In the second installment of a political fantasy thriller series where “bioenergetic jade” provides magical energy, the conflict of two warlord/organized crime clans has global implications.
In the Hong Kong-like city of Janloon, the Mountain and No Peak clans have announced a public truce while each secretly tries to undermine the other for control of the city and their nation of Kekon, the only source of the jade. As jade smugglers both inside and outside the country threaten the clans’ mutual control over the mineral, political tensions rise between the neighboring nations of Espenia and Ygutan over a rebellion in Shotar, which leads both to seek more jade for their armies. Meanwhile, Hilo, the former Horn (chief enforcer) of the No Peak clan, struggles to master the tactics he needs to fill his late brother’s role as Pillar (clan leader). His sister, Shae, the clan’s Weather Man (chief advisor), has that tactical knowledge but lacks the clan’s complete trust; she’s also trying to juggle her clan responsibilities and her personal life, which includes a quiet romance with a nonclan professor. At the same time, their adopted brother, Anden, embarks on a new, jade-free life in Espenia but still manages to find trouble there, and Hilo’s jade-immune wife, Wen, secretly supports the clan through her own work as a spy. If they are to prevail against the ruthless Ayt Mada, Pillar of the Mountain clan, and the various other domestic and foreign threats, terrible sacrifices will be required, made willingly or not. The first installment, Jade City (2017), leaned rather heavily, albeit effectively, on some tropes and plot points from The Godfather, and it’s pleasing to see that the author has chosen a more independent path this time around. If there’s any thematic link between this book and Godfather II, it’s a common understanding that the outside world has a way of crashing into isolated communities and forcing them to adapt, so it’s best to be on the offensive, as well as a rueful acknowledgment that despite that understanding, relationships with those outside the community might not end well.
A strong, thoughtful, and fast-paced follow-up that bodes well for future volumes.