Today we delve into the Nebula Award Nominated and bestselling book Jade City by Fonda Lee. What can this highly acclaimed AND popular novel teach us about worldbuildling, plotting, and characters? Join us and we share what we love, what we didn't prefer, and our thoughts on this novel.
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Read the full transcript below. (Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).
Narrator (1s): You're listening to The Am. Writing Fantasy Podcast in today's publishing landscape, you can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need a literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing. Join two best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them now on to the show with your hosts, Autumn Birt and Jesper Schmidt.
Jesper (29s): Hello, I'm Jesper and
Autumn (31s): I'm Autumn.
Jesper (33s): This is episode 153 of the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. And it is time for our Critical Reading of Jade City by Fonda Lee. And we'll be sharing our thoughts and views with the aim to see what we write as can learn from
Autumn (51s): Yes, I'm looking forward to it because it was such an interesting story, but you know, listening right now, if you were planning on reading this book and you haven't yet spoilers, there will be spoilers. So keep that in mind. If you're listening, this is a critical review, not a blurb or a teaser. We're going to rip it apart and say what we love, what we wish had been different and see what else we can learn from this book.
Jesper (1m 15s): Yes. And we also got a few remarks from patron supporters. So we will also mention some of that
Autumn (1m 23s): As well. Yes. I'm looking forward to it. I happen to have read some of those comments and I'm kind of in agreement with them. So that'll be really fun.
Jesper (1m 32s): I am for the most part as well.
Autumn (1m 36s): All right. End of episode. No,
Jesper (1m 38s): That was it. Go on. Read, read, threatened. That's it
Autumn (1m 43s): Awesome. Well, how are things over at Denmark? It's been a little while since we talked, which was partially my fault. I will warn viewers now. I am still, I had a cold. It really knocked it. Wasn't COVID knock on wood, but it's definitely knocked me for a loop. So if my voice is a little hoarse or if I will, I swear I will cough. I'll either mute myself or he'll go away from the microphone. But yeah, there's, there's a chance I'm still coughing a little bit. So it's been awhile. This episode was supposed to be the previous one and we just couldn't get together because cold I've got to call.
Jesper (2m 18s): Yeah, this was supposed to be 100 and episode 1 55, 2, and then it now turned out to be 1, 5, 3, and, well, it was a bit of a mess because we had to rearrange stuff and redo stuff and rename podcast episodes and whatnot, but we succeeded and we're here now.
Autumn (2m 36s): That's what counts. So how are things been? It's been absolutely ages since we talked.
Jesper (2m 42s): Yeah. Well now I don't remember if it was last week or the week before, to be honest. But we were in here during winter time, as I've said on previous podcasts, I started doing sea kayaking. So here during winter time, well, you can go out, see kayaking, but you need a dry suit, which costs a lot of money. So, and we don't have that, but then what we can do is we can go to the swimming hole. So we take the kayaks into the swimming stadium and we train in the swimming pool to do like, you know, Eskimo rolls is what we call them. Dana's I don't know what the English word is, but you know, without getting out of the kayak, you basically you're upside down in the water and then you learn how to get back up out of the water without exiting the kayak at all.
Jesper (3m 31s): And I actually managed to do the first roll this last time when we went to practice for the first time I succeeded in rolling around. So that was pretty cool.
Autumn (3m 42s): That is really cool. I've never managed to do a full one note. I usually, I was a whitewater kayaking so much smaller, like half the size of a ocean kayak, a sea kayak. And I still never quite learned the hip snap part to get myself fully back on my own. So that's really cool that you could advantage one.
Jesper (4m 2s): Yeah, well, it was like a w the time before my wife succeeded doing it and she was just like, and she did it like 10, 15 times, like, like w what, what brown run around. And I was, and I was just so much struggling. It was like, fuck, I can't do it. And then, but then last time we were here in the swimming hole, we had a couple of instructors with us. So I think the instructor probably spent like an hour with me trying to explain how, you know, because it is really, I mean, when I succeeded, I was actually surprised to see how little muscle power you need to use it. It's actually, it's all about technique. You, you almost need to do nothing to flip around if you just use the right technique.
Jesper (4m 45s): So, and, and if you like, like angle your body just slightly wrong, or you, you use your arm slightly in the wrong way, you're not going to flip around. So it's really about techniques, but it it's, I succeeded, but now of course, I'm concerned the next time we're going to go train, then I can't do it again.
Autumn (5m 4s): Well, it's all muscle memory. So eventually you'll get it down with that as awesome. However, it's hilarious. Your wife was like, whoo, I'm just rolling. Like
Jesper (5m 12s): Rolling around like, well, it's quite easy. Yes. That's easy for you to say Yeah. At the other than that, then a well on, in terms of working wise, we've sent book one of our new series off to the editor. So we're waiting to get it back from the first edit, and then it'll go to the second editor and so on, but, but we're getting there now. So, so that's pretty cool. And otherwise we've started to look ahead for 2020 and kind of discuss some of our future plans and so on. But I quite like this time of year when we're sort of reviewing, what are we going to do next inside? That that's always fun to me.
