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Jade City is a 2017 gangster fantasy novel by Fonda Lee. It won the World Fantasy Award in 2018 and is the first in the Green Bone Saga trilogy, followed by Jade War and Jade Legacy.

Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

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Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon's bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets — and of Kekon itself.


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This novel provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Women who are Green Bones are action girls by default.
  • Addictive Magic: Jade and the powers it grants are highly addictive, with people going mad after tasting them once and having them taken away.
  • Affably Evil: Ayt is quite capable of having a civil conversation with her mortal enemies. Could also apply to Hilo, depending on how you feel about him.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Even with everything Ayt Mada is responsible for, it's hard not to feel sorry for her when she's bleeding out on the floor of the KJA conference room. Either out of fear of Hilo or the realization that they'll profit from her death, nobody in the room moves to help her. Even Hilo feels pity for her in this moment, though not enough to allow anyone in the room help her get medical treatment.
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  • An Arm and a Leg: Gont cripples one of No Peak's Fists, Eiten, by cutting off his arms, and uses him to send an ultimatum to Hilo.
  • Anti-Magic: The aboriginal population of Kekon, the Abukei, are completely immune to the effects of jade. This means that they are the only ones who can safely mine and process it. They're also so often used to smuggle jade that any Abukei automatically faces more scrutiny and harassment at a Kekonese border crossing.
  • Arranged Marriage: Jade Legacy reveals Kaul Sen was planning to force Shae into one.note 
  • Asshole Victim: There are some truly despicable individuals who buy the farm in this story. None of whom will be missed.
    • Zapunyo is killed in retaliation for planning what is essentially a terrorist attack against No Peak's leadership on Kekonese soil.
    • Nobody is too upset when bits of Skinny Reams start washing up all over Port Massy.
  • Ate His Gun: When Shae finds Doru again in Jade War, he blows his brains out when she realizes that she can't kill him.
  • Badass Family: Nearly every member of the Kaul-Maik dynasty is a kickass wuxia warrior, a gifted administrator, a charismatic leader, or some combination of the three. Even Wen, the Badass Normal of the family, is a talented spy with a network of informants.
  • Barred from the Afterlife:
    • In Kekonese mythology, Baijen willingly offered to give up his place in Heaven for the chance to save his people. After he killed the Tuni general Sh'ak, Sh'ak took his place up in Heaven, while Baijen remained on Earth and will be stuck there for all eternity.
    • According to Deitist beliefs, anyone who commits violence in front of a Deitist penitent will be barred from Heaven on the day of the Return - as well as their ancestors, parents, children, and descendants. This is what makes it so serious when Ayt beats and imprisons several penitents as part of a last-ditch attempt to kill Hilo.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • Seko, the Mountain Fist who had worked with Mudt's gang, manages to cut his throat with a plain knife rather than give up any information to Maik Tar.
  • Big Bad: Ayt Madashi, Pillar of the Mountain, is responsible for essentially every bad thing that happens to the protagonists.
  • Black Sheep: Niko feels this way in Jade Legacy, due to his ambivalence toward Green Bone culture.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Horrifically deconstructed. After constant internal struggle Shae decides to break things off with Maro, as she finds it too difficult to juggle her responsibilities as the Weather Man of No Peak and her relationship with her well-meaning but narrow-minded boyfriend, by confessing to her greatest breach of trust: aborting their unborn child without consulting them. Maro is understandably devastated by this, and unable to place his faith in her or the No Peak clan, he leaves before telling her of the threats made to his family by Barukan gang members. This leads to him playing a role in the failed attempt on Hilo's forcing her to kill him to spare him from suffering a worse fate.
  • Brick Break: Done in Anden's first chapter as a test to see how well students can combine Steel and Strength.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Hilo and Shae are forced to work together after Lan dies and she becomes his weather man. Despite having bickered constantly as children, they get very good at it.
