Fonda Lee’s Jade Legacy is the finale to the trilogy she started in Jade City, and it’s a big one, some 700+ pages in print hardcover. The hope with a big ol’ giant finale is that it’ll pay off all the stuff the series has been setting up. It does, and then some.
You can imagine a way that the series would wrap up the obvious plotlines satisfyingly, and it’d be fine. We’d get the end of the big clan conflict in the book. We’d see the core characters gets happy endings or tragic deaths. It’d work, you’d read that book and say, “yeah, that was solid, really decent series.” But that’s not what Lee gave us.
Because the real theme underlying the book, the true driver of conflict, is modernity. This series is set in the fantasy equivalent of the mid-20th century, and the world is changing fast. Technology is upending established economic patterns, globalization is throwing wrinkles in traditional cultural patterns, and the big challenge facing everyone in the book is how they can adapt to this new world while trying to keep the virtues of the old (and maybe drop some of its worst elements). The clan war that drives the plot is really just one of the manifestations of this struggle to adapt to change.
And so this third book is all about that. You do get those plotlines wrapped up, you do get endings for all the characters, but you also get a decades-spanning, multi-generational saga about shaping the future, and the ways in which the future is going to shape itself no matter what you try to do. I’ve liked this series from the start, but this book takes the whole thing to the next level. It’s probably not possible to read this book by itself—there’s too much context from the previous two books—but just taken on its own, it’s an incredible epic. That it’s the capstone to this series makes it all the more impressive.
As I read, I try to take little notes to remind myself what I thought of the book, so that when I procrastinate on writing it up (you are here), I have something to go off of. The second note I wrote for this book, when I was maybe 100 pages into it, was “excellent.” The last one I wrote, as I was nearing the end, was “just so good.” And it really is. The whole series is highly recommended, but especially this volume.