Author: F.C. Yee
Overview from Barnes and Noble Website:
F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi delves into the story of Kyoshi, the Earth Kingdom–born Avatar. The longest-living Avatar in this beloved world’s history, Kyoshi established the brave and respected Kyoshi Warriors, but also founded the secretive Dai Li, which led to the corruption, decline, and fall of her own nation. The first of two novels based on Kyoshi, The Rise of Kyoshi maps her journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice who is still feared and admired centuries after she became the Avatar.
To start, I must disclose, I have a strong love of the animated Avatar series. I believe the series was one of the best TV shows ever made and I, unfortunately to others, have to hold all related media to the same standard (this includes the Kyoshi books, the comics that follow the ending of the series, and Korra).
What little we knew about Kyoshi from the original series, she quickly became of my favorite avatars (move over Roku!). The contrast between Aang and Kyoshi is fascinating and was perfectly highlighted in the final season when Aang was confused with how to win against the Fire Lord without ending his life. Kyoshi was not showed as a hardened murderer, but rather a seeker of justice and peace at any cost.
Now, one thing to remember about the difference between the animated series and Kyoshi, Kyoshi gets dark! Think of some of the more disturbing moments from Korra and add a bit more murder and you get this book series. My advice, don’t get attached to too many characters because they may not be around for long. At some points throughout this book (and the second book that will be explored in a later review), I felt Kyoshi just couldn’t catch a break between the loss and betrayals.
On the positive end of this book, I found the backstory of Avatar Kuruk to be so hilarious (I do not think it was meant to be funny, but I found it a bit refreshing to have seemingly “perfect” – at least according to legend – Avatars come and go and then there was Kuruk).
Because we have already witness the growth of three avatars (Aang, Korra, and Roku – who we saw in flashbacks during the original series), I see the writer’s dilemma in creating a different origin story for Kyoshi. However, some of it felt a little all over the place. The history of her parents, the late Avatar realization, her parent’s friend group that helped train her, even the story’s villains (and how Kyoshi fits in) felt a little too forced at times.
However, that may be overlooked as, least we forget one excellent addition to the series… Rangi. A character whom I thought brought some much needed contrast to what we previously knew about the Fire Nation (clearly, aside from Zuko and Iroh). She was disciplined and stubborn (okay, that we already knew about people from the Fire Nation), but she was a fully rounded and complex character that felt a split of loyalty to protect the Avatar and to her mother and also a love of the Avatar (spoiler: couple alert!). More so in the second book does she become a bit too much of a plot device for Kyoshi, but her development in this first installment is just as interesting to read as Kyoshi’s.
The overarching plot of revenge and Kyoshi’s inner turmoil through the journey makes for a complicated adventure. Without another spoiler, the return of one character near the end leaves the reader ready for more.
I am excited to see where this series leads. As previously stated of my love of everything Avatar (maybe I am too biased to review), there is room for such a wide, vibrant universe that has so many areas to explore and I can’t wait to continue!