So technically I read this book last year, but I wasn’t participating in CBR12, and I want to talk about this. Plus, the FAQs said I could.
A warning that this review will contain some spoilers.
Jade City is a book with a somewhat interesting concept. I’d have to classify it as urban fantasy, and if I remember it correctly, it takes place in a fictional world with countries based on a version of the mid-20th century Shanghai. It has a mafia vibe; enemy gangs with plenty of martial arts and combat mixed in. I’ll be honest and say that the author is clearly very knowledgeable on the subject and probably did a good job, as many people seem to adore this book.
I don’t even know where to start. I didn’t like this book at all.
First of all, I don’t care about the setting. Nothing about mafia stories or martial arts appeals to me on any level whatsoever. I also get really easily bored with things involving fights or any unnecessary violence. I don’t understand unnecessary violence, and I have a tough time connecting to characters who are nonchalant about it.
Regarding the characters, I simply didn’t care about them. I guess we were supposed to be rooting for the Kaul family, but I saw no proof (or any hint really) that they were any better than the Mountain people. So I wasn’t invested in any of it. Because of all of that, the central conflict of this novel felt frivolous and inconsequential to me. And because I didn’t care about the turf wars, didn’t connect to any characters, and thought all sides of the conflict were equally horrible, the whole book felt like a chore to me.
There were 2 scenes in this book I enjoyed.
1. Shae playing forensic accountant at the jade mines: I thought this was clever and brought another side of Shae to the light
2. Ayt Mada being ridiculously forthcoming and matter of fact about her entire plan: she was the most interesting character in this book, and I loved every minute of it (even if she is a homicidal maniac)
There were a few things I particularly despised:
1. The sex scenes: Why would you want to subject your readers to such awkward and off-putting scenes? What purpose did it serve in the story?
2. Bero: I just disliked reading his chapters. Whenever one would come, I knew I’d put down the book for 3 or 4 days and feel no need to pick it back up
3. The casual way they mentioned Doru statutory raping one of Shae’s classmates, and there were never any consequences to that act. Nor to the fact that her grandfather clearly knew about it and thought it was Doru’s prerogative to take what he wanted because of war scar reasons. Neither of them gets confronted about it, nor does anyone appear to care.
4. Shae’s character assassination: she starts the book convinced that she needs to be her own person away from the clan, and I feel like the author used Lan’s death as an excuse to strip her of all the growth her years away from all that madness gave her.
5. Finally, the ending was a real deal-breaker for me. Because this was clearly set up to be a series, the book does not work as a standalone. This means that there are loose threads all over the place: everything is still up in the air and I hate it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it was always supposed to be a trilogy, but I prefer my books to have at least 1 of the storylines conclude, so I have a sense of closure.
I clearly hate this book too much ever to read its sequel, so if anyone does and does leave a spoiler-y review, link it to me so that I can know what happens in the end. I’d be thrilled.