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Literature / The Rise of Kyoshi

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"What you do when no one is guiding you determines who you are."
What in the name of the spirits are you?

The Rise of Kyoshi is the first novel in a two-part series written by F. C. Yee chronicling the life of Avatar Kyoshi, taking place 412 years prior to the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The book will largely follow Kyoshi through her teenage and young adult years, mapping her journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice still feared and admired centuries after her death, as well as touching upon her romantic interest in both genders.

Nine years after the untimely death of Avatar Kuruk, his friends and allies look throughout the Earth Kingdom in the hopes of discovering the new Avatar, master of all four elements. But despite everything, their search comes up empty handed, time and time again.

Until they discover a child they begin to suspect is the new Avatar.


Yes, that's right.

Everyone, meet Avatar Yun.

In the meantime, simple servant girl Kyoshi watches on as Yun struggles to become the new Avatar, vowing to help him in any way she can.

Then things get real.

The series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Achilles' Heel: Debatable. Jesa's revokement of the Air Nomadic ways had weakened her spiritual abilities and had also weakened her airbending. The novel thus implies that a weakness in spirituality may impact airbending.
  • Back from the Dead: Yun, somehow. He shows up to everyone's surprise, murders Jianzhu and disappears before Kyoshi can say a word. It happens so abruptly Kyoshi isn't even sure she didn't imagine it.
  • Battle Ballgown: Kyoshi's fancy servant dress has chainmail to stop assassins. They aren't taking any chances when it comes to the vicious pirate Takaga.
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  • Bi the Way: Kyoshi was canonically bisexual as revealed in Turf Wars and it shows in this novel. She has an obvious crush on Yun, but falls in love with her bodyguard Rangi.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Long Ge.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Justified. Whilst Kyoshi is the Avatar, and therefore the strongest bender in the world, she isn't much of a fighter at the start of the series. For this reason, Rangi, a seasoned firebender, dedicates herself to defending the young Avatar.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Aside from Kyoshi and Rangi, the novel reveals that Kuruk had one of these on Hei-Ran; going as far as to write a poem/song for her. But Kuruk never acted on it and by the time Hei-Ran found a man she loved too, Kuruk gave up wanting Hei-Ran's decision to be her own and if it made her happier, then he didn't mind.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Revealed to Kyoshi that Yang-Chen had a habit of reading Shoken, a monk deemed heretical with a few points of wisdom; though she was sure to study his opponents as well to understand multiple viewpoints of an issue.
  • Came Back Wrong: Yun. He looks the same as always, but radiates an air of pure wrongness that makes everyone scramble away from him in fear. He also went from a kind-hearted man to a cold-blooded killer who nearly massacres everyone in a building for no good reason.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Kyoshi's weapons which she got from her mother.
    • Wong knows how to use it, and teaches her how.
  • Corrupt Politician: Hue. To use Jianzhu's words, Hue was a small-minded man occupied with vetoing everything Jianzhu put forward even if the gains would be beneficial for both parties. He was also a small-minded man who had the full ear of Mr.Beifong (Toph's ancestor) and made anything work because Mr.Beifong's wife died and Beifong couldn't think or administer clearly after her loss.
    • The novel also took note to depict that many officials had sought to control the Avatar him/herself to their molds as a means to improve the world for their own means and ends — such as, say Jinazhu himself who's just as corrupt as the politicians he so despises and tries to use Yun as a pawn, all while refusing to admit it.
  • Darker and Edgier: Easily one of the darkest entries in the franchise. While Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra had some adult concepts, they would try to alleviate the mood through jokes and sight gags, and never showed blood to keep it kid friendly. This book, on the other hand, has graphic descriptions of blood and violence, with very little humor to speak of.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Kyoshi falls victim to this by upholding her end of the bargain to free a captive man...who ends up being revealed as Xu Ping An, the vicious leader of the Yellow Scarves.
    • Near the end of the book; Jianzhu gets a dose of this when Hue had arrived with politicians and those in power in his pocket arrived to his estate to declare the right to take away the right to teach and guard the Avatar. Even Jianzhu had to admit that he underestimated how efficient Hue could be.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Once Jianzhu kills Kelsang, it becomes clear that Jianzhu ends up making more mistakes and taking greater precautions and steps to rectify those mistakes. Not only does killing Kelsang and sacrificing Yun alienate him completely from the true Avatar, other nobles begin to threaten action against him and to strip him of his power, which leads to him concocting a poison that almost kills everyone there save for himself and possibly Hei-Ran. The novel takes pains to show us that Jianzhu, though guilty, is not happy by any stretch of what he's done. By the time Kyoshi catches up to him, it's clear that the stress and the pain of his deeds have caught up to him.
  • The Dreaded: Jianzhu. Kyoshi is too scared of his power at first and thus spends the first novel running from him. In Universe, Jianzhu is known as the Gravedigger, and earned his reputation by defeating the Yellow Scarves by earthbending a ton of them underground. Takaga is another example; being a pirate woman and a master waterbender who sought to control the seas with brute force and intimidation. A third example is Mok; a non-bender who acts like a traditional mafia boss: someone you don't want to owe a debt to.
  • Elemental Powers: Well, duh. It is an Avatar novel after all.
  • Faux Affably Evil: If you didn't know his reputation, you'd swear Xu Ping An was a stand-up guy. Polite to those who do good by him, and willing to repay a debt to you in kind, so long as that respect is upheld.
