Bookish Comrade

Reading theory gets tiring, so instead I read fiction. Reviews and occasional essays. Bookstagram: @bookishcomrade

“Jade warriors are young, and then they are ancient.”

Book: finished Mind: blown Heart: shattered Soul: crushed Hotel: Trivago

What a finale. Words cannot express how much I love Fonda Lee for writing this series. The story picks up after the events of 'Jade War' and spans a total of 20 years. As a result, I feel just as aged and battle-weary as the characters. When characters and events from the first book are alluded to, my heart contorts in a sad, nostalgic longing along with Hilo, Shae, and Anden. Fonda Lee has gotten me to cry over this story, which is a difficult thing to do (only Madeline Miller and Andre Aciman have done that).

As the title suggests, this book is about the legacy of jade and the power that it gives its users, sellers, thieves. In a rapidly modernizing and changing world, the protagonists of the Kaul family question which aspects of their ancient culture are worth preserving and which must be changed. The younger generation must grapple with the violent nature of the Green Bone way while realizing the growing imperialist threat of other world powers setting their eyes on Kekon.

Bero as a foil for Hilo has been satisfying to read. Bero is everything Hilo stands against, and Hilo is everything Bero wanted to be, and later hated. We see them both make terrible choices, Bero guided by selfish greed and Hilo by selfless love and sense of duty. Hilo is entitled to power, privilege, and agency, while Bero must fight tooth and nail for it. They represent how jade can be used and misused, and it takes Niko (Hilo's nephew and adopted son) to break that cycle of violence. There are many great things to say about other character dynamics and arcs, but this one especially stood out to me.

Because this is a family saga, this complex theme is explored throughout the book. Each character is torn between their duty to family, and what they want for themselves. The time spans only make this fictional family seem more real and complicated, and there are unresolved issues from the first book that still come up in this book, making it feel even more real.

World-building is still one of the best things about this book. Lee carries, not only her characters through the decades but also her entire world. She subtly writes modernizing technology that adds to the plot instead of taking away from it. I would have liked to spend more time in Janloon streets and neighborhoods and get a vibrant picture of each district. Yet this doesn't bog down the story at all.

Overall, Fonda Lee stuck the landing. I recommend these series to everyone that loves unique fantasy concepts, good writing, vivid world-building, morally grey characters, social commentary on power structures, martial arts, gangster stories, and family sagas.

This story starts with a young man committing murder, but the reader doesn’t find out why until the very end. Margio has inherited a supernatural tigress from his grandfather that has burrowed inside of him. The tiger is protective of Margio and his sister Mameh, his mother Nuraeni, and his baby sister Mariam. The novel was long-listed for the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, heralding Eka Kurniawan’s arrival in the international literary stage as a great representative of contemporary Indonesian literature.

The novel unravels themes of generational tragedy, loss of innocence, and domestic violence in a raw and honest way. Margio knows he needs to control the beast inside of him, but the violence around him -indeed the violence that gave birth to him- are more than anyone can take. Margio’s family is brutalized by their father throughout the novel, but it’s not a special case or an isolated incident. Kurniawan gives us a glimpse into the class and gender relations of the entire village and gives us a sense of the misogyny so recognizable in most cultures.

The anger that children who grow up around and experience domestic violence feel is a complex and indeed supernatural thing. With violence becomes hereditary and cyclical. Therefore, Kurniawan’s choice of including this supernatural element is a very smart choice. Yet, Kurniawan doesn’t let this aspect of the novel take over the actual story. The narrative is still very much character driven.

Kurniawan’s decision to name not just the crime that concludes the story, but also the victim and murder in the very first line is a very interesting one. The reader is roped in immediately, and as the story progresses the motive for the crime gets over more elusive and complex. The translator did a good job in translated well crafted prose and and maintaining a pace that rarely drops the suspense.

This is a novel with very intense and triggering themes, recommended for people who like social commentary literary fiction and for those curious to diversify their shelf.

“Well someone has to marry the man,” said the Emperor.

In Winter’s Orbit, the Iskat Empire brings planets under its jurisdiction with treaties sealed by marriage into their royal family. When its latest treaty with the planet Thea is thrown into question by the mysterious death of one of its representatives, Prince Taam. His Thean partner Jainan must be quickly married off to another Iskan prince in order to preserve the fragile treaty. But even when Kiem and Jainan are married, the causes and consequences of Taam’s death lead them down a path of political intrigue that forces them to learn to trust one another.

This book succeeded as a romance. Every plot thread was well crafted to invite romantic situations for the characters. Normally, I would feel this as forced. but his book did a good job delivering what it promised; an arranged marriage trope romance in a queer sci-fi world. Listen, I liked it. The pacing as solid, the characters and their backstories were treated with respect, and the politics never really got too much in the way of the romance. Normally, I don’t like plot points that are enforced just to force a certain situation on the characters, but in this case it worked.

Both Kiem and Jainan are both very tender characters that are immediately likable. Their chemistry is immediate but not their feeling for each other. There is a mutual respect that is sadly many times absent in romances that have this trope. The LGBTQ representation did not feel like tokenism, but rather taken for granted in the world building, which was very refreshing to read.

Some dark themes creep their way into the narrative but in never feels uncalled for or under-explored. The author does a great job in approaching it from a respectful and dignified way. None of the characters were diminished in any way because of it.

Overall, this an easily read, cute romance with a sci-fi element to it, especially for those that like to read YA. The cover design is beautiful and the characters are lovable.