Autumn (5m 54s): It is. I think it's it's so it's good to do that. You should do in your life. Should do it in your writing, your book, marketing, whatever you got going on. I think so many people don't take the opportunity to reflect and then reorganized and then hit the new year with maybe some new goals and some new operations and stuff. So I agree which again, you know, go figure we've we tend to agree on just about everything. So it's no surprise. We both enjoy looking over stuff. And I think it gets your passion going, if you feel like you're just doing the same old thing and you just need to keep plugging away at it, you'd lose the passion. And, and it's half the fun is getting that back and getting excited about things and what you're going to do for the next year.
Jesper (6m 35s): Yeah, indeed. So how about you? What have you been busy with the last couple of weeks
Autumn (6m 40s): Sick, but not much. I've well, I mean, I've managed to get the editing done and so that's been off and I'm going to be working, starting to delve into getting our website for dot com, going some minor, things like that. So I'm looking forward to really getting into that more, but I was surprised last time I was truly sick was actually right when I came back from London and in January, 2019, I got kind of the same thing, chills, really sick. And that really knocked me down for three days. But this one, it was funny. I started feeling better and then I'd be sick for two days and then I'd start feeling better.
Autumn (7m 20s): And, oh, it's been a nightmare. I really thought I was surprised when I got the COVID test results back as negative. I'm like, really? If this isn't COVID, oh, there's some other nasty bugs out there. No one should ever have to go through this, but I have never had chills, like shaking so hard while I had a fever in my entire life. Thank goodness. My husband has medical wilderness medical training. Cause he's like, I wasn't worried. We're fine. I know what to do. But I was like, he's saying, right, this is not right,
Jesper (7m 52s): But there is a buck like that going around because I mean, over the last two weeks, I was sick for a couple of days as well. And I wasn't, I didn't have the shakes like you're describing there, but I did have a fever. And I was absolutely absolutely sure that this is COVID because it felt like, you know, the, all the flu kind of symptoms, all the stuff that you hear about and, and your throat, you can feel it all the time. It was exactly like the symptoms described for, for COVID. But I also went and got a test and it was negative, but there is something going around like that at the moment.
Autumn (8m 23s): Yes. I mean, none of our listeners catch it. It's not contagious through podcasts. Thank goodness. I
Jesper (8m 28s): Don't think it's contagious through podcasting.
Autumn (8m 32s): I hope not. But yeah. I mean, as I've described it, I feel like I've actually been sleeping with a hot water bottle. I feel like my internal thermostat, we, we speak in car language all the time. I'm not sure, but my thermostat is busted. It is not working. So please, if you find yourself getting cold, stay warm, make sure you, I was sleeping with a hat on and a hot water bottle and a coat. And it's just ridiculous. But yeah. Keep yourself warm and healthy and have a good December. Cause you don't want to get sick at the beginning of winter. It's I'm going to have a horse, a sore throat all winter now
Narrator (9m 7s): A week on the internet with The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast.
Jesper (9m 13s): So I found a very interesting article on the internet that I just thought I would share here. Excellent. Because it's probably over the past month or something like that, I've been posting sort of different topics to our patron supporters about different aspects of PIP, big publishers merging together and sort of the effect that it might or might not have on us authors that all these big publishers are merging, you know, like low advances, lower royalty payments and so on. I mean us indie publishers, it's not so concerning, but for everybody doing the traditional publishing, then I've been just making different patron posts about that.
Jesper (9m 55s): But then I found this article as well about a penguin random house and Simon and Schuster was, they are looking to merge in a $2.2 billion deal. Wow. But then the us justice department stepped in and blocked the merger. Did you see that?
Autumn (10m 11s): No, I did not. It's funny. I read the news a lot, but I did not see that one.
Jesper (10m 16s): No, no. So the U S justice department assessed that the merchant would create a two dominant market role and it would hurt authors and readers. What do you think about that?
Autumn (10m 27s): Well, it's funny. I I've, I agree. We need competition. And so there are things to keep the, you know, something from developing into something that's not gonna squash competition, but then I like a Facebook and Amazon and
Jesper (10m 43s): Facebook
Autumn (10m 45s): And they haven't considered that dominating things. I mean, especially with Amazon bought good reads and they own publishing and, and there's like the dominant market, but at least they're trying to protect the brick and mortar ones. You know, it's good that they're maintaining some competition out there.
Jesper (11m 3s): Yeah. I mean, from a publishing point of view, penguin is the largest publisher and they are launches rival is shaman, Simon and Schuster. So those two merging would generate like a massive dominance in democracy. And in my view it would be like unprecedented on re what are you saying, unprecedented? That was what I was trying to say, control of the publishing industry. Right? So I fully agree with the us justice department here. I think it's a good thing that they are blocking this, but of course the lawyer of penguin then claims that it would actually be good for the authors if the two giants merged and that the publishing imprints will continue to compete against each other is what he said.
