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Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Publisher: Orbit

Copyright: 2017

ISBN13: 978-0-316-44086-8

Length: 512

Price: $26.00

I purchased a copy of this book for personal use.

Jade City, a new urban fantasy novel by Fonda Lee, offers a fascinating look at clan warfare in a world where jade provides magical power.

Lee’s narrative centers on the Kaul family, rulers of the No Peak clan. The clan controls territories throughout the city of Janloon, offering protection to and receiving tribute from the businesses in their neighborhoods. No Peak is always at odds with its main rival, the Mountain clan, over territory, tribute, and jade. Their conflict ranges throughout the city and beyond, drawing in the central government as well as foreign powers.

No Peak has undergone a significant leadership transition. The grandfather, a legendary war hero now in declining health, gave way to the eldest grandson who was next in line after the appointed heir died in the last days of the war. The Mountain clan recognized this weakness and pressed their advantage in the city, leading to the events in Jade City.

Jade mined through a government-run and clan-managed company provides magical power to those who can wear it. Only natives of Kekon (the country that contains Janloon) can harness jade’s power naturally, but not every Kekonese is able to do so to the same extent, or even at all. These constraints lead to significant social stratification which, combined with the pull of honor, duty, and family loyalty, provide a cultural framework I hadn’t encountered in such detail in other works.

Lee introduces the magic system, culture, and physical setting expertly, weaving her exposition throughout the narrative and avoiding the dreaded info dump that slows the action. The milieu embodies many interesting abilities and limitations that drive the plot forward. Part of the joy of reading Jade City is realizing what can or can’t be done and how it affects the story as a whole.

The novel’s plot moves forward rapidly, as would be expected in the tale of a clan war, but the reader has time to breathe, take in the scenery, and reflect on what has happened at several points in the narrative. Jade City offers a compelling look at a complicated situation, where two rival clans fight for control over jade, the city, and even Kekon itself. Highly recommended.

Curtis Frye is the editor of Technology and Society Book Reviews. He is the author of more than 30 books, including Improspectives, his look at applying the principles of improv comedy to business and life. His list includes more than 20 books for Microsoft Press and O'Reilly Media; he has also created more than 50 online training courses for In addition to his writing, Curt is a keynote speaker and entertainer. You can find more information about him at and follow him as @curtisfrye on Twitter.


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