  • Buried Alive: Mudt Kal - see the entry for Cruel and Unusual Death below.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: In Legacy, Shae has a bleeding out Ayt Mada at her mercy after coming across her in the aftermath of a clanless terror attack, and needs only to do nothing to ensure the threat of the Mountain is ended for good. Unfortunately, that same attack killed the pillars and weathermen of the all the other notable clans in Kekon, including (seemingly) Hilo and Woon. This leads Shae to spare her and gets her medical attention, believing (with good reason) that it would be better than leaving the country completely pillarless.
  • The Cartel: Zapunyo the jade smuggler is portrayed this way, coming across as a fantasy Pablo Escobar. He's bribed police and government officials all over the Uwiwa Islands, and lives in a luxurious compound he hardly ever leaves.
  • Category Traitor: Green Bones view ethnic Kekonese who properly assimilate into other societies as this, either for rejecting Green Bone culture outright or for finding non-traditional uses for jade. Hilo straight up cites this trope as justification for hunting down and murdering Niko's mother, who left the clan and wanted Niko to live a normal life in Stepenland. To a ten-year-old Niko's face, no less. He also flips out, threatens, launches into a horribly racist rant and eventually sabotages his former (Espenian) associate Jim Sunto... for founding a jade-augmented security firm that employs non-Kekonese. See Fantastic Racism below.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Lan, who feels that he must live up to the standards set by his father and grandfather.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Mudt Kal, who is buried alive with three pieces of Hilo's jade in his mouth, which will cause him to die of the Itches.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Church of One Truth, Espenia's main religion, is a monotheistic faith mainly based in Christianity: it is the main religion of the US stand-in, it is highly proselytizing religion, its votaries wear pendants with the symbol of Mount Icana (like crucifixes) and make the sign of One Truth (like Catholics with the sign of the Cross). The behavior of devout Truthbearers is also highly reminiscent of Evangelical Christians. It also borrows some elements from the other Abrahamic religions: like Islam its main religious figure is a prophet called The Seer, analogous to the Prophet Muhammad. The Seer received The One Truth (the faith's teaching) after ascending Mount Icana and talking to God Himself, similar to Moses with the Ten Commandments in Judaism.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The Kekonese depicted in the novels draw aspects from several Asian cultures in the real world.
  • Dad's Off Fighting in the War: The Kaul siblings never knew their father, who died on a Suicide Mission when they were little kids.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Coming down from the forest, which means starting a war between clans, and whispering someone's name, which means putting a hit out on someone.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: One of the main themes of the series. Green Bones operate by a moral code that sometimes seems alien to modern sensibilities. Hilo in particular sometimes veers towards Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • Dirty Old Man: Doru - when she was a teenager, Shae discovered that he had dirty photos of one of her classmates, and there are a couple mentions of him frequenting brothels.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: According to Deitist beliefs, anybody who commits violence in front of a penitent not only damns the culprit, but ensures that their entire family line - past, present, and future - will never be allowed into Heaven on the day of the Return.
  • The Don: The head of every Green Bone clan is known as the Pillar, and is the undisputed authority in the organization.
  • The Dreaded: Kaul Hilo is this, to the point that in Jade Legacy when his son Ru is killed, everybody is waiting with bated breath for Hilo's terrible vengeance
  • Duel to the Death: Zigzagged. Duels of this nature in-universe are referred to as 'clean blades' and act a means for Green Bones to settle disputes. The outcome of a clean blade is considered to be incontestable, and when all is said and done the duelists are honor-bound by custom not to act on any feelings of animosity, either those that caused the duel or resulted from it, an obligation that also extends to the duelist's friends, family members, or other associates. That being said, they aren't always necessarily fatal, one can survive a clean blade by admitting defeat before their opponent strikes a killing blow, but no matter how a loss is sustained they will always be forced to forfeit the jade on their person as consequence.
  • Ear Ache:
    • When Sampa has trouble removing Shon Ju's third stud earring, he resorts to yanking it out of his earlobe, which is enough to wake him back up.