Jesper (11m 46s): I don't buy that for a second.
Autumn (11m 48s): I don't buy that. I think it would give them a better edge to compete against Amazon, but Amazon is so far ahead and eBooks and they're just really, and they're pretty solid and paperbacks, but they're just delving into hard cover. So I think it would put them against each other pretty solidly that way, but I don't think it would help authors to have basically your choices, Amazon or whatever penguin and Shuster would be called. But I mean, to me, it's almost like Amazon decided to buy, oh gosh, I might just completely blanked, but where you buy your, where we're also have our paperbacks published Ingram, like Amazon bought Ingram, spark authors would be doomed, just doomed, but I don't think anyone wants to go under, but yeah, that is like the only other real competition for Amazon is Ingram spark.
Autumn (12m 38s): And a lot of people don't even realize it.
Jesper (12m 43s): Yeah. And Spotify just bought a find a way voices.
Autumn (12m 46s): Wow. There's some shakeup going on.
Jesper (12m 50s): Yeah, yeah, yeah. They want to be the dominant audio producer, just like YouTube being for video to Spotify, want to dominate the entire audio Margaret. Oh,
Autumn (12m 59s): That'll be interesting.
Jesper (13m 1s): But then you also saw, you know, of course that was like early in the year, but also Spotify buying Joe Rogan's podcast for a hundred million dollars and stuff like that. Right. So they're, they're really, you know, playing hot in, in trying to just dominate the audio market, which I probably think, I think, I think they're onto something, but of course from a content creator point of view, you can be nervous that it's going to be the same outcome as it was for musicians. I like getting paid pennies when it's paid on And when or music is played on Spotify and it could be concerned about the same thing here from, from a audio book kind of perspective. Now today bought find a way of voices that you also can end up in a situation where we authors are just going to get paid a few pennies per audio book play.
Jesper (13m 49s): So that is a bit concerning.
Autumn (13m 52s): I agree. It's yeah.
Jesper (13m 60s): All right. So Jade city is a world fantasy award winner. It is, or it was named as one of the times, top 100 fantasy books of all time. And it was a Nebula award nominee for best novel. So, and I actually went, and now it's a couple of days ago, but I did go and check the sales ranking on Amazon. And I think you will see if you do that, that it's selling quite well. So there is a reason why we picked this book in the first place. Yeah.
Autumn (14m 28s): And I have to say in some ways it really impressed me. I was so excited. I think by the time I hit chapter two or three, I mean, I was into it. There was no way I wasn't going to finish the book. So I can say that, but I don't know when we'll get there, but my impression at the end I'll let you know if I still felt that way. And I went on because it is a trilogy and there was a book two and a three. So I will say we'll get to maybe how I felt at the end of the little bit. But I will say when I first started reading it, it was unlike the last critical review we did, which was of the fifth season. That one, we were talking about tense changes. I mean, that was very much literary fantasy.
Autumn (15m 9s): This one was true fantasy. Not, it wasn't even high fantasy. The setting and the time is more like Japan just after world war one maybe, or just after the U S you know, came in and started taking over just after Japan. Now I can't even remember the date that is, but when Japan opens up to the rest of the world and goes from the Shogun period into a modern era. So it's right at that cusp, there's guns, there's different far-flung politics, but this central very strong government that is used to a very traditional way of doing things and the clans are there. And it's, if you like Kung Fu movies, it has so much of that.
Autumn (15m 50s): It was really exciting. I kind of, yeah, I've kind of, it's just like the Grisha of universe. I'm kind of really liking that these a lot of fantasy that is not just medieval, it's really pulling up to different time periods now. And it's kind of like, well, this is, this is different. This is exciting. I'm really enjoying it.
Jesper (16m 10s): Yeah. Okay. I think I will, I will not give my overall sort of a conclusion on it. I think we'll talk through it. And then if it's not clear by everything else I say, then I can give my, my final words on, on this book by the end. But I think just as Autumn said, in the beginning of the episode, we are heading into spoiler territory now. So a B one, if you haven't read this book and want to read it, you probably want to stop now and then come back once you read it, and then you can listen in and see if you agree with what we're saying here, but yeah, from now on, you'll have been warned.
Autumn (16m 46s): That is very, I think that's been clear to warnings, you know, what you're getting into if you continue on from here.
Jesper (16m 53s): Yeah. But so I've made some different notes that sort of some, let's say places where I feel like I can, I can sort of drop in and talk about something, but there was no specific order to this. It's just like different notes on different thoughts. And then also some comments from Stephen, both from good reads our Goodrich group, but also from, from patron. So I have some comments of his and I, I picked some of the comments where I also have a, have you on what he says. So it's sort of like, they are good talking points. But I think first of all, I could start by saying this book is really well written.
