Jade City by Fonda Lee

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Apr 9, 2016

I first resolved to read this after reading an article by Fonda Lee talking about writing the book. I liked her process, I loved her ideas. Do I want to read a wuxia-themed take on the Godfather? Do you have to ask that question? Does anyone not want to?

For the most part, Lee delivers. The tone is very good - uneasy compromise and conflicted loyalty is the rule of the day, with a counterpoint of occasional bouts of ferocious single-mindedness. The characters are well defined and have enough depth to avoid being stereotypes alone. The action is well written - some excellent - the prose lucid...

If there is a weakness, it is the plot. Arguably that's largely a matter of there being too much for the pages. There's four major arcs and another minor if important one, plus a lot of world to explain. Readers who don't like unvarnished exposition might not enjoy this book.

But I feel more critically there is an issue in that none of the other characters' dilemmas really grip. A fork in the road appears, the character dithers, then events force their hand. They don't really attempt to hold onto any interest in the other path. As a result, the story and characters don't quite engage for me.

How much that's personal taste and how much that's good objective judgment though I struggle to say. And pretty much everything else is right, particularly some of the fight scenes. Anyone looking for a criminal, modern or Chinese flavouring for their fantasy should look into this book. I'm glad Fonda Lee took the time needed to bring Jade City to this state.

Similar threads