  • Honor Before Reason: The novel reveals that a person's honor and pride were of the utmost importance to anyone from the Fire Nation; to the point of which some would actually get fed up from hearing about it so much. This trope is also part of the conflicts between Kyoshi and Rangi throughout the book.
  • Impact Silhouette: Incredibly rare justified version. Kyoshi is an earthbender, so when she impacts a stone wall, it moves aside to accomodate her.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Kyoshi's battle outfit consists of a long green dress, makeup, a headdress, and fans. Justified when you realise that the makeup is to hide her identity, the fans are warfans, and the dress was specifically made with chainmail inside to defend a servant.
  • Man on Fire: Much like Aang, Kyoshi has a few, uh, *less desirable* fire-related learning situations.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Kelsang.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Kyoshi reveals that her father was earth nation/earthbender while her mother was an Air Nomad.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: Kyoshi improvises a song in the moment while everyone else is having fun doing the same. Kelsang, however, notes that, word for word, Kyoshi is singing the very same song Kuruk wrote for Hei-Ran. Kelsang and Kuruk were the only people who knew that song, and to hear Kyoshi recite it verbatim clues Kelsang in that Kyoshi may be the Avatar.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Early on in the novel, when Kyoshi is walking through the mansion, there's a mention of a merchant talking to someone about the future of cabbages. Cabbage man will have a lot to worry about in about two more Avatar cycles.
    • There's a mention of someone named Lu Beifong, which shows how rich Toph's family was and still is.
    • Hidden passage. Through the mountains.
    • Guru Laghima is brought up more than once.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Jianzhu humors leaving both Hue and the Earth King on a stranded island and waiting to see which idiot eats the other first.
  • Notorious Parent: Kyoshi's parents were the joint heads of group of daofei, or bandits. Most notably, the mother was an Air Nomad who fell in love with an Earth Kingdom daofei and abandoned her Nomad ways to live a life of crime, even going so far as to ink vipers over her Airbending tattoos.
  • Not So Stoic: Jianzhu is usually completely unflappable, but when Kelsang tells him he is unfit to teach the Avatar, Jianzhu completely loses it, practically foaming at the mouth.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kyoshi's parents did this to her when Kyoshi was about six or seven. Kyoshi remembers and is bitter about it. Finding out later that a stranger child (Lek) was taken in by them and raised to be a fine bandit had served to infuriate Kyoshi further.
  • Parental Substitute: Kelsang is this to Kyoshi, after taking a liking to her when she's very young.
    • Jesa and Hark are also this to Lek.
  • The Poorly Chosen One: Anybody with a passing knowledge of Avatar (or who just read the title of the book) will know from the start that it's poor serving girl Kyoshi who turns out to be the Avatar, and not Yun. That said, Yun is no Fake Ultimate Hero — he genuinely believes he's the Avatar, and constantly studies and trains hard to fulfill his Avatar duties. Finding out it was never him — well, he doesn't take it well.
  • Reality Ensues: Despite Kyoshi's persistence to kill Jianzhu, multiple interactions with Trickster Mentor Long Ge have had Kyoshi question her morality and her plans throughout the book. The book's climax takes it a step further when her target is revealed to be a child only making his village suffer because he's been told to enforce his father's policies without thinking of the damage it's causing. Taking a life is much harder than one ever thinks it is unless you've really got no conscious about it.
  • Reincarnation: Kyoshi is the Avatar, and is therefore the reincarnation of the previous Avatar Kuruk.
    • An early plot thread and point was about finding the new Avatar. Usually, the Earthbending methods have been foolproof; but at the start of the novel, Jianzhu and Kelsang had not found the reincarnated Avatar at that point and things were getting desperate from bandit attacks and corrupt government officials.
  • Secret Art: Xu Ping An's lightning bending. In Kyoshi's time, lightning bending was akin to unaided Flight of Korra's time: an art that was thought to be lost to time if not a straight up myth. Before the events of the book; Jiangzhu spared his life after defeating his army of Yellow Scarves per request of the Fire Nation, who wanted to know how a lowly bandit mastered such an art.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Early in the book, Kyoshi begins to sing a song she claims she is improvising. Kelsang hears this song and immediately recognizes it as the same song Kuruk made for Hei-Ran. As only Kelsang himself and Kuruk would know of the song, It's one of the biggest clues to Kelsang that Kyoshi may actually be the reincarnated Avatar.
  • Start of Darkness: When Kyoshi flees Jianzhu, she is willing to work with Daofei (bandits) and learn the tricks of their ways and gain support to defeat Jianzhu. Two of whom become her Earth and Waterbending teachers.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Thankfully defied! Kyoshi is set up to take the life of what is perceived to be a cruel lord that is starving his village. When she finally confronts him...he's a young child/teenage boy who offhand admits that he's only continuing the policies without any thought or question to them. Kyoshi uses her strength to protect him all the while scaring him into being a more effective leader. Kyoshi realizes that while violence may solve some problems, sometimes diplomacy and understanding work just as well and that's when she becomes her role as the Avatar.
  • Unrequited Love: Kuruk and Hei-Ran. Hei-Ran herself revealed she had a small crush on Kuruk; but neither acted on it.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Jianzhu is forced to play a mean round of it when he loses Kyoshi. Unlike other examples of this trope, we see firsthand what he has to do, plan ahead of, and sacrifice to make these plans work.
  • You Have Out Lived Your Usefulness: Yun. Oh god, poor Yun. The moment Jianzhu realises that Yun is not the Avatar, he immediately lets him die.

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