Jesper (17m 37s): I really feel like, you know, it, it evokes feelings and, you know, the way she described things though, the characters and they do make me as the reader. No, I'm able to picture the scene in my mind when things are happening. So, So that is really well done. So yeah, first, first let's say item on the list is just that it is really, well-written
Autumn (18m 3s): Definitely, I think it is worth reading. It is a fun book to read. It is engaging the, again, the world is a different little bit of different time period. If you do like Kung Fu movies, it has that the magic system. I'm sure we'll get into that as well with the Jade and the green bones, the only people that kept kidneys who are the ones who can actually use Jade, everyone else is if they touch it, they're either, unreactive, there's a few people who are in the world who are unreactive to Jade, but the rest of them can basically become addicted. It's like opium. Maybe it's a good substitute for that, but it also gives you really amazing powers. So it's, it's sort of the magic system. And it's really fun.
Autumn (18m 43s): I liked that it's tied to a traditional item, that it works in very set ways when she talks about like, you can do this with it, you can do that with it, but it's really hard to do both. Some people are more powerful. They can take, they can wear tons of J jewelry. And there's other people that, you know, you put on five and that's your Bakst out, that's it? I like that there's variation. And it depends on who you are and your heritage. And that there's only this one select group of people, the Keck honeys, who are truly there, the Jade warriors, the green bones who can wear this. And it's also knowing a little bit of Japanese history and Chinese history, how important Jade was, you know, they, they buried their emperor's wearing Jade uniforms.
Autumn (19m 25s): And so I'm like, oh, this is it's tying in history. And it's, it's, it's Jade. I love stones and I love green, so, oh, I just liked this matching system. It really resonated with me.
Jesper (19m 37s): Yeah. Okay, cool. Because at one of the points that I had written on my list here is really a question mark to my cell is that it's this magic system. Really? That unique question, mark. It was what I wrote on my, on my list because it's basically just superpowers. I mean, yeah, you're using the Jade to, to get your powers, but it's nothing more than that. I mean, the more I thought about it, the less unique I actually feel like the magic system is. I mean, it's fun and all that. It's not, not that, but if you're looking at it from a uniqueness point of view or trying to create something new, then I really don't feel it is that, I don't know if that's fair to say, but
Autumn (20m 14s): I think in some ways, I mean, it's based on a lot of traditional, you could substitute any stone instead of Jade on any universe. I mean, I know I've read other ones where it's just a, sort of like the L stones of Shannara. You have stones and you can do something with it. So I think it has a very strong heritage in the same aspect, but I liked that she tied it in to a culture and a history. But again, I also know, and we'll probably get into that or we can get into it now, but the Jade is tied to a history that, again, I keep saying Japan, this is not supposed to be Japan. It's supposed to be Keck, knees and kick on. And that is, I think to me was the biggest weakness is that it was so obvious what country it was and the time period and the era that I was just like, can we just call it Japan?
Autumn (21m 6s): It felt like it's an island. So I felt maybe this is supposed to be Okinawa. There's the one area we're against, which to me is the Korea, is which Japan has a huge history of fighting with the Korea. And then there's this sort of English slash for some reason I kept thinking of Spain, but it might be because it was started with like Espana, you know, it had that kind of name to me. So it was like an English slash European foreign power as well. It's just like, it was so obvious that I was like, make it either more different and truly unique, or just call it what it is, because it's not even a filmy gray layer. It's pretty apparent what you're trying to base this on.
Jesper (21m 49s): Yeah. I think, I think that's correct. Not necessarily that I think that's a problem as such. I mean, I know we've talked about many times doing our monthly Q and a session with, with our students and, and patron supporters. And so on that if it's a horse, call it a horse. Right. I mean, we set many times, but I, I'm not sure it's a problem as such a, that, that you are sort of mimicking, mimicking close off of some, some real life place, because on the other hand, if you call it Japan and then they were running around with Jade powers, that might, that might also feel wrong. But I, I don't know, but I don't necessarily think that's a problem. That's probably like a, you know, taste kind of thing or opinion thing.
Autumn (22m 34s): Some people, yeah, I think some people will not mind it as much, but I, and I was comparing it to like the Grish of books, the Grisha verse, which has also has some key aspects that are very much based on cultures of this planet, but she does a really good job of anchoring the history into her novel it's they develop out of the novel and they have completely unique aspects based on the world. I guess I was, I like my fantasy, just a little bit more fantasy. And this was so close to the real world with just a little van veil of difference that I was like, well, I wanted to see, I think, a little more different. I wanted a little more traditional, a little more history based on the world she was creating for the book rather than something that, oh, I could let me go check Wikipedia and make sure that that is what, how it happened.
