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Phoebe Low

Honor, Life, and Jade: Cultural Resonance in Fonda Lee’s Jade City

The first time I read Jade City, I was in awe. It was the first fantasy novel I had read in which an Asian-signifying culture is not portrayed as the icky-gooey evil the protagonist has to escape in order to find themselves, save the world, and/or ensure the inevitable progress of civilization. Even as the characters acknowledge the sexism and emphasis on bloodline that comes with their physical prowess-based honor culture, the Kekonese are never presented as inherently less deserving of dignity than the Western-signifying Espenians—in fact, the Espenians, known for their willingness to pay and be paid off for just about anything, are the slippery ones, the invading threat, mercenary connivers devoid of a moral code.

And then, of course, there’s jade.

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