Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee, with Michael Dante DiMartino
Amulet Books, 2019, 442 pages
Trigger Warnings: death of loved ones, violence, mention of mass murder, parental neglect
About the Author: “F. C. Yee grew up in New Jersey and went to school in New England, but has called the San Francisco Bay Area home ever since he beat a friend at a board game and shouted “That’s how we do it in NorCal, baby!” Outside of writing, he practices capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts, and has a day job mostly involving spreadsheets.” (Bio taken from the author’s website.)
About the Author: “Michael Dante DiMartino is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. His directing credits include the animated series King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Mission Hill. He is a co-creator of the award-winning animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra. DiMartino lives in Los Angeles with his wife. The Rebel Geniuses series is his debut prose work.” (Bio taken from the author’s Goodreads profile.)
Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Rise of Kyoshi follows the previous Avatar to Aang, the protagonist of the original show. Unlike Aang, Kyoshi is not thought to actually be the Avatar and doesn’t even trust her own bending at the beginning of the story. Instead, she is a servant in the house of Jianzhu, a companion of Kuruk, the previous Avatar. It’s been ten years since Kuruk’s death and, without an Avatar, the world has been overrun by crime and forced into line by benders like Jianzhu who are trying to keep the peace. Throughout the story, Kyoshi’s life gets turned on its head —the heroes she meets turn into villains and the villains turn into companions. Her parents, her powers, her duty, and her friends are all more complicated than she thought as her life and the world changes forever.
Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Rise of Kyoshi is a rollercoaster of exciting set pieces and one of the most engaging fantasy novels I have read in awhile. Once the action starts, the dynamic character interactions and deadly world take center stage. Fans of the show should know this novel is not as light-hearted, as it showcases a much darker world and an even more complicated protagonist than the original series. This book also differs from ATLA in how it handles morality. The show, while having moments of moral ambiguity, is more black-and-white since its central conflict has clear villains. This novel’s conflict is centered around the world of politics and criminals, so the characters and their actions are a lot murkier. Watching Kyoshi navigate this landscape, and see how she even grows to understand the actions of the book’s antagonist, makes The Rise of Kyoshi feel different than the series, and delineates this world as one I want to see more of based on its own merits and not just previous attachment to the show. I highly recommend picking this book up.
PRR Writer, Jon Kresal