I bet you expected a cat photo. Surprise, it's Appa, a Christmas present from 2006 (or 2007?). Photo by Kate Ota 2020
I received The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee with Michael Dante DiMartino as a gift from my husband for Christmas. Like me, he loves Avatar: The Last Airbender, and insisted on reading it after I finished.
The book follows the early life of Avatar Kyoshi, the Earth Kingdom avatar two incarnations prior to the TV show’s protagonist, Aang. Kyoshi appeared on the show several times, each time being an absolute badass, and inspired the Kyoshi Warriors in their techniques and dress. Since I knew who Kyoshi would become, I wondered if author F.C. Yee would be able to surprise me.
Positives: I loved the plot! A unique take that makes sense from what fans already know about Kyoshi and her mess-of-a-predecessor, Kuruk. There was expansion of the world in unique ways, but not so much that you wonder why some cool things didn’t exist in the show. (I call this is the Star Wars Prequel Problem, where the prequels offered a ton of new technology that somehow the audience is supposed to believe disappeared before the original trilogy.) The book pulled me through it, and I read over 100 pages each time I sat down with it because I absolutely needed to know what happened next. In fact, I’m about to read the sequel because it still has that pull.
Negatives: I’m not sure I’d have noticed this if I wasn’t a writer, but there was a lot of head hopping. This is when, in the middle of a scene established as being from Character A’s perspective, you suddenly have a sentence or two in the point of view of Character B, and then back to Character A. This occurred at least once every chapter, and drove me a little insane. They weren’t necessary pieces of information for the reader. For example: “Character B realized Y and said, “dialogue that makes it clear he just realized Y.”” The head hopping is the phrase “Character B realized”—which the POV character, Character A, can’t know because she’s not in Character B’s head. And the dialogue, or sometimes action, of Character B would then make it clear what their internal thoughts had been, so I don’t know why these head hopping moments were included.
Overall rating: 4.5/5 I loved the plot, creativity, and of course I’m a sucker for the avatar universe. Without the unnecessary and distracting head hopping, it would have been a perfect 5.
I’d recommend this to any fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I believe it’s technically YA, as the protagonist is sixteen for most of the book, but adults will love it too. It may be less understandable or enjoyable for anyone who has never watched the original show, as there are many references to geography and world lore that are not independently explained. You may be able to get it if you’ve only seen the sequel TV series, The Legend of Korra.
Are you a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender? Have you read the Kyoshi series? How about all those graphic novels? Let’s discuss in the comments!