Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy, urban fantasy
Series: Green Bone Saga #0.75
Published by Subterranean Press on July 31, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Fonda Lee returns to the acclaimed Green Bone Saga with four prequel short stories that delve into the personal histories of the Kaul and Ayt families.
The Witch and Her Friend. Before she was the ruthless leader of the Mountain clan, Ayt Mada was an orphan without friends at school except for one: Aun Ure, a teenage girl feared and renowned as an assassin but yearning for a simpler life.
Not Only Blood. Before he was the heir apparent of the No Peak clan, Kaul Lan challenged his grandfather and clan patriarch to help a boy who had lost everything.
Better Than Jade. Before they were married, Kaul Hilo and Maik Wen were a young couple facing long odds: the son of a top Green Bone clan in love with a stone-eye girl from a disreputable family.
Granddaughter Cormorant. Before she left and returned to Kekon, Kaul Shae was the apple of her grandfather’s eye…as well as a daring secret informer to a foreign country.
Contains an introduction and story notes by the author.
Jade Shards isn’t a single story in the world of the Green Bone Saga, rather, just as the title indicates, it’s a series of little stories, shards if you will, of the magically beautiful big green stone that is the entire epic saga that begins with Jade City.
The stories in this collection feature the defining characters of Jade City, Jade War and Jade Legacy, but they are ‘before they were famous’ kinds of stories. In The Witch and Her Friend, we get to meet the towering figure of Ayt Mada on the very first steps of her journey to become the woman who set herself and her entire clan against the Kaul family.
Back when she was not a towering figure – and at that point in Kekon history had no hopes of becoming one. She was young, she was female, she was of unknown origin and she had been adopted into one of the two great families of Kekon. She was expected to be an asset to her new clan, but on the business side. She was never supposed to be the Pillar. WOMEN were not supposed to become Pillars. Period. But here we see the first inkling of the woman who did it anyway.
Ayt Mada was the powerful antagonist of the entire saga, but in that saga, she stood alone as her story does in this collection. The other stories dive deeply into the Kaul family, just as the other three stories here give us a peek into the early days of the three members of the Kaul family who drive the Green Bone Saga, Kaul Lan, Kaul Hilo and Kaul Shae.
All three were the heirs of Kaul Sennington, one of the two great heroes of Kekon’s liberation, along with Ayt Mada’s adopted father Ayt Yugontin. But where Ayt Mada was always alone, and had to fight to become the Pillar, Kaul Lan was always the intended heir of the Kauls.
Their three stories, Not Only Blood, Better Than Jade and Granddaughter Cormorant bring us perspectives on their characters before they became leaders. It’s a view of Lan as he is growing into the person he should have become, Hilo as he takes the first steps on the road to who he will be, and Shae as she attempts to fly away from her destiny.
Everyone who was enthralled by Janloon and fell in love with the characters that truly do live in the pages of the Green Bone Saga will be thrilled to get this glimpse into their earlier lives. And on this last trip back to Kekon will be caught between the pillars of smiling because it happened, and weeping because it’s over.
Escape Rating A+: I’m giving this one an A+ because that’s how deeply I escaped back into the world of the Green Bone Saga, how much I loved going there one more time, and just how damn sad I am that this looks like the last time based on the author’s introduction and notes in the book.
Unlike the first prequel to the Green Bone Saga, The Jade Setter of Janloon, even though all the stories in Jade Shards take place before the opening of Jade City, this is not the kind of prequel that stands alone, nor can it serve as an entry point for Jade City in the way that The Jade Setter of Janloon could.
The story shards in Jade Shards require prior knowledge of both the characters and the setting to have the resonance necessary to make them work. In other words, you have to already care about these people to want to read how they got to be the towering figures they eventually become.
It’s not nearly as interesting to watch their early fumbles and stumbles if you don’t already know just how sure and certain they eventually became on the roads they had to, or chose to, walk. But if you do care, if you’ve already visited Janloon, then Jade Shards is a bittersweet delight from beginning to end.
I finished the Green Bone Saga in tears at the end of Jade Legacy. By the end I felt like I’d walked the road with these marvelous characters and was beyond sad to their story end. It was a right, proper and fitting ending, but I just wasn’t ready to leave this world behind.
And neither was the author, as she admits in the notes for Jade Shards that these stories are a case of her writing fanfiction in the universe that she created. IMHO it’s a universe that is made even richer by these portraits of the clan leaders as young men and women. So I’m glad she was able to put these out into the world and sad that it looks like these will be the last.
The Green Bone Saga gave me the biggest book hangover I can remember in a very long time, one that is still stuck in my brain now two years after I finished Jade Legacy. To the point where I’m highly tempted to start listening to the damn thing all over again.
If you’re still a bit stuck in Janloon and looking for a way to alleviate the ache of missing it, may I recommend Ebony Gate by Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle. It’s the first thing that has scratched even the tiniest bit of my itch to return to Kekon. If you have that same itch, it might do the same for you.
And if you don’t have that itch and you’ve read this review to the end, what are you waiting for? Take your very own trip to Jade City and prepare to be captured and captivated.