Witness “The Dawn of Yangchen” by F.C. Yee

Dawn of Yangchen

Yangchen is very young when she is first visited by the spirits of her past lives, and even now she still struggles against the tide of memories. Adding to her troubles is that, at age 17, she is nowhere close to garnering the respect and authority that her previous iteration, Szeto, wielded. And now, on top of all of that, she has to deal with the greedy shangs, a merchant ruling class that seeks to set themselves above the world leaders. Welcome to The Dawn of Yangchen.

F.C. Yee is back with his third novel set in the universe of the ridiculously popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. The previous two books told the story of fan-favorite bicon Kyoshi. The Dawn of Yangchen chronicles the rise of Yangchen, another airbending Avatar that we only got a brief glimpse of in “Sozin’s Comet”, when Aang sought guidance on how to deal with Ozai.

With a world as rich in possibility as Avatar: The Last Airbender, I’m glad these novels exist. The comics are great for the continuing adventures of characters we’ve already come to know, but the novels explore the history in a way that really brings the past alive. They also expand not only the various cultures, but also help provide different views on bending as a practice. As a history nerd, this kind of thing is my jam.

As very little is revealed about Yangchen in the original series, Yee (in consultation with ATLA co-creator and executive producer Michael Dante DiMartino) is free to play with the character, establishing her as a very different kind of airbender. After watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra, which take place decades after the Air Nation was wiped out and feature the last remaining airbenders desperately trying to cling to and rebuild their former culture, I thought I understood what airbenders were all about.

But Yangchen has reminded me that people are not a monolith. Whereas Aang was very straightforward, Yangchen understands that sometimes, getting results requires underhanded methods. She’s a very intriguing character, weighed down by her past lives and by her inability to bring about real change. I will be very excited to continue her story in the next book. (Presumably, Yangchen will get a duology the way Kyoshi did.)

The Dawn of Yangchen drops you almost right into things. In the city of Bin-Er, a waterbender named Kavik is hired to steal information from a visiting dignitary, and only realizes that it’s the Avatar when she catches him in the act. Recognizing that he has skills she can use, Yangchen recruits him to help her try and uncover the mystery of “Unanimity”, an unknown entity that promises to shake the very foundations of society.

I really liked the pacing of this book. The beginning wasn’t bogged down in exposition, and once it got to the main plot, things progressed nicely. I almost quite literally could not put this book down. I read it in a day; things happen so fast that I didn’t want to miss the ending. While the immediate threat is dealt with by the end, Yee left a few things unresolved to be addressed in the sequel.

This book is a must for any fans of the ATLA greater universe, particularly fans of The Legend of Korra. The plot is reminiscent of the arc of TLOK Season 3, with the Red Lotus. This is a captivating, engaging read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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The Dawn of Yangchen by F.C. Yee is published by Amulet Books and will be available July 19th wherever books are sold.

*I received a free advance copy of The Dawn of Yangchen 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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