    • After the attempt on Hilo's life in Jade City, the store owner who called him cuts off an ear as penance. After No Peak reclaims the Docks at the end of the book, Mr. Une does the same thing to beg forgiveness for unwillingly switching sides.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: After Maik Tar catches up to Tem Ben, he says that he can get what Tem Ben knows about the Mountain's activities "the fast way, or the slow way". When Tem Ben metaphorically spits in his face by insulting his brother-in-arms, Hilo, Tar picks up the stolen talon knife that the jade carver had just bought, and says that he's chosen the slow way.
  • End of an Age: By the end of Jade War, both the major Greenbone clans have diversified their operations and gained footholds in international politics and finance. Ayt Mada explicitly says that though the feud between the Mountain and No-Peak clans is alive and well, they've both become so complex that violence in the streets is no longer even effective, let alone useful. Indeed, come Jade Legacy, the common belief is that though they remain rivals, the two clans are at peace with each other, and the age of the true Greenbone warrior is on its way out for good.
  • Enemy Mine: Kekon and Shotar are Espenia's most important allies in the region of the East Amaric Ocean, a situation vastly complicated by the fact that up until 25 years before the start of the series, Kekon was under the brutal yoke of Shotarian Imperial occupation and they have very much not forgotten. To say this complicates matters for the Espenians would be a huge understatement.
  • Every Man Has His Price:
    • The stereotype about the Espenians is that their first instinct to solve any problem is to buy their way out.
    • Iyilo, Zapunyo's former bodyguard who took over his operation, claims that Anden can't offer him anything because he's about to be executed. Anden offers a guarantee for a better life for his family, convincing Iyilo to give a televized interview about his relationship with Ayt Mada.
  • External Combustion: In Jade War, Soradiyo has a timed bomb planted in Hilo's car on behalf of Zapunyo, which ends up killing Maik Kehn when he goes to pick up Wen and the children from the park.
  • Famed in Story: By the time of Legacy, Ayt Mada and Shae's duel in War has ascended to a nearly legendary status as one of the last true clean-bladed duels between old-school Greenbone warriors.
  • Fantastic Drug: SN1 or "shine" is used as a medicine to treat Green Bones, and in addition is traded on the black market and used illicitly by Kekonese who want to wear jade but who do not have academy training. It is also used outside Kekon to facilitate military use of jade by non-Kekonese troops.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart:
    • The Many Nations War: A global conflict analogous to WWII which ended 25 years prior to the start of the series. Among the known belligerents were the Republic of Espenia (the USA), the Empire of Shotar (Imperial Japan) and the Green Bone clans fighting against Shotarian occupation of Kekon.
    • The Oortoko War: This war forms the background of Jade War and is based on The Vietnam War with some elements of The Korean War thrown in. It is a proxy war during which the Espenians send in troops to fight Ygutanian backed separatists in the Shotarian province of Oortoko, and despite their overwhelming military power, they get bogged down in an endless guerrilla war in the jungle. There are hints that the Oortoko War is the world's first televised war, influencing public opinion, at least on Kekon. Eventually, like the Korean War, the bloody stalemate results in Oortoko being split into Western Oortoko (controlled by Shotar) and Eastern Oortoko (an "independent" nation under Ygutan's "protection").
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: While Kekon is not inspired by any one Asian country, the foreign powers in the setting do closely resemble some real world inspirations:
    • The Republic of Espenia is basically the United States, a technologically advanced superpower with a materialistic and Western inspired culture, which has far flung naval bases all over the world. Even it’s capital city of Adamont Capita is refereed to colloquially as A.C. This is reinforced once the world map was revealed, as it shows that the Republic of Espenia has co-opted the name of the continent (Spenius) for itself, just like the US did with the name of its continent (America).
    • The Empire of Shotar is a stand-in for Japan, being an imperialistic power that ruled Kekon as a colony for generations before being driven from the island 25 years prior to the start of the series during the Many Nations War, a WWII analog conflict.
