Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jade Tiger by Jenn Reese

I recently subscribed to a blog called SF Novelists. One of the contributors wrote a blog entry that really made me think. In summary, Ms. Reese would prefer if the way a character fights reveals a deeper insight into that character. Check out the actual blog post here, Pushing Your Punches.

Hey, what an interesting concept!

I decided to learn more about this author, and discovered that after joining up just five or so years ago, she has become a very serious practitioner of martial arts. And, using her new knowledge, she wrote a fiction book called Jade Tiger.

Well, this summary describes me, too (started martial arts about five years ago, and in that time have become more and more into it, and I have a fictional character who puts to use the martial arts I learn in reality).

So I couldn't resist buying Jade Tiger to see what the author did with her character. Here's my short and simple review: This book is a fast-paced, modern day pulp. If you want to be wowed by displays of martial art that supersede our own dull world, Shan Westfall is your heroine.

Stop Reading For No Spoilers
While I identified with the male lead, an archaeologist, and probably would have been just as much "in worship" of Shan as he instantly was, the unfolding relationship these two enjoyed seemed a little too destined, and a little too rushed. Of course, the whole book was that way--a rush (in the best sense of the word). So I suppose it was of a piece with the narrative.

I actually quite appreciated that the story didn't explore finding each and every piece (5 total) of the missing artifacts Shane sought--after one such sideline to discover a piece called the Dragon, the characters relatively quickly find themselves in the conclave of the mad martial-artist-villain. Here we get to enjoy several sweet fights in fast succession, a consummation of the building romance, and a demonstration of the fully armed and operational Jade Circle, in the villain's hands.

Overall I quite enjoyed this story and give it thumbs up.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out an interesting discussion! I briefly did some martial arts (including aikido), and find that different disciplines certainly have a different flavour.

Bruce Cordell said...


I've never tried aikido, but I've had one friend who was a big fan of it.

In college I took kendo and tried out karate. Oh yeah, and I wrestled with some success before that. But that just set me up for a lot of bad habits in jujutsu! Turns out that getting someone to lie on their back is NOT the end of the fight--on your back, you've got arms, hands and legs still able to be used--who cares if your shoulder blades are touching the mat for 3 seconds? So yeah, the flavors can sometimes be at fairly extreme odds.

Jenn Reese said...

Thanks so much for the link, and for reading JADE TIGER! I'm doubly nervous when other martial artists pick it up -- when I wrote it, I had only been studying for about 2 years, and I hadn't started studying kung fu yet.

Of course, I can only dream that someday I'll be accosted at a con by someone saying, "Hey, on page 35 your heroine is clearly in an Aikido stance, but on page 112, she's clearly doing jujitsu..."

And "pulp" is a great description -- I think I'll start using that. :)

Bruce Cordell said...


That would be pretty cool to be so accosted! Then you can say, "mixed martial arts of course--I know many traditions."

It is hard to get too realistic anyhow, especially if there is a fantastic element to the book. I'm trying a little harder to inject real moves in one scene I'm currently working on, don't know if it'll end up passing the sniff test :-).