Review: The Rise of Kyoshi (The Kyoshi Novels, #1) by F.C. Yee

Title: The Rise of Kyoshi
Series: The Kyoshi Novels, #2
Author: F.C. Yee
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: June 16, 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: ☕☕☕☕ (4/5)
Content Warning: (spoilers!) *highlight to view* {Grief, death of loved ones, mass murder, violence, death}

It’s no secret that I am absolutely head over heels for the Avatar fandom. The series ended years ago but nobody can deny its impact and how it still resonates even now. We saw it expand to graphic novels (which I haven’t read yet in full because they’re so hard to come by in the PH *sigh*) through the years. I’ve always been biased to the written words that’s why I was wishing for years for them to release full-length novels… so when they announced that a series of original novels is being developed, I was beyond ecstatic! And to top it all off, the author is F.C. Yee – the person responsible for bringing the hilarious and oh-so-good The Epic Crush of Genie Lo to life. So…. on to my thoughts:

The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee

BLURB

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. (via Goodreads)

THOUGHTS

The Rise of Kyoshi follows Kyoshi in her early teens and her journey into becoming the Avatar. Before reading this book, it is so hard to imagine Kyoshi as a confused young girl – given that in ATLA, she was always projected as someone with solid resolve and sheer confidence in her choices. But you know what? It somehow worked! You would think, given how this universe was explored too deeply in the past, that we wouldn’t be able to frame an Avatar background story in a new light anymore – but F.C. Yee managed to expand the Avatar lore effectively. Kyoshi’s life as an Avatar (especially the beginning) is so different from Aang and Korra. It’s so fascinating to read that I got goosebumps reading the beginning of Kyoshi’s iconic visuals, and for her to truly embrace her destiny, as an Avatar whose ability do not lie on control but rather in raw power.

Jianzhu made the Earth Kingdom sound like different pieces of flesh stitched together to close a wound.

We’ve been given plenty of glimpses on how the Earth Kingdom works and here, we were able to see just how far the corruption and the practice of bribery runs in the its culture. The original series fleshed out each kingdom to a special degree and seeing the Earth Kingdom be viewed from someone from the inside was a fascinating thing. The process of identifying Earth Avatars is also something that I find really interesting reading about. Given the size of the Earth Kingdom, it is a difficult endeavor trying to narrow down the choices and, in some cases, initially commit a mistake or two.

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

This book also touched on the origins of how Kyoshi managed to stay alive for that long. In an unexpected turn of events, she became part of a rag-tag band of misfits and outlaws and trained under a mysterious man (whose origin I’m still not entirely sure about but is definitely one thing I am looking forward to find out and get clarity in the next book). It was a curious concept: the way that it’s not exactly spiritual, but is a matter of mental strength. We know that Avatars are highly-spiritual individuals so seeing her start and try to embrace that of which truly contradicts with the tenets of being an avatar is something I would really be interested to see in the continuation of this narrative.

“You will never be perfectly fair, and you will never be truly correct,” Lao Ge said. “This is your burden.”

This book also touched on justice and morality – and how each person has their unique take on it (“I visited consequences upon them,” Jianzhu said. “Because that’s what justice is. Nothing but the proper consequences.). I loved how the idea of justice is questioned over and over again. This book explored the notion that necessary sacrifices must be made for the good of many or to fulfill one’s responsibilities – the very conflicts that lead to a lot of layered and complex characters and dynamics that are truly fascinating to read.

“Because.” She took a deep breath to steady herself. “I’m the Avatar.”

The last few chapters were intense and shocking, to say the least. One iconic scene, and probably my favorite, was that “perversion of the neutral jing” scene near the end of the book – as it gave me chills for days. Also, the sudden appearance of someone at the very end has me shook (if you already read it, you will know what I mean). Honestly, the cliff-hangers were mighty good but they’re torture. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.

In conclusion

Overall, The Rise of Kyoshi is necessary reading for all fans of the Avatar universe. It provided a unique glimpse into the world, in the eyes of an Earthbender and an Earth Avatar, but also presented some interesting perspectives and new characters to root for (and to hate). I read this book having so much stock knowledge about the world so it’s not really that difficult slipping into the story. Is it required to have watched the whole ATLA TV series before diving into this book? I don’t necessarily think so – but if ever, you would miss out on interesting tidbits and references (hello, cabbage merchant) that really made reading this book 10x more fun. So yes, I would recommend you consume at least ATLA before going in. It was worth reading this just to get more context on who Kyoshi is as an Avatar and how she came to be a “merciless pursuer of justice” because I honestly think her history explains a lot. F.C. Yee managed to expound upon an (already established) interesting character and fleshed her out even more. This book is fast-paced and gripping, plot AND character-driven. It was not afraid to explore darker themes, which resulted to a more layered story-telling rooted in reality than the TV show (if I may). And oh, if you need any more reason to read this: it has f/f romance, one that developed from friendship into something more, so naturally it hurts. So two words: MUST. READ.

RATING

If you follow me on Twitter, here’s my The Rise of Kyoshi Reaction/Quotes Thread: CLICK HERE.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“What you do when no one is guiding you determines who you are,”

to throw away the idea of containing herself, to stop minimizing the space she took up, to let herself grow and rise to her full dimensions

I LOVE THIS LINE TO DEATH.

True hatred was knife-edged and certain. A scale that begged for perfect balance.

This was the sorry state of Kyoshi’s Avatarhood. Heartlessness the new enlightenment. Murder the means to self-discovery.

“It’s amazing what the mind can be led to believe,” Lao Ge said. “Especially if you’re desperate,”

“Mercy has a higher price than most people think.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. The illusion that the self is separate from the rest of the world is the driving factor that limits our potential. Once you realize there’s nothing special about the self, it becomes easier to manipulate.”

No one had warned her how empty it would feel to have a singular goal and see it achieved.

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

6 thoughts on “Review: The Rise of Kyoshi (The Kyoshi Novels, #1) by F.C. Yee

    1. Den’t worry if you haven’t watched Korra yet, you’ll be just fine if you already finished ATLA. The Kyoshi novels are a different beast – it’s much grittier. I love them so much, I just finished The Shadow of Kyoshi and might be posting a review of it soon. It wrecked me.

      Anyway, hope you enjoy it once you come around to reading TRoK. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Like

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