Jesper (23m 27s): Yeah. Yeah. I, I think on that note, I could just sort of inject the comment we got from Stephen on Goodreads, because it sort of goes very much along with what you're talking about. I think because Steven said a quote here, we have a very Earth-like world where technology is straight out of the late seventies, early eighties. Yeah. So that's just me saying he he's in a different time zone or time period, and you are thinking about it, but okay. Then back to the quote, they have cars, they have guns, they have landline phones, they have vocabulary is completely from modern times. Lee basically took the idea of a Jade based magic system and shoved it into a culture of Oriental gangs from the seventies.
Jesper (24m 8s): And right. So, so he's thinking that this is like late seventies, early eighties, where you're talking about after world war one. So there's a bit of, let's say change there, but, but again, I'm not so sure that I fully agree with the fact that their vocabulary is completely from modern times. Like you said, well, maybe it is, but I don't necessarily think that's a problem. I mean, this for me, this is a fantasy setting, so who knows how they talk? I mean, but it goes very much along with what you were talking about. Like, it feels like depends or why not just say it's Japan and so on and so on. Whereas I just think, I just view it as it's a fantasy setting so she can do whatever she wants and maybe it is indeed heavily inspired by some real life cultures and real life locations.
Jesper (24m 52s): I don't disagree with that. I also think that it's it's, it is that just like Steven is saying, and like you were saying as well, but I guess I'm just not seeing it as a problem.
Autumn (25m 4s): I, and I think that just comes down to personal taste to me. I'd like to see it. I would like to, if I didn't understand a word, like how the people greet each other, there is language used and I'm pretty sure all the language use was Japanese. And I basically could have put it into Google translator and checked it. I think there's a part of me who said, I would rather have that as a fantasy language, make it up to fit your world and don't just make it so that I check it. I did not, but I, I had assumed that I probably could have with that a lot, except for the place names that some of the greetings, some of the words, some of the language, the traditions were very much based on real things that you could Google or check on Wikipedia and double-check.
Autumn (25m 52s): And I was just like that's Yeah, to me, I'm like, I would rather have that just shifted a little more into fantasy. Otherwise it w it felt a little not cheating. It just felt like a little bit more work could have been done to make it really have like, wow. That is fantastic. That is so cool. Instead of going like, yeah, I read that the other day in an article on Wikipedia. Cool.
Jesper (26m 19s): Yeah, no, fair enough. Fair enough. But I have another call comment as well from, from Steven, which this time I very much agree with him. So I, you ready for this one? Is it also about culture and stuff? So he says a quote. I think if a culture had such a magic system for many centuries, it would have drastically all areas of history and industry in such a way that the world would be a very different place. How would Jade have affected the countless wars over the centuries? How would it have affected the world governments? How would it have affected technology? She doesn't really answer those questions and quote, and here, I really agree with Steven, because if you just imagine, like you take these Jade warriors and you put them in some sort of special forces in the military, I mean, there's nothing they couldn't do, right?
Jesper (27m 16s): I mean, yeah, you have guns and stuff. You can shoot them. But, but I mean, if they are like, especially the forces and they sneak in behind enemy lines, I mean, just, they can wreck complete havoc and there's not much you can do to stop them. So, and I don't think that she really concerns herself with, with the fact that wooden governments also try to find ways to basically leverage these kinds of people and conquer other countries and stuff like that is it's never mentioned really from a building perspective. I just felt like that was stuff that could have been explored further here.
Autumn (27m 56s): Yeah. I, there, I completely agree. The one thing I did like is that she does have the kind of European foreign power is trying to develop a drug to allow them. Yeah. So yeah. To allow their military to also be able to use Jade and I mean, it has bad side effects. It basically makes you addicted. It can completely overreact. So there, I like that. That was a really cool aspect. But looking at the history, basically all the history you have of Kay Khan and the Keck Annies and the Jade warriors is that they were kind of guerrilla fighters. There was a foreign country that was controlling them and they came down the Hills, they fought for freedom and a revolution, and they want it very, very recently, but it's just like
Jesper (28m 39s): Taking over the
Autumn (28m 40s): World. I know it gives, like you were saying, I mean, you have these guys train, they can deflect bullets. They have the power to do that. There's like six major powers and one of them is deflection. So yeah, you have some ninja like trained warriors. You could go assassinate just about anyone.
Jesper (28m 58s): I have a super fast speed and they have super strong, you know, super strength as well. So I mean, there's almost nothing they can do.
Autumn (29m 7s): No. And it's neat because she does have setups where it's like, it's really hard to do two of those at once. It's almost like you can only do one at a time unless you're really, really good. And you have to be well trained. I mean, there's a school you go through. I don't know how many years of schooling, just to be able to learn, to harness this energy. I loved all of that. But again, once you became a full blooded Jade warrior, a green bone here, pretty much it all, it's like, it all was just clan in fighting to control this tiny nation where it's like, they, their history, these people should have rulers. They should have been gone. Like there's mentions of being descended from gods, but it's not developed the point to explain that why they were so insignificant in their own culture prior to this period.
