Novella: The Jade Setter of Janloon by Fonda Lee

The Green Bone Saga is one of my favorite series, immersive, compelling, and straight-up entertaining. The trilogy must have been pushing a million words when it concluded; given that, plus the fact that it felt satisfyingly complete, it was amazing to me that it felt like it could have kept going forever. Its ambitious, robust world still felt loaded with story possibility.

Sure enough, The Jade Setter of Janloon (2022) proves there’s plenty of magic left in the jewels. A prequel, it takes place just before Jade City and introduces us to the jade-setting shop of Isin, a member of the strictly neutral Haedo Shield clan. Our protagonist is Isin’s apprentice Pulo, an extremely minor Green Bone whose modest jade skills and obscure clan have limited his prospects. He makes do as Isin’s assistant, thanks in part to his admiration for an Abukei woman named Malla who also works at the shop. Pulo’s adventure begins when Isin is entrusted with the moonblade of the notorious Ayt Mada, ruthless Pillar of the Mountain Clan. The valuable item quickly becomes a political lever in a plot that drags Isin—and, by extention, Pulo—away from their traditional neutral stance, involving them in rivalries that threaten to put Haedo Shield at odds with the major clans.

On a guess, The Jade Setter of Janloon could serve as an appetite-whetting standalone mystery that gateways new readers into the Green Bone universe. But I suspect veteran fans of the trilogy will enjoy it even more, a brisk, welcome return to familiar haunts. This richly conceived secondary world has always felt lived in and authentic, and that’s definitely the case again here. While key figures from the trilogy punctuate the action, the new characters hold their own driving a deftly executed noir plot. Intriguing, fun, and effortlessly read, it’s a welcome return to an unforgettable milieu. Consider me a bona fide fan.

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