Now that Avatar: The Last Airbender is finally available on Netflix, it’s the perfect opportunity to dive even further into the world. And who better to explore than the famed Avatar Kyoshi? The Shadow of the Kyoshi by F.C. Yee (with assistance from Michael Dante DiMartino) gives us an all-new adventure with one of the more powerful and mysterious characters and expands the beloved world a little bit more.
The Shadow of Kyoshi continues where last year’s The Rise of Kyoshi left off. Kyoshi, now a fully-realized and recognized Avatar, is drawn into the internal politics of the Fire Kingdom and forced to face an old friend: Yun, the boy who was mistakenly believed to be the Avatar. Kyoshi thought him to be dead until he reappeared in order to kill his Earthbending master. Now Kyoshi must stop his vengeance before he kills anyone else, and hopefully save him from himself.
Yee delivers another solid story in The Shadow of Kyoshi. It’s well-written, with diverse and complex characters, and an intriguing, nicely-paced plot. While it does take a while to get to the main arc, the beginning is neither slow nor boring. The earlier chapters are spent establishing Kyoshi’s current state of mind and introducing (or re-introducing, as it may be) the supporting cast.
Whereas much of The Rise of Kyoshi was spent in the Earth Kingdom, in this installment we are able to see the Fire Kingdom pre-invasion and get a glimpse at some of their old customs and beliefs. It’s a very different way of life than Kyoshi is used to, and her lack of training causes several large missteps that she must work to correct.
I love how these novels adapt and expand the world of the show. It is such a richly-detailed world, with different nations and cultures, and we only got to scratch the surface of it. Following Kyoshi allows us to get a glimpse of how things were before the war. I’m fascinated by the idea of rival clans, and by the knowledge that the Fire Kingdom’s desire for domination likely started much earlier than Sozin’s reign.
Kyoshi and Rangi’s relationship is still very much at the heart of this story, even now that things have returned to “normal” for the two of them – or as normal as life can get when one is the Avatar. The development of their relationship in the first book was natural and organic; it didn’t feel forced and it didn’t come across as “romance for romance’s sake”.
Likewise in this book, they are able to continue to grow as people and as a couple. They disagree, and at times it seems like there will be no reconciliation. But in the end, they love and respect each other, and together they overcome all the obstacles put in their path. These two have a great relationship, and I’m glad to see their dynamic explored further as Kyoshi’s story continues.
Kyoshi remains a compelling protagonist. She is very much torn between her duty as the Avatar and her loyalty to her friends and companions. Much of the book involves her grappling with what to do as a servant of the Four Nations. As she makes faux pas after faux pas while attempting to help the Fire Lord, she questions her decisions and struggles with connecting with the Spirit World to seek help from the other Avatars. Kyoshi’s biggest battle is between what she should do and what she wants to do, and it’s a battle she can never really win.
As much as The Shadow of Kyoshi reveals more of Kyoshi’s mysterious past, so to are we given a little more insight into Kuruk, the Avatar incarnation directly before Kyoshi. Kuruk is mentioned in the first book and in ATLA, and the version of him we are introduced to in this book is not at all what I was expecting. The show paints him as frivolous and free-wheeling, but Yee offers a completely different and slightly darker explanation.
I highly recommend this book, though if you haven’t read The Rise of Kyoshi, you’re likely to be extremely confused. (You should read that one, too.) This is an engaging, entertaining read and an absolute must for any fans of Kyoshi, or anyone looking for a good f/f relationship.
The Shadow of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee is published by Amulet Books and will be available July 21st wherever books are sold.
*I received a free advance copy of The Shadow of Kyoshi from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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