Family is a duty. Honor is everything. And for the characters in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Trilogy, that statement is perhaps no more apt in this second book, Jade War. After the amazingly good job of world-building and brawling done in Jade City, this second volume is decidedly more expansive, at nearly 600 pages and boasting character, plot, and world-building.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the opening pages, before diving into the story itself. In Jade City, we’re introduced to Kekon Island via a handy city map that divides the territories.
The first 120 pages deal exclusively with the breakdown of a devastating clan war between Ayt Madashi’s Mountain Clan and Kaul Hilo’s No Peak Clan. The latter is spread across different regions, and the disgraced, exiled Anden tries to build a new life for himself on the other side of the world in Espenia. Meanwhile, Hilo continues his efforts to expand No Peak’s influence in his homeland, considering making deals with shady, nefarious crooks and politicians on both sides of the world to counter Jade and his long-held beliefs about alien influence.
Hilo teams up with the trusty Airman Shae, who ends up with the best character journey of the entire novel. He is still involved in both politics and fighting, but this time there is also a romance that helps add important depth to his personality.
As a result, this novel lacks the same intimacy as it did in Jade City, especially leading up to Lan’s shocking death.
In fact, it’s not until about page 300 that things really start to heat up and get spicy, with a one-on-one duel that completely changes the dynamics of the world. But despite this, the book sometimes struggles to find its footing, with several “interludes” that work as giant information dumps about the world and don’t add much to the story.
While all this is going on, the outside world is thrown into turmoil by the growing influence of the jade trade, while a war between the neighboring countries.
It’s just that the latter is mostly told to us through various characters and news on television. Considering there’s a separate thread on Beko and Mudt, the two rogues we ended the first book with, it would be nice to see how this war actually plays out for someone on the battlefield.
Unfortunately, the first half is weak as it is. There are a lot of time jumps, huge exposition dumps, and the title itself is a bit misleading, especially for those who expect real war – because you won’t get that here!
Despite these problems, Jade War is still an enjoyable read, full of geopolitical issues, tense parts, and really great confrontations between characters. The ending certainly leaves the door open for a third book, which promises to bring this epic trilogy to a grand conclusion.