YA Review: Jade Fire Gold

Title: Jade Fire Gold
Author: June C.L. Tan

Set in a fantasy world inspired by Chinese history, Jade Fire Gold is an exciting adventure story. The author combines recognisable aspects of Chinese culture with the South-East Asian myths and legends she grew up with, and the result is a gorgeously imagined world, a strong plot, and an engaging cast of characters. The magical elements add excitement to the central storyline and the setting, which feels like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or The Last Airbender on the page instead of the screen.

Ahn lives with her grandmother in a small desert town. The desert is spreading, and survival in town is a struggle. The Diyeh priests are ruthless in their control over the use of magic, and the people live in fear of their punishments. When Ahn discovers her own magical powers, she finds herself on a terrifying journey, leaving everything – and everyone – she knows behind.

Altan is a wanderer with a dangerous secret. He’s the heir to the Dragon Throne, and he’s safe as long as everyone thinks he was killed along with his family when his Uncle took the throne.

Altan wants revenge on the Emperor’s family for the death of his parents and his sister. Ahn’s powers might be the key to his success. After a chance meeting in the desert, Ahn and Altan find themselves on a mission to find the White Jade Sword – the magical artefact that could conquer the desert and restore Altan to the throne.

There’s a lot to unpack in this book. Ahn and Altan have their own stories, motivations, and plotlines, and it was refreshing to read a quest story where the two main characters embark on their journey for different reasons. This isn’t a story about a hero and a sidekick – both storylines are equally important, and there is a constant tension as their motivations clash, and they have to decide how much to trust each other.

The secondary characters are complex and interesting. From Ahn’s grandmother and Altan’s travelling companions to the Crown Prince and Altan’s childhood friends, everyone has a role in the story, and an individual voice.

The magical elements of the story are introduced and described with a healthy sense of wonder. The system of magic feels real, while inspiring a sense of awe in the reader. The author is channelling every martial arts film and every immortal hero TV series she has seen, and making it work on the page.

This is a gripping read with a gorgeous setting, a wonder-filled magical system, and relatable, interesting characters. If you’re a fan of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or The Last Airbender aesthetic, this book takes those visuals and works its own magic to put them into words.

Jade Fire Gold will be published on November 4th. Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read Jade Fire Gold? What did you think of the story? Did you enjoy the magical setting? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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