Autumn (29m 55s): And I agree with Stephen wholeheartedly, it just felt like it was missing. And if this was a real, real, real fantasy culture, their history would have probably needed a lot more explanation of why they weren't ruling other countries and incredibly wealthy country and a huge superpower because they got skills.
Jesper (30m 16s): Yeah. Yeah, indeed. And then that's the part where I don't quite understand why they're just sticking to the small little island here. I mean, why? I mean, okay, fair enough. I mean, gang fighting and stuff like, you know, it is basically the gangs fighting each other and so on, but, but come on. I mean, the government would have stepped in and say, say, Hey guys, you know, you're going to be filthy risk rich, all of you, if you worked for us and, and we go out and we conquer some nation, other nations, I mean, they would have done that.
Autumn (30m 46s): I agree. And I
Jesper (30m 49s): Could have just now. Yeah, I was just about to finish my, my thought because they, she could just have mentioned it as a short paragraph somewhere, just saying for whatever reason they didn't want to, or, or just give some sort of explanation to why, and then that, that would have been closed. Right. But because it's never mentioned, then it just makes me wonder. Okay.
Autumn (31m 10s): Yeah. And I think, again, this is where she was relying way too heavily on the history of Japan because they did close their borders for two centuries, 200 years. They basically were not open up to the rest of the world until the U S came in with a steam ship and basically opened up a country to, from the Shogun era where they're using samurais to basically fast forward, within a matter of years to a full industrial nation. And if you know the history, you're kind of like, oh, she's just basically assuming this is what happened here. And just mentioning instead of the shoguns, as it's the warriors in the mountains and the revolutions and the gorillas and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Autumn (31m 50s): But that doesn't work that's, this is supposed to be a fan of it. Doesn't it's not explained with the magic system she has. And that's where, again, I have the problem that if you're going to develop this culture and this history, and it's a different world, don't just rely on what happened in this world, because it doesn't fit. It's going to leave you these disjointed things that I'm like, I don't understand why this would happen this way.
Jesper (32m 14s): No, I agree. I, and one of the things we talk a lot about in our world building causes, basically making sure that you analyze what are the wider consequences of the magic system and of the things that you develop in your world, because it will have impact on other things in society on other nations may be in this case and so on. So it's not that you have to play that all out, meaning that just not like the needs to then conquer the world or stuff, but, but at least you need to think about what does it mean? And then if we, I don't want as an author to have the conquered the world, then at least I should have an explanation for why they didn't do so.
Jesper (32m 54s): And, and in the same vein here, Steven also said, if Jade is such a powerful substance, has anyone tried to harness it as a power source, the lead through line in there somewhere about scientists studying Jay to find other users, but to no avail, because it only enhances people of bloodline. I would have been able to accept that, but then it would have brought me back to my initial question of why would those J powered S J powered supers have been content with just their tiny corner of the world? And then we're back where we started. Right? But again, I mean, this is again the wider, the wider consequences of having J powers.
Jesper (33m 37s): And if you can really get that many powers out of a Jade stone, then I understand what Steven means in terms of, it's not only about military strength here, right? I mean, you, you probably would wonder as a government as well. I wonder if we can use this as a power source for other things, right. And again, like Steven also says, it's not that the fund, the leader needs to make that into something she could, like Steven says she could just have made a small paragraph some way explaining why they tried and they failed and decided not to go any further or whatever, and then fine. Right. But I'm, I'm really missing from a worldbuildling perspective. I think it is a really cool setting.
Jesper (34m 17s): So don't get me wrong. I think it's, it's quite cool, but that what would have just made it even better would have been some, some consideration about this wider consequence of the Jade powers. And I really feel that it's completely missing.
Autumn (34m 36s): I then I completely agree with you and Steven, that is just, there's something missing. I mean, there could have been any explanation why Jade warriors were limited, why they, they were sick. There was a disease, something just, I wanted some explanation of why they seem so minimal. They were just figure, you know, they had Klan leadership, but it was just this little island. Why not more, but I also want to get into the character is because I think
Jesper (35m 4s): Just thinking about,
Autumn (35m 7s): You know, we haven't talked in like two weeks and it's, we're still in the same Playboy that's, that's good. But that was, I think my other love and hate of the story were when it came down to the characters, they were well-developed. They were interesting. They had very strong personalities and there were two I wanted to really bow. Well, I guess there was three I wanted to bond with the one was the clan leader who was land. I really, he was my favorite up until okay, very big spoiler alert. He dies. And up until that point, I was really excited. Like he did not want to be the leader of a clan during a war.
