THE RISE OF KYOSHI
by F.C. Yee
Publication date: 16 July 2019 by Amulet Books
young adult | fantasy
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.
A LEGENDARY BACKSTORY WE ALL LOVE
As someone who grows up watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH! Kyoshi has always been my favorite Avatar, so it’s exciting to read about her younger years as the Avatar. I put a high expectation before reading this book, and was satisfied with how it turned out. The Rise of Kyoshi is a brilliant depiction of the origins of Kyoshi and the world we are already familiar with.
F.C. Yee explores the already established world by adding new elements, customs and lores that give readers more insight to the Avatar world. The rush of finding the new Earth Avatar after Avatar Kuruk died added a new thrilling atmosphere and potential introduction of the customs we haven’t known yet, as well as the laws and society that existed back before the era of Avatar Aang. I adore F.C. Yee’s creativity in building a world that wasn’t entirely his; it was magnificent and did not feel as overlapping as the original world building we’ve seen in ATLA.
As the story goes, I realized The Rise of Kyoshi has a different theme from both ATLA and Legend of Korra. The Rise of Kyoshi took a darker route and explored the more dangerous side of bending. The story goes with the grim atmosphere from the beginning to the end. Although I must admit that the climax of the story was kinda meh, I enjoyed each scene without a doubt.
Every character is morally grey and Kyoshi is no exception. We get to see the transformation of Kyoshi; from her time as the orphan and a village girl, to the young, powerful Avatar. We also learn about the origins of Kyoshi’s iconic look and about her lineage, as well as the reason why she becomes the most feared Avatar.
Lastly, I love the dynamics between Kyoshi and Rangi and I wish their relationship is explored more in the second book!
THE KINGDOM OF BACK
by Marie Lu
Publication date: 3 March 2020 by Putnam
young adult | historical fiction
Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish: to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in eighteenth-century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.
As Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.
WELCOME TO THE MAGICAL WORLD OF MOZART SIBLINGS
I have to appreciate Marie Lu for stepping out of her comfort zone. I feel like writing a historical fantasy is a challenge for her—I can see it perfectly on the way she wrote The Kingdom of Back. The premise looks promising, although the story itself is not like what I expected. I’m used to having Marie Lu surprise me with her writing and story—so when I didn’t find The Kingdom of Back as surprising and exciting as Warcross, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it.
To say that Marie Lu is lacking is a bit extreme, but that’s the fact. The Kingdom of Back feels like it’s written by someone else, although I completely understand that an author can’t write all genres with the same quality. First, the world building could’ve been developed more. I know Kingdom of Back is supposed to feel Narnia-esque, but I don’t feel it that way. Most of the time, I thought the siblings were hallucinating rather than stepping into a magical world. Second, the lack of motive the villain has kinda irks me. I’m sure that the antagonist has a backstory on why they want to hurt the Mozart siblings, but there was no explanation about it—readers were left in the dark about the villain.
While I like the message this book holds (how women should be treated equally) and I get to know Maria Anna Mozart better, I feel like this book could’ve gained higher rating by other readers if Marie Lu only focused on the history of Maria Anna Mozart herself—rather than alternating the history with magical world that only exists to the siblings.