Title: The Rise of Kyoshi
Author: F.C. Yee
Publication date: July 17 2019
Hardcover: 442 pages
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.
Stand alone or series: First book in a planned duology
How did I get this book: Review copy from publisher
Format (e- or p-): print
I would not know how to write about The Rise of Kyoshi without coming across as the huge Avatar: The Last Airbender geek that I am so I am not even going to try.
I would like to start by saying that this book is super great on its own – as a revenge, coming of age adventure story of a young girl finding her own footing (hehe) – but as an Avatar story? It is an awesome, brilliant addition to Avatar lore: it develops the world a bit more, building on what we already know about avatars and adding fantastic snippets about what we didn’t.
From the moment I finished both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, I have wanted to read/watch/consume/inhale a story about an earthbender avatar (earthbending is the best bending, don’t @ me). The fact that 1) we got a story about the LEGENDARY RIGHTEOUS Avatar Kyoshi? And that 2) it is written by F.C. Yee who blew my mind away with The Epic Crush of Genie Lo? CHERRY ON TOP.
Listen, my copy has so many earmarks, it’s almost impossible to close the book.
It begins slowly, it builds up on the political, economic background of the Avatar world after the short-lived avatarhood of waterbending Avatar Kuruk, who by all accounts was a terrible, irresponsible, self-indulgent Avatar. He died early, throwing the world into a mess, and years later, his companions and bending masters are still desperately trying to find the new Avatar, to no success. The companions – earthbending Jianzhu, airbending Kelsang, earthbending Rei-Han – have tried to keep the world in balance, going to extremes to do that in the absence of an Avatar, and often amassing great wealth and influence themselves, especially Jianzhu. 16 years later, they have found the young Avatar: a young boy named Yun, with prodigious earthbending but no signs of other bending so far.
Cue to the Avatar compound where all these people live together training and protecting Yun. There is a 16-year-old servant orphaned girl named Kyoshi, who used to live on the streets until airbending Kelsang becomes her surrogate father. She is best friends with Yun and with firebending Rangi (Rei-Han’s daughter and Yun’s bodyguard). Kyoshi is an earthbending but she doesn’t use her bending that much because she is utterly unable of doing small, subtle bendings. Boulders not pebbles, etc.
Then one day, while hanging out with Kelsang, she starts singing a song that ONLY Kuruk and Kelsang knew which makes Kelsang suspect they have the wrong Avatar. And that Kyoshi is the Avatar.
CUE CHAOS. Kyoshi herself is like HELL NO, her friends are understandably taken aback and feeling betrayed, the entire world could be upended by this news.
Does the end justify the means? For Jianzhu, it absolutely does, and he does something so dramatic, so loathsome and so utterly shocking is his of finding out the truth and in his pursuit of controlling Kyoshi that it will make Kyoshi run away with Rangi setting up Kyoshi’s revenge story – the heart of the book. For most of the book, this is what drives her. She couldn’t give a damn about Avatar duties or about honour. Learning the other bending techniques is just the vehicle for ultimate vengeance. But of course, the journey is the thing – and in learning other bendings, she ultimately learns about the world, about honour and duty too. She meets other people, poor people that are struggling and gets together with a band of awesome thieves who become her bending masters.
The Rise of Kyoshi does not pull punches: there are HORRIBLE, TRAUMATIC violence and abuse by people who should know better (at least you would expect them to) – it reminded me a bit of season 3 of Korra, actually. Kyoshi also experiences PTSD which affects her bending.
What I also loved about the book is that it is as much the story of Avatar Kyoshi as it is the story Kuruk’s companions. And this juxtaposition of the old vs the new, of tradition vs modernity, and about found families and friendships, is one of the best things about all of the Avatar stories.
It is no surprise that the first time that Kyoshi truly uses her bending, it is to save her friends and in doing so she literally moves the motherfucking SEAFLOOR. Be still my heart.
Speaking of hearts. Guys, we get to see A BUNCH OF AIRBENDERS AND AIR NOMADS ALIVE AND WELL. THERE IS A SKY BISON NAMED PENGPENG. And Kyoshi herself is HALF AIR NOMAD, WHAT. The story about her family is complicated and fascinating and one of the best things about the book.
Pause for tears.
Also, Kyoshi is ON PAGE, canonical bisexual with a lovely romantic relationship in the book with her companion Rangi. It also has: the Kyoshi fans, the Order of the White Lotus, Pai Sho, the most epic of epics Avatar State.
MY HEART CAN’T HANDLE HOW AWESOME THIS BOOK WAS.
The Rise of Kyoshi is more than a worthy companion to the series – it is essential read for anyone who loves the Avatar world. And the best thing is: it’s a duology so there will be MORE AWESOMENESS TO COME.
Rating: 10 – OF COURSE