Published by Hodder & Stoughton on October 12, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
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Told in a dual POV narrative reminiscent of EMBER IN THE ASHES, JADE FIRE GOLD is a YA fantasy is inspired by East Asian mythology and folk tales. Epic in scope but intimate in characterization, fans of classic fantasies by Tamora Pierce and the magical Asiatic setting of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER will enjoy this cinematic tale of family, revenge, and forgiveness.
In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.
As an avid lover of Asian fantasy, Jade Fire Gold sounds like everything I would love in a book – soul-stealing abilities, a Dragon Prince, and an Asian fantasy setting. So how did it hold up?
As my first book of 2021, I really wanted to love this and persisted even though I put the book down during extended lengths of time. There were moments in here that had potential, and made me want to keep reading, but unfortunately, they were few and far in between.
I loved the Asian fantasy setting, which was vivid and rich as I pictured tall red pagodas and a lush palace with royalty and dumpling feasts. I also loved hearing about Anh, a peasant girl who lives with her grandma and how she made her way to the palace to fulfil a seemingly impossible destiny – to uncover one of the legendary swords of their time. Altan was also an interesting character – although his point of view didn’t grip me as much as Anh’s as she was discovering the world around her.
So what fell short?
Jade Fire Gold fell short in the execution for me – it felt like we had characters just going through the motions, without any feeling or depth to it. I didn’t really feel like there was too much depth to the characters or even their banter – which made the romance feel sudden and out of the blue. There were times when I really wanted to root for Anh, as someone who discovers that she has a power to help others, and even someone who suddenly has a place in the palace. So it definitely had potential.
The pacing was also off, which contributed to long periods of time where I didn’t pick up the book. Every now and then, there would be brief mention of the legendary swords that needed to be found, or perhaps a war that needed to be saved, or an objective that Altan in particular needed to fulfil. But it all felt very surface level, as it didn’t really feel like there was too much build up or working towards the goal before the final resolution.
While Jade Fire Gold has some beautiful descriptions and a lush, Asian fantasy setting, it just didn’t deliver in terms of the story. I felt like it definitely had a lot of potential, but it fell down in terms of pacing, character building and tension. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed when I finished it.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a review copy!
Jade Fire Gold is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$22.99 or from The Book Depository.
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