of diaspora folks who are not willing to acknowledge the need for dialogue between both sides, as shown by how much he refused to recognize what was important to Anden.
Want to know more about Jade War?
Check out the rest of the reviews on this tour!
And get to know Fonda Lee here!
Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for adults and teens. She is the author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City (Orbit), which won the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. The second book in the Green Bone Saga, Jade War, releases in the summer of 2019. Fonda’s young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer (Flux), Exo and Cross Fire (Scholastic), have garnered numerous accolades including being named Junior Library Guild Selection, Andre Norton Award finalist, Oregon Book Award finalist, Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. In 2018, Fonda gained the distinction of winning the Aurora Award, Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award, twice in the same year for Best Novel and Best Young Adult Novel.
Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.
Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.
Jade War is easily one of the best reads I’ve picked up this year! Do yourself a favor and go get it, now!