One of the most anticipated series finales of 2021, Jade Legacy provides readers with all the thrills and emotional beats we’ve come to expect from the Green Bone saga.
Often marketed as a book series for fans of mafia movies like The Godfather or Goodfellas, two films I have no inclination to watch, one may wonder why I hold such high regard for Fonda Lee’s Green Bone saga. As Dom from the Fast and Furious franchise would opine—it’s all about the family. In book one, Jade City, we’re introduced to the Kaul siblings: Lan, the eldest and newly-minded clan head; Hilo, middle son and hot-headed lead fighter, and Shae, the youngest, and only daughter who returns as a prodigal figure after spending unapproved time abroad. Heirs to the No Peak clan, which rose in opposition to the Mountain clan in post-war Kekon which their father and grandfather played prominent roles in securing their country’s independence, each sibling finds themselves at odds with the expectations of their power-grasping grandfather and by Kekonese society at-large. For Lan this means embodying his ideal path into becoming No Peak’s Pillar—or head—given his grandfather’s reticence and contrasting instincts for the future of the clan. Lan’s personal choices also impact how his brother, Hilo, supports the clan by bolstering the spirits of its fighters who often feel like pawns under Lan’s aloof consideration. While Hilo has the respect of the clan, its leaders’ dissatisfaction with his fiery act first, ask questions later behavior serves as a barrier to his love life. However, it is Shae’s choice to study abroad after Green Bone training that receives the brunt of private and public disapproval—primarily because of her relationship with a foreign man. Upon her return to Kekon, Shae must find her place in the family, should she want to take it. Another family member who shares Shae’s mission to define their role in No Peak is their adoptive cousin Emery Anden—a mixed-race orphan whose mother succumbed to the fatal Itches that plague Green Bones who develop jade intolerance. A student set to be at the top of the martial arts academy all respected No Peak Green Bones attend in adolescence, Anden is not sure that he wants or deserves the mantle that the Kauls are holding for him.
Through the subsequent book, Jade War, to Jade Legacy, we see how the choices of each family member—along with that of their Mountain clan rival Ayt Mada and the global powers seeking their own control of the jade trade—create ripple effects that have all the hallmarks of a tsunami. Pacing for each chapter of the saga moves with a sense of heightened normalcy, eerily drastic upset, and gigantic impact. No component of the storytelling—character development, world-building, or plot progression—throws off the harmony of the novel before it. In fact, it is the balance of incredible impact along with the unpredictability of what happens next that not only stirs up a high level of anticipation for the final book of the series, Jade Legacy, but also makes this tome so successful in executing the series’ landing. When the book begins Lee could have thrust us anywhere with any of the point of view characters that she has made integral to the story, but she deftly chooses to bring us back to a character who started the whole series off. This nuanced calculation of ebb and flow, balance, and harmony persists throughout the story and in the end we get a delightful coda which reminds us of how far the characters have come since we first met them yet leaves us in a setting they’ve come to appreciate—with a family dinner.