Autumn (35m 49s): And that's where this world was heading. There was going to be a clan war. And he was basically the only one trying to keep everything together. He didn't want, he wanted to be, he was an awesome, peaceful clan leader, but I'm like, I want to see how he changes, how he transforms and boom kills them off. So I was like, Ugh. And I also, there was Shay, which was his sister and I wanted to like her, she had gone out and explore the world and come back. And there was a few chapters in there where it was like, do I go back to my clan? Do I knock it back to me? And I got to the point, I'm like, just make a decision. I was getting a little sick of her indecision and I never bonded with her because she was just too wishy-washy. And the only other one I kind of liked was Emery Andin.
Autumn (36m 31s): Who was the one who was the young Jade bone who had quite the backstory. His mother was like too sensitive, went bad. His father's European. Well, okay. Quote, unquote, European. We're just going to call him that. And he, so he's highly sensitive to Jade. He can do amazing things with it, but he was also too emotional there's times. I wish he was a girl, but then I would have been really annoyed. He was so emotional. At least as a guy, he was like, oh, okay. A really emotional guy. That's kind of different, but I didn't bond with him either. And at the end of the book, that is actually what kept me from buying book two is like, this is interesting. I have some questions about the world and the Jade and the magic, but I really don't really care.
Autumn (37m 13s): They killed off land and I don't really care what happens to any of the characters enough to make me go buy book two right now, maybe if I have some spare time later and that's prized me, I was really all set to love this book, but I didn't find the character that really made me want to turn the next page.
Jesper (37m 33s): No. And funny enough as usual, we agree here. I mean the only one that slightly had my interest until he was killed, but because it's like, I feel like from the very first page, the worldbuildling really comes into its own. Right, right. Immediately you're sucked into this pretty cool setting. And I was very hooked in it. The first couple of chapters, like this is really great pot. Then the character building and making me as a Rita care for those characters never really happened. It's also, I feel also it's a bit difficult to care for characters who are part of a crime syndicate and they just heard each other people and stuff like that.
Jesper (38m 16s): And it's that alone that in his own, it's a bit difficult. It's like, it's like the, the short story we wrote as a prequel for our new series, basically the main coats are there is, is one of the villain in the, So that also they it's, it was a to make, make a character to read us would actually care about because he is actually not that good of a guy. And I feel like that that's the same problem here. Yeah. That it's just like, there is no real character development. I feel like there's real. No, no real care to ox. It's just like a straightforward standard gangster succession story.
Jesper (38m 59s): Really? That's it?
Autumn (39m 0s): Yeah. I think you really put your finger on it. What, there's no character arc. I was, I thought li like I said, the land had some potential and I was interested to see where he grew too. And he dies. And that was the only one who really, I saw a potential arc to even Emory. I thought at the end, he totally acts out at the perfectly perfect storm moment to not act out in a culture where you don't act out, insult his family, insult everyone, like a huge slap in the face to his family. And I was just like, I wanted some reservations. Like I understood as a writer, why you would do that because to me, you know, you're Writing Fantasy.
Autumn (39m 42s): It's always like oceans are supercharged. Things happen, you know, big drama, but I just wanted some restraint from his character to show some sign of growth of thinking beyond his own needs. And yeah, he was being used. But again, in the family setting, it was kind of, he needed to have been used at that point. And it was also an opportunity for him to grow and he just didn't. And I didn't really, I just was so disappointed in him at the end of specifically where I'm like, okay, maybe there's potential. And I was like, I really don't care what happens to him after this. And like I said, I had that one thought I'm like, gosh, it would have been interesting if he had been a strong woman, because there's only a couple of strong women's because it's a very patriarchal, very patriarchal society, even though it's written by a woman.
Autumn (40m 35s): And I thought, well, I, I didn't connect with anyone. And that's really a shame because it's a kind of, it's the story itself had so much potential.
Jesper (40m 46s): Yeah. I mean, of course this is a Critical Reading episode, so we are being very critical. I mean, I would say it, isn't an entertaining read. It's a good book. So, so, so, so it's just us being very critical here because it's a Critical Reading episode, but so I'll continue in the second way and being a bit critical because what I also felt like I would really have liked some sort of surprised or, or twist about something, just something, but everything was so straightforward that I really felt like, not that I could predict everything that would happen as such, but I, and I don't know if Lee, maybe Lance Beth, you could say was a bit of a surprise. I was, I actually, I was not expecting him to die.
Jesper (41m 29s): And so that was a bit of a surprise, but know, but I, I dunno, it just felt too straightforward if you know what I mean.
Autumn (41m 37s): Yeah, no, I do. I see, I was kind of, I knew land was either going to die or he's going to have an awesome character arc. And I was so hungry for that character arc and it didn't happen. And I was a little surprised at how they used Emery to defeat the other clan or, well, it wasn't really a defeat defeat, but how they used him and his power, but it completely made sense. And if you were paying maybe attention to embryo a little bit more, you would have totally seen where that was coming from. So everything very much built off of everything you expected to in the story. And there was no huge surprise twist. There was no women coming in to save the day, which, you know, I always hope for, but it didn't happen.
