27 September 2023

Jade Legacy

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Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

By Fonda Lee, Hachette, $22.99.

And so we come to Jade Legacy – the final instalment in Fonda Lee’s unique modern urban fantasy trilogy The Green Bone Saga. While the series itself has had an epic feel – warring families over generations, international intrigue, larger than life characters – this final book, at over 700 pages, is an epic all on its own. Jade Legacy spans events over twenty years and pays off its numerous plot threads in a way that makes the previous two books – Jade City and Jade War – themselves substantial and full of event and characters, seem like prologue and set up for this main game.

Once again, Lee focusses on the ongoing trials and tribulations of the criminal Kekonese No Peak crime family led now by brother and sister Hilo and Shae Kaul. The Kauls are still locked in battle with the equally powerful Mountain Clan but both families are buffeted by international winds of change and in particular the desire to own and control the power of biogenic jade. On the surface it is the jade, and the ability to wield it, that gives the clans their power and influence. But as Jade Legacy, shows, there is more to running a multi-national criminal enterprise than just brute force.

If there is any problem with Jade Legacy it is that Lee is trying to do too much. There are so many pieces that need to be moved on her global board, with a huge cast of characters, over such a long period that the narrative can feel a bit plot heavy at times, sometimes only being able to provide a summary of the action as a short cut to the action itself. Some characters get short, occasional point of view chapters to help fill in the gaps. But with such a large cast, even some of the central characters can get sidelined for long periods. But within all of that manoeuvring, and major events, Lee still manages to find the human connection, her strong roster of central characters keeps the action relatable and the longer time period allows for a deep exploration of the consequences of their decisions. And by setting her action over such a long period, Lee can also explore the way new generations approach the problems handed down to them by their forebears.

The world building in this series has been meticulous and engrossing. Lee’s alternative world has become bigger, more complex and more technologically advanced with every novel (in Jade Legacy we enter a mobile phone era and there is a subplot which hinges on the power of blockbuster movies and popular culture to change hearts and minds). All the way along, Fonda Lee has used this world as the setting in which to effortlessly blend the sensibilities of a Godfather-style organised crime tale and kick-arse, magically enhanced martial arts action with a family drama. Given these elements it is no wonder a TV adaptation is in development. Jade Legacy once again leans heavily into this genre-blend and provides a satisfying finale to a truly epic series.

Over 750 more reviews can be found on Pile by the Bed.

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