Book Review

Book Spotlight: The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee

Synopsis in Under 100: The Avatar balances the elements of the world and is the bridge between the spirit world and physical worlds. There is only one Avatar for each generation, always reincarnating and bringing the wisdoms of the past lives into the present. Kyoshi is the bad ass mama jama two life times before Aang. This first novel focuses on how Kyoshi is discovered to be the Avatar as there are more novels to follow chronicling her later life. “It was said that each Avatar was born in fitting times, to an era that needed them.”

Review: I was so excited when I saw this novel on the shelf (pre-Corona shut down). I admit, I’m not the most up-to-date human being, so I had no idea novels would be part of the Avatarverse. I was stoked – If I remember correctly, I audibly gasped when I saw it. Total fluke, as I never go down the YA aisle (not my favorite genre). I didn’t think twice, didn’t read the book jacket, didn’t debate. I grabbed it and threw money at the cashier.

I own all the post-cartoon comics, and they are glorious. True to the cartoon, the characters don’t shift in dialogue or character. They are hearty follow-ups to the richness of both ATLA and Korra, vividly expanding my obsession with the Avatarverse. That being said, I preemptively held high expectations for the Kyoshi novel I now had in hand.

Being a YA novel, the language was accessible, the plot was incredibly well paced, and settings are not overly descriptive. I enjoy this last element, as it allows the reader to influence their mind’s view a little more and fill in the gaps. I enjoy this creative work as it encourages the reader to be more involved with a text, making it more personal. Others might not like this so much, expecting more specific details. It was a creative choice by the author, and I’m on the side that appreciates the loose descriptors.

“If she couldn’t be a creature of grace, then she’d be a battering ram.”

In all, this is a quick, easy read. However, it took me nearly 3 weeks to complete this 442 pages of large print. I’m a slow reader, granted. But I was avoiding reading in order to prolong the inevitable ending. Once I realized this, I had to laugh: I didn’t want the good times to end, I didn’t want to be without new insight into the Avatarverse. I was purposefully dragging my feet on this, but quickly picked up the pace once I preordered the second novel.

This novel is classic Avatar storytelling in how the plot develops, the characters interact, and it’s authentic in that it melds perfectly into the established cannon. We all already knew Kyoshi was a badass, but now we’re able to understand the depths of why she’s such a badass – she’s arguably the most controversial Avatar we have so far. The gay, abandoned princess of crime lords bent on revenge? Yeah, she’s a neat character.

One aspect that stands out is the ingrained culture for each nation. With Aang, we were exposed to all four lifeways, particularly focusing on the Air Nomad lifestyle. Kyoshi, obviously, focuses on the Earth Kingdom lifestyle. True to form, all the similies and metaphors in the novel are earth-related. For example, “In a slow, teetering arc that reminded Kyoshi of a cut tree…” There are several other instances as she literally only thinks in terms of the earth: how to describe coolness, brown and greens, strength, everything. It’s a nice detail that structures who she is as a character within the created world.

There are also wonderfully sweet moments that seamlessly bind the novel to the original cannon. For example, “septapox” is a spur of the moment gag Sokka and the crew use in order to get through a fire nation town (I don’t remember all the details). Seemingly, this is a fake illness as one of the guards replies, “Oh, yeah, I think I’ve heard of that before,” and scrambles away from the “sick” kids. In Rise of Kyoshi, this is apparently a real illness. Easter eggs like these are fun, especially when they’re so artfully folded into the plot they almost go unnoticed and are introduced in prequels. That’s talent, y’all.

Final Rating: 5 stars*

*Disclaimer: I’m completely and totally aware of my bias, as should you be:
1. Avatar the Last Airbender is hands-down one of my favorite fandoms, I can’t find fault within it and I cannot apologize for its sheer perfection.
2. Kyoshi was very early on an interest to me watching Avatar for the first time, before Korra was a thing. Female Avatar? Badass fighting female avatar? A giant badass fighting female Avatar? A badass fighting female Avatar that literally severed a peninsula to create an island? Yeah. I was #TeamKyoshi from book one.

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