    • The Tuni people appear to stand-in for the Mainland Chinese, whose empire’s fall after decades of civil strife cause geopolitical chaos in the region, and shares a large land border with Ygutan.
    • Ygutan stands in for Russia, an imperial power with vast land territories and stereotypically bad weather that is Espenia's main rival in the world stage and is engaged in proxy wars with them.
    • From what we see, Stepenland seems to be a stand-in for Scandinavia/Northern Europe.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Kekonse can be pretty racist towards anyone who isn't Kekonese. They treat the Abukei as second class citizens and despise foreigners for their inability to properly wield jade.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Lan decides to spare Bero, even though Hilo insists that he'll just cause more trouble down the road. Sure enough, the next time they encounter each other, Bero tries to kill him, going so far as to disobey his orders to do it.
  • Gang Initiation Fight: Green Bones just starting out are expected to regularly engage in duels to win jade and prove their prowess.
  • Gangland Drive-By: What the job that ended in Lan's death was supposed to be.
  • Generation Xerox: The relationship between Niko, Ru, and Jaya very much resemble Lan, Shae, and Hilo's as they get older, though it doesn't map one to one. More importantly, the reason Niko finally returns home to work for the Kauls is because Ru dies, just as Lan's death was why Shae returns.
  • Genre Mashup: The most commonly used elevator pitch used when reviewers talk about the novel is "The Godfather, but with magic and kung fu."
  • Grave Robbing: Bero and Mudt decide to steal Lan's jade from his coffin at the end of Jade City, and actually do so at the beginning of Jade War, using the open grave meant for Lan's grandfather to make it easier.
  • Great Offscreen War: The series features two examples:
    • The Many Nations War is a global conflict analogue to WWII, in which the previous generation of Green Bones are all veterans of that war and shaped many of their attitudes.
    • The Oortoko War, which is fought in the background during all of Jade War and whose effects feature prominently in Jade Legacy. None of the named character in Jade War get directly involved, but the conflict's effects on the world's politics, economy and most importantly, in the massively increased demand for jade from both legitimate and illegitimate military forces around the world, drive almost all the actions and decisions of the characters.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Both sides of the clan war have good points. The Mountain believes divisions between clans weaken Kekon and expose it to foreign exploitation. No Peak argues that a Kekon ruled by a single clan would be a totalitarian one-party state that wouldn't be worth defending.
    • This conflict can also be seen as Evil vs. Evil, depending on the reader's impression of the clans, their violent methods and Kekon's conspicuous lack of democracy or due process.
  • Harmful to Minors: When Anden was seven, he woke up in the middle of the night to find his mother in the bathtub, scratching her arms bloody with a cheese grater because of the Itches.
  • Heroic RRoD: After the attempt on his life, Lan falls victim to a combination of jade overload and an overdose of shine, which causes him to fall into the river and drown.
  • Hero of Another Story: As a young hothead trying to break into a world of gangsters, power, and magic, Bero could easily have been the protagonist of another version of the books.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How Ayt finally falls. Her habit of keeping her clan at arm's length, and making alliances out of necessity rather than loyalty, allows the Kauls to turn the Mountain against her.
  • Hufflepuff House: There are some 15 clans in Kekon, but you wouldn't know it from the amount of screen-time they get in the novels.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Shae, who spent two years without her jade, and is determined to make her own way without the help of the Kauls. Unfortunately, Lan's death pushes her back into the family business.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Hilo and Anden go to the Twice Lucky, seemingly so that the former can surrender to Gont Asch, with the latter there to make sure that the Mountain doesn't try anything funny. However, this turns out to be a ruse to take out Gont and several of his Fists.
    • In Jade Legacy, while seeming to agree to peace terms, Ayt Mada replaces the penitents with assassins, hoping to kill Hilo and her designated heir in one fell swoop.
