When I reviewed Fonda Lee’s excellent first installment in her Green Bone Saga, Jade City, I noted how family played such a vital part in the story of the island nation of Kekon. This remains a central pillar of the trilogy’s conclusion, but what surprised me most about Jade Legacy is how willing Lee is to subvert readers’ expectations of how the families at the heart of her world will act. When the world constricts around the Green Bone clans and their powerful jade magic, Hilo, Shae, Anden and the rest of the No Peak clan have to break their own rules in order to survive.
Those familiar with Kekon will feel right at home from page one of Jade Legacy. Pushed by ever-growing pressure from foreign powers interested in controlling the country and gaining access to its jade, which grants users superhuman abilities, the Green Bone clans must decide how to respond. In addition, anti-clan terrorist factions within the capital city of Janloon continue to sow violence and disrupt the peace. The No Peak clan and the Mountain clan, which have always opposed each other, must decide if they will put their long-lasting and bloody war on hold in order to preserve the Green Bone legacy, or if they’ll finish each other off when the opportunity arises.
The Green Bone books are densely populated, but Jade Legacy thankfully includes a list of characters, which readers will find supremely helpful to flip back to. By this point, there are so many characters who have come and gone, but Lee always knows when to let a personal moment stretch out between central characters and gives fan-favorites plenty of room to shine.
Anything seems possible in this last volume, and Lee ratchets up the pressure to 10. (For readers of the previous two books, could you have imagined getting to this point? Where Hilo and Ayt Mada have to work together?) Tragic deaths and triumphant action sequences are as present as they ever were, but there are also moments of humility, forgiveness and even redemption in places where readers might not expect to find them.
Quite simply, Jade Legacy is the best book in Lee’s fantastic trilogy. It’s the most complex, offers the most surprises and confidently navigates an intricate story with a huge number of characters and factions. It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you simply wanted validation that the last entry is worth your time. The answer is goodness gracious, yes. And if by some miracle you’ve read this far and haven’t yet jumped headfirst into one of the best fantasy worlds of the last five years, here’s your signal: Do it and don’t look back.