Ever since I was a kid, Avatar The Last Airbender had been one of my favorite tv shows and series of all time. The storytelling started off slow but had become one of the most impactful stories I had ever experienced. Each of the characters were special in their own right and seeing them grow from season to season was spectacular. Zuko’s storyline is easily one of the best character arcs in storytelling history in my opinion. I had loved the show so much that The Legend of Korra had me excited yet I was disappointed by the lack of focus and the lost potential of the series. I still enjoyed it. It still had some amazing narrative elements and some fantastic characters. But the main story felt lacking from season to season. When I found out there was a book dedicated to Avatar Kyoshi, I was both excited and hesitant to read it. Thankfully The Rise of Kyoshi turned out amazing and Avatar Kyoshi may be my favorite Avatar now.
Avatar Aang was a mischievous character, one who played jokes but was serious when the time came. Avatar Korra was a fiery hot headed character who was too proud but would do the right thing when it came time to. The main element of these two was that when the call to adventure came and they had to stand and fight, they did just that. Avatar Kyoshi’s story though is incredibly different. Her avatar story starts out as poorly as one could expect. Kyoshi does not have an easy life and it makes the character feel sympathetic, seeing her struggle with her inner turmoil and responsibilities in a way reminded me of Aang’s adventure. But Kyoshi’s felt darker, unsure of herself as nothing was very clear. This is the kind of character development that really feels genuine, seeing a scared young girl grow into a more confident and strong young woman. Her entire journey is not black and white as she had been lead to believe. Her insights into the world at large grow as she does. Throughout the story, the concepts of justice, vengeance, what was right and wrong, and who deserved mercy versus who needed to die are explored in a way that is thoughtful and given a proper amount of introspection. It’s fantastic to see a figure as revered as the Avatar go through a coming of age story that is neither clean nor “proper” as one would expect.
It’s the world of Avatar, in all its glory and deeply explored mythos. Anyone familiar with the show would feel right at home in this novel. The amount of references and hints throughout the story caused a happy smile as I recalled the original series. However that is where there is some issues lie. A lot of the worldbuilding and understanding of the history relies on a previous experience with Avatar The Last Airbender and to a certain extent The Legend of Korra as well. There are still key elements of the world explained in the beginning and throughout the story, however some of the impact feels as though it would be lost on someone entering this world for the first time. Having been very familiar with the Avatar world, I found myself at home here as the story is written in a loving way for anyone who loved the series.
Kyoshi’s humble beginning to her rise to Avatarhood is fraught danger and self reflection that is both amazing and wonderful to experience. The plot takes its time to slowly move forward, allowing the reader to truly grasp the impact of each life changing event that strikes Kyoshi. I say strikes because it really is like striking her both emotionally and physically. Her journey feels far more painful than Aang’s and Korra’s. There’s plenty of breadth given between each chapter that allows for the life changing events to sink in as Kyoshi and her companions struggle to comprehend them. However there are a few key moments that felt as though they moved too quickly. Certain plot points feel as though they’re given more time than they should while others that should be further explored are resolved so quickly it felt almost rushed. It wasn’t enough to ruin the story, however it still feels a bit lacking in that regard.
The way the chapters are written is smooth and easy to follow. I found myself lost in time as I kept reading for longer than I expected to. The lengths of the chapters never feel too long as to become tiring but also not too short as to feel rushed. There’s a perfect middle ground achieved that serves to keep the story engaging and fun to continue. The emotional beats are hit pretty hard and feel impactful as they are read. The somber moments feel sad and the moments of levity are appropriate as they appear from time to time. It’s fun and easy to dive into.
What Writers can learn from this Book
Writing a character a character that could be considered a god like entity can be difficult considering how powerful they are. To give them a humble origin to make them endearing can, in some ways, be the most difficult of their coming of age tale. Anyone who is familiar with Avatar Kyoshi knows her to be one of the sternest, strictest and absolutist Avatars from the hints in the shows. However seeing her start from a small orphan girl to becoming the Avatar is a fun and exciting journey. To allow for that feeling of wonder to wash over a reader is difficult and has to be earned and The Rise of Kyoshi does just that. It’s a wonderful example of displaying a powerful character’s rise to prominence.