  • It Runs in the Family: Anden fears that he'll end up like his late mother, who people call "The Mad Witch" because she fell prey to the Itches.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: The Green Bone clans are not considered organized crime only on the technicality that their activities are legally sanctioned under Kekonese culture and law. Over the course of the series they are contrasted with other criminal organizations, foreign and domestic, which are portrayed as far worse. For example, in "Jade War", it is shown that while the Kekonese lantern men pay tribute to the clans, they at least get patronage and profitable business opportunities in return; while the victims of the Espenian Crews pay protection money and get absolutely nothing in return but abuse.
  • Life Will Kill You: Ayt Yu, Kaul Sen's wartime ally, friend, and later rival died of a stroke three years prior to the events of Jade City. Kaul Sen himself dies from old age between Jade City and Jade War.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Multiple. But the most noteworthy ones revolve around Bero, a glory-seeking jade thief.
  • The Mafia: The inspiration for the organizational structure of the Green Bone clans. Where the Corleone family has a Don, Underboss and Consigliere, the clans each have a Pillar, Horn and Weather Man. The Pillar is the head of the clan, the Horn leads its street fighters and the Weather Man is responsible for business activities. The Horn oversees the clan's Fists, who each command a number of Fingers, similar to Caporegimes and soldiers in the American Mafia. Unlike in the Mafia, the Weather Man manages an office in the business district, staffed by clan members known as Luckbringers.
  • The Medic: Anden becomes a doctor after realizing he can use jade to help people in his own way.
  • Mercy Kill: After Maro confesses his role in the car bombing, Shae executes him via Channeling, because she knows that Hilo and Tar won't be merciful to him after Kehn's death.
  • Mercy Kill Arrangement: Of a mundane variety - Eiten wants Hilo to kill him after he has been crippled, because he sees himself as useless to the clan. Hilo argues that he still has things to live for, but promises that if he still doesn't want to live by the end of the next year, they'll honor Eiten's wishes. When Eiten and his wife visit Hilo after his grandfather's funeral, he asks Hilo if he would still be willing to go through with it, but only because he wanted to make sure that Hilo was willing to keep his promises.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Stone-eyes, Kekonese people who are immune to the effects of jade and are regarded as a sign of bad luck. However, this hasn't stopped the clans from using them to smuggle jade, as seen with Tem Ben and Wen and her son Ru.
    • Deconstructed in Ru's case. As a stone-eye born into the Kaul family his deficiency causes him to develop an inferiority complex, as despite being 'green in the soul', he's seen as someone in need of constant protection by his family and he's fully aware that he'll never be able to give back to the clan the same way his siblings will be able too. When he's deceived in an attempt to reignite tensions between the No Peak and Mountain clans, he challenges the schemer who set him up to a clean-bladed duel aiming to brutalize him to send the message that he is by no means the weak link of the family and is not to be seen that way by anyone. But in his rage, he dirties the clean blade by not relenting when his opponent throws in the towel, causing him to panic and stab him in the neck with his own talon knife in self-defense, and without any jade abilities to defend against the weapon Ru dies near instantly.
  • Mystical Jade: Jade is found only on the island of Kekon and grants supernatural powers to Kekonese who hold it. Supernatural Martial Arts academies train jade users in the six disciplines of Strength, Steel, Perception, Lightness, Deflection, and Channelling. Access to jade, as well as a Fantastic Drug that can let non-Kekonese use its powers, are central to the setting and plot. Of particular interest is the fact that the Kekonese jade featured in the series is explicitely not the same mineral as real world jade, as nephrite is explicitly shown to exist In-Universe and be a regular stone like in the real world.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Shae allows Doru to live, albeit under house arrest, in order to give her grandfather some comfort in his final years. However, her grandfather sneaks Doru some of his jade, allowing him to escape.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Hilo has most of his jade put on a string and hides it up his sleeve for Anden to use in the sneak attack against Gont Asch.