Autumn (42m 17s): I was true. Everything was just a little too stuck in its box and stayed there pretty tightly. And so there, I kind of agree. I, I wanted something a bit more exciting, something a bit more surprising and it never developed. I was actually really holding up when LAN the night he dies, he gets a letter from his ex-wife that he had let go. He was way too nice of a character in many ways for the world he was in. And I always wanted to know what was in that letter. It was like the hanging threat. I was expecting her to say, well, actually I left and I was pregnant with you. And I just he's, he's your son and or your daughter, which would have been really awesome.
Autumn (42m 58s): And I it's time she come back and begin her training with you. I would've been heart-stopping Lee so excited, but they never actually mentioned the letter. He puts it in a drawer and no one finds it. I'm like, is this in book two? I don't. And again, that's, that's about the only curiosity I have is what was in this really thick letter edits. At least I'm curious about it, but you know, if there had been some tea, some tea, but it would have been better to end book one with someone having found it and opening it going, oh my gosh. Then I would have been booked to right there then.
Autumn (43m 38s): Oh my gosh.
Jesper (43m 40s): Oh, lots heat from Rita's if you did that. Oh my God. They said,
Autumn (43m 44s): I know, but I would have bought it in this, in a heartbeat just to find out what was said. So I didn't have that draw. And again, I agree with you, this book it's worth reading. It's entertaining. It's beautiful. If you love kung-fu it is such a fun book to read. I think book two and three might be worth reading. I mean, the reviews are astounding. The book sales are astounding. It's probably worth reading. Yeah. But I wasn't drawn to it enough, but I think there is, there's something to learn there as a writer that there's something missing with a character or something. A lot of people, even Steven had mentioned, he didn't connect with the characters.
Jesper (44m 25s): Yeah. Yeah. And of course a Windell, everybody could then say, yeah, that's nice. You guys are saying that, but this is, is this a top 100 fans as you broke it of all time. And so neighborly award nominee for best novel and so on. Yeah. And fair enough. Yes. But we can only speak of our own opinions here. And, and if I'm very honest about it, the only thing in my opinion, I can say, I don't understand why it is that highly praised. It's a good book. Yes. It's a good story. Yes, it is very, well-written great. Worldbuildling maybe with some, some missing pieces, like we talked about here, but I don't feel it's that good that it should be that highly pre I don't know. I mean, maybe I'm just, I'm just weird and I'm not like everybody else.
Jesper (45m 9s): And fair enough if that's the case, but I dunno, I enjoyed it. Good read, good entertainment. But if I hadn't known that it was a award-winning novel like this, I would never have guessed it. Let me put it that way.
Autumn (45m 23s): Agreed. I think I I've read some indie fiction that I think topped it, rivals it and tops it. So it's interesting that it got picked for us is such an award-winning and so touted. I think there's a lot of great books out there. It's no better than a lot of them. I mean, well, okay. It's better than some of the really rough ones, but it's on par. It's a good book. It's entertaining. There's other ones that are probably more exceptional. But other than that, again, it is my opinion. It was worth reading, but wow. I can only complain to complain to have the problems she has with how well it's doing good luck best for her. I'm so excited.
Autumn (46m 4s): I wish every author who wrote that well or on par could do as well.
Jesper (46m 10s): Yeah, for sure. For sure. I think one last thing I had on my list to mention here, because this is really something I've learned, not from this novel alone, but sort of from all these kinds of bestseller novels that we read over the, I mean, we read, we went one before as well for the, for this podcast. But outside of the podcast here, we, we have also had like what, four or five, something like that, very best-selling books that we've read over the last month, but just because we were trying to see what are the common denominators in these books and what I have learned, and this book is exactly the same. And I've been surprised about this because it's not, I guess my standard preference, but I just have to admit as well that after reading all of these massively successful bestsellers, what they all have in common is that they are fairly slow paced all of them, this one as well.
Jesper (47m 8s): You know, it, it takes time before things get going. It's not that nothing is happening, but, but it's not a fast page. One way that you like flipping pages to see what happens next. It it's fairly slow paced. It takes a time with where you spent just spend time with the characters and all of these very, very successful novels. They all do this. So I know, I know some people sometimes say, will, it feels a bit boring because not enough is happening, but at the same time, I just have to, you know, concede and say, well, apparently that's what most people want. That's the only conclusion I can draw because I've seen it over and over and over again now.
Autumn (47m 48s): Yeah, no, I agree with something and it's definitely not to my taste. Like I said, there was probably two or three chapters. I'm like, you could have cut one of these out. Oh my gosh. It's so slow in the beginning. Especially without the character development more. I think, I think that could have been stronger, but yeah, a lot of these incredibly best-selling books are slow paced and there seems to be a lot of time just spent dilly-dallying and learning parts of the world. And oh, remember when I read, there's a lot of cooking and food descriptions and I'm a foodie and I was…