  • Phlebotinum Overdose: When a person is exposed to more jade than they can safely handle, they begin exhibiting physiological and psychological symptoms such as increased heart rate, fever, paranoia, and so forth. In some cases, prolonged exposure can lead to the Itches, which is often fatal.
    • In Jade Legacy, the Barukan use this to torture Shae, repeatedly throwing her onto a pile of jade. The experience scars her enough that she can never wear Jade again.
  • The Power of Friendship: Ultimately, how No Peak triumphs over the Mountain. Hilo rules through respect, and has family members he can trust, while Ayt rules through fear, and has very few true friends.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The Kekonese and their Espenian diaspora are hit with this in Jade Legacy. A major theme of the book is the clans' efforts to evolve and modernize Green Bone society while fending off foreign influence. A major story arc meanwhile has the clans smuggling untold amounts of jade into Espenia while lobbying (and occasionally blackmailing) Espenian lawmakers to legalize jade for civilian use. They succeed. Jade that non-Kekonese-Espenians can't use without a dangerous and expensive drug, putting them at a severe disadvantage in their own homeland and potentially fracturing their society. At no point is the hypocrisy or damage of Kekon's actions called out, with Espenian anti-jade advocates portrayed as narrow-minded bigots (for, y'know, fending off foreign influence).
  • Proud Warrior Race: Kekonese Green Bones who believe themselves superior to any other ethnicity due to their jade-granted powers, seeing it as a mark of divine favor.
    • Partially subverted in that many characters point out the issues with this attitude, and due to the series' modern setting it results in the (not-unfounded) stereotype of Kekonese being dangerous and unrefined brutes who resort to violence at the drop of a hat.
  • The Queenpin: Ayt Madashi. Knowing many members of her clan wouldn't accept a woman as Pillar, she killed all her potential rivals within hours of her father's death, leaving herself as the only option.
  • Puppet King: Kenon features two layers of this trope:
    • Officially the country is a constitutional monarchy, ruled by a Prince whose role is only ceremonial, and all political power invested in the Royal Council, a unicameral elected legislature.
    • The second layer come into play in the fact that the Royal Council is almost completely under the thumb of the country’s two largest Greenbone clans. All but a handful of independent members are publicly affiliated with either the Mountain or No Peak, meaning they effectively control the country. The only check on their power is the fact that if they squeeze their puppet councilors they might defect to the other clan.
  • Reckless Sidekick: Wen is unsatisfied with being merely the Pillar's wife and, without her husband's knowledge and consent and against his wishes, reaches out to Shae to ask for permission to act as a White Rat for No Peak, forfeiting the protection she would naturally be afforded by aisho as a stone eye. While in service to the clan her life is continually put at risk which reaches a crescendo when she's nearly suffocated to death by members of Skinny Ream's Crew.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Inverted. Anden tangles with the Crews, Espenia's homegrown organized criminals. They're portrayed as ruthless and dangerous, while the Kekonese immigrants keep to themselves and maintain their code of honor.
  • Sacrificial Lion: At least one per book.
    • In Jade City, Kaul Lan's death from a Shine overdose while fending off an assassination attempt.
    • In Jade War, Rohn Toro is suffocated to show that the Crews aren't screwing around.
    • In Jade Legacy, Kaul Ru is stabbed to death while trying to duel despite being a stone-eye.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Kaul Sen, who has no problem insulting his grandchildren about their failings, and even blames an attempt on Hilo's life on Hilo himself. The other Kauls suspect that this is because his mind is going, making it a case of Scatterbrained Senior.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: Jade City takes place on Kekon, almost exclusively on the city Janloon. Starting with Jade War the characters visit foreign countries, with mayor plotlines taking place entirely on Espenia.
  • Small Name, Big Ego / Small Role, Big Impact: Deconstructed. After Bero kicks off the war between No Peak and the Mountain by indirectly killing Lan by forcing the Pillar to overexert his jade abilities to defend himself his sense of self-importance is inflated to ridiculous levels to the point where he robs Lan's grave in order to steal the jade that he sees as rightfully his, following this he causes a lot of trouble for both the Mountain and No Peak clans and acts as a catalyst for events that influence all of Kekon, but nobody recognizes the significance of his actions except for him and the few individuals who act as accomplices for his subversive activities, which frustrates him to no end. But despite all of this, over the course of the series he begins to realizes how none of these things distinguish him in a way that makes him any different than what he was at the start of his journey: a selfish, opportunistic wannabe who desires acknowledgement and validation above all else.
  • Space Cold War: The Slow War between Espenia and Ygutan is with its brinkmanship and proxy wars is based on the real world Cold War, with the distinction that the ideological divide is religious rather than economical.
  • Subordinate Excuse: Woon was on track to be Weather Man, but is content to remain Shae's right-hand man instead because he's in love with her.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Through sheer stubbornness and scientific prowess the Espenians have managed to develop a drug called SN1, which allows anyone to safely wield the powers that jade grants. Even the Kekonese use it to alleviate jade-related issues.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Jade grants the Green Bones superhuman abilities, which can only be safely used by people with the right combination of genetic predisposition and intense training in the six disciplines of Strength, Steel, Perception, Lightness, Deflection and Channeling.
  • Super Toughness: The Steel ability; special mention goes to Gont Asch, who used this ability to survive a death of consequence.
  • Take a Third Option: Ayt repeatedly offers Shae a choice between subordinating No Peak to the Mountain or seeing her family destroyed. Shae refuses to pick either one.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Bero spikes Shon Ju's drink at the beginning of Jade City in order to steal his jade. Bero then ends up the receiving end when Mudt spikes his drink.
  • Technical Pacifist: By the time of Jade Legacy, Anden has sworn off personally using violence for good, and staunchly insists on only wearing Jade when acting as a physician. He does not, however, have any qualms about facilitating violence in other ways, such arranging to have someone else wipe a prominent Kespenian gangster and his entire gang off the map to end the trouble they're causing the Kauls and their allies.
  • They Do: Shae and Woon finally admit their feelings and get married in the third book.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Hilo's undying love of crispy squid balls.
  • Trial by Combat: What a 'death by consequence' amounts to. It's basically one lone fighter pitted against a mob of executioners. Needless to say, almost nobody had survived one. Gont Asch attained legendary status upon emerging victorious from such an encounter. Hilo also lives to tell the tale after his own 'death by consequence' though not without some help from Anden.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: When he and Cheeky are sent on a mission to shoot up the Lilac Divine, Bero spots Lan and decides to kill him. While the hit fails, the exertion of the fight causes Lan to undergo a Heroic RRoD, making him fall into the river and drown. His death is what pushes Hilo and the No Peak clan into going to war with the Mountain clan.
  • Undying Loyalty: The Maik brothers to Hilo, starting from when they were all in school together. This is particularly true of Tar, who offers to kill himself to spare Hilo having to execute him as punishment for murdering Iyn Ro. Later, he kills an enemy for them in Espenia despite having been exiled for decades at that point. People in-universe have noticed—when Wen is made Hilo's Pillar Man, people pointedly gossiped that maybe he needed a Maik at his side at all times and was down to his last one.
  • The Unfavorite: Hilo was Kaul Sen's least favorite grandchild, and hates the old man in turn.
  • Unluckily Lucky: Bero, who should have died many times over and ends at the bottom as many times he comes out on top, becomes aware of this in Jade War. By the time his involvement with the Clanless Future Movement nearly gets him killed yet again in Jade Legacy, he's convinced he's a helpless plaything of the gods.
  • Villain Protagonist: Despite their Sympathetic P.O.V., the Kauls and the No Peak clan are ultimately this. Their goals are no less selfish, their methods no less ruthless and the territory they control no more prosperous than the Mountain's.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Hilo, who murders Lan's ex-wife Enyi in Jade War when she tries to keep Niko away from Green Bone culture, and later starts beating up Shae when he learns she nearly sent Wen to her death in Espenia.
    • Subverted in that while Hilo thinks nothing of beating on a woman who wears jade, his moral code forbids him from harming people of any gender who aren't green unless he believes they have betrayed the family. Since Shae wears jade, he doesn't think of her as a girl, but as a Green Bone. Most Green Bones share this attitude.
  • Wuxia: The series has been described as a Wuxia gangster story.
  • Xanatos Gambit: In Jade War, Shae offers Ayt Mada a clean blade in response to Ayt Mada's accusation that she's in bed with the Espenians. Although losing and dying would be high cost, win or lose Ayt Mada would lose the leverage of accusing No Peak's Weatherman of being a foreign patsy, as no one would dare make such an accusation of someone who dared to offer a clean blade to the most formidable and feared Green Bone in all Kekon.
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: When Hilo makes it clear that he would not let Ayt Mada get away alive if she won and is willing to restart hostilities as the obvious aggressor, and Ayt Mada gains a severe upper hand in the fight, Shae thinks quickly and surrenders, conceding to Ayt Mada. Suddenly, Ayt Mada's options are to either kill a surrendered foe, proving herself honorless and bloodthirsty and giving Hilo, who's already there in force, the moral justification to restart conflict; or, to accept the surrender, recognizing Shae as a green bone with honor, effectively recanting her earlier accusations and making the dirt she has on her useless. Effectively, Shae turns an imminent catastrophe into a boon, takes away a crucial piece of the Mountain's leverage over No Peak, and earns a very honorable reputation, in exchange for two weeks spent recovering in the hospital, the jade she forfeited, and a bit of pride.
    • The end of Jade Legacy involves an even more complex and impressive series of moves. Shae learns that Ayt's masterstroke, which has been building for the entire trilogy, is to simultaneously acquire an unregulated source of jade and a force of trained mercenaries, giving the Mountain an unbeatable advantage. In a few days, No Peak comes up with a plan that requires Jaya to violently dismantle a smaller clan, Anden to negotiate with a former enemy, and Hilo to whip anti-Espenian sentiment into a frenzy, all with clockwork precision. And they manage to pull it off.
  • Yakuza: The Green Bone Clans are a combination of this and The Mafia (see above). Like the Yakuza, the Clans operate in the open, maintaining both legitimate business interests and a violent street presence.
  • You Are in Command Now: Hilo takes over as Pillar for No Peak following Lan's death.
    • In Jade Legacy, Niko becomes Pillar after Hilo is assassinated.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: A Green Bone who kills another Green Bone in a fight is entitled to the loser's jade.
  • You Killed My Father: Mudt Kal's motive for wanting jade - so that he can take revenge on Maik Tar for killing his father.
    • Subverted in the case of Kaul Nikoyan. By the time Hilo outright admits to killing Niko's real parents, Niko has thought of Hilo and Wen as his parents for so long that he doesn't feel any desire for revenge. He does end up falling out with Hilo, but for mostly unrelated reasons.
    • Niko later subverts it again when he comes face to face with Bero. After questioning him regarding something else entirely, Bero confesses that he was the one who killed Kaul Lan (which isn't entirely accurate, but he believes is true) and tries to provoke Niko into attacking him. Niko doesn't take the bait, saying that someone like Kaul Lan could only be brought down by forces beyond control, certainly not by someone like Bero.
  • You Owe Me: In Legacy, when Shae is kidnapped by a gang loosely affiliated with the Mountain, Hilo calls on Ayt Mada's debt to Shae for saving her life (and sweetens the pot with other major concessions) to get the Mountain's cooperation in rescuing her before she's tortured to death.
  • Yubitsume: The Kekonese have an analogous costume, where they cut an ear as a way to make amends to their Pillar as a sign of profound apology and/or a sign of loyalty.

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