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This page contains unmarked spoilers for The Rise of Kyoshi. You have been warned.

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We have no need of mercy. Only justice

"My friend is not a diplomat. She is the failure of diplomacy. She is the breakdown of negotiations. There is no escalation of hostilities beyond her."
Tieguai the Immortal
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The Shadow of Kyoshi is a 2020 novel set in the Avatar universe written by F.C. Yee (with consultation by series creator Michael Dante DiMartino) and is the sequel to The Rise of Kyoshi. The story picks up two years later with the more confident and skilled titular heroine having introduced herself to the world as the true Avatar.

When the novel starts, Kyoshi has used her newfound wealth to set up shop in Ba Sing Se with her Airbender assistant Jinpa to quash various bandit uprisings across the Earth Kingdom. Jinpa keeps trying to get her to focus more on the political/diplomatic side of being the Avatar but she's hesitant to because she's not very good at it. She gets to a point where she can't ignore it anymore when she gets personally invited to attend the festival honouring the previous Fire Nation Avatar, Szeto, by Fire Lord Zoryu himself.

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From there she gets dragged into the internal conflict of the country, including drama with the Fire Lord's bastard half-brother, Chaejin while dealing with problems of her own, like tracking down her friend Yun who inexplicably came back from his presumed death to kill Jianzhu at the climax of the previous book.

This is the finale of the original plan for the series but the future of it remains uncertain as both books have gotten good reviews and sold very well.


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The book provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 100% Adoration Rating: Deconstructed. The entire world holds up Yangchen as the gold standard of an Avatar while not having very high opinions on Kuruk, but near the end of the novel it's revealed Kuruk made great sacrifices, at the cost of his own reputation, to preserve Yangchen's legacy since he, too, looked up to her. If the world actually had known about how Yangchen's favouring of humans over spirits caused multiple Dark Spirit invasions that Kuruk secretly dealt with at the cost of his own health, the overall picture might have been more nuanced. Kyoshi herself certainly has a higher opinion of Kuruk after learning this.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Kyoshi mistakes Chaejin for his half-brother, Fire Lord Zoryu, although she has the excuse that Chaejin was deliberately wearing very similar attire to Zoryu and met her first. Once the embarrassment's over it turns out that Kyoshi's gaffe is actually quite serious, as it could be interpreted as showing support for Chaejin's claim to the throne.
  • Back for the Finale: When preparing for her final showdown with Yun, Kyoshi gets word to Kirima and Wong and they come to help their sworn sister. Lao Ge declines to show for the dust up, but he does return in the epilogue to threaten Fire Lord Zoryu on Kyoshi's behalf.
  • Badass Boast: Kyoshi gives one to Fire Lord Zoryu when it becomes clear he's ready to kill a lot of innocent people.
    Kyoshi: Let me make myself perfectly clear. You live on top of what I control. Your islands are surrounded by my waves. You fill your very lungs at my discretion. So if I hear any news about "Yun" being executed, you will truly learn what it's like when the spirits forsake you in the face of the elements.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: After a childhood of plague and natural disasters, Avatar Szeto rescued the Fire Nation from the verge of collapse. He settled clan wars through diplomatic solutions and rose in the ranks of government rather than using his Avatarhood for unfair advantages. He gave government relief to the lower class in times of famine. Eventually, he was appointed Grand Advisor to Fire Lord Yosor. All the while, he kept meticulous records of his work.
  • Badass Teacher: Hei-Ran has more of a role in this book than she did in the previous one, and the former headmistress gets to show why she got that role. She taught bending to Fire Lord Zoryu and she's so badass that she scares him, a head of state. She shows no fear when Yun tries to kill her by slashing her throat and gets the better of him when she gets an opening, despite being seconds from death.
  • Break the Haughty: The Saowon clan as a whole suffer this as the book goes on. They start off as an entire clan of Smug Snakes who use their political influence and backhanded jibes to stoke the flames of a Civil War while continuously insulting the main characters in various ways. Then Kyoshi, who is led to believe that they are working with Yun, holds Chaejin and Huazo hostage and performs a High-Altitude Interrogation on them both that almost leads to her killing them. Afterwards Zoryu, who has been undermined by them for the whole book, uses this opportunity to turn the Saowon clan into scapegoats by having a fake Yun claim he was hired by them to make Chaejin the Fire Lord. The clan is arrested, left dishonored, and the only reason they weren't purged is because Kyoshi made sure Zoryu wouldn't do it.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The tea shop owner who refuses to give Yun (who's just escaped after a horrendous ordeal in the Spirit World) a drink of water; after Yun reveals who he is, he cruelly tells him to waterbend if he wants a drink. His attitude gets him and every patron in the tea house slaughtered.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: A quick one. Mok calls for Wai to help him against an enemy. But when Wai jumps out of hiding and discovers he's facing the Avatar, he immediately puts down his weapon and prostrates himself.
    Mok: Oh, come on!
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kyoshi keeps forgetting she's able to waterbend; but uses a rather advanced waterbending art to slay Yun and end his rampage. Bonus points for the fact that Atuat had warned Kyoshi earlier in the book of that exact thing happening if she used to much power.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Hei-Ran having to go to the Northern Water Tribe to heal after she was near fatally poisoned last book and still showing signs of physical weakness two years later, including in her bending, brings to mind Korra's own struggles to get back on her feet after her mercury poisoning.
    • As established in The Legend of Korra, benders lose their abilities in the Spirit World if meditating there but keep them if physically entering. Yun is able to fight Father Glowworm with earthbending because he physically breached the plane between the two worlds. Kyoshi sees the evidence of the fight when talking to Kuruk but she can't bend because her body is in the material world.
    • In his flashback, Kuruk hopes that someone will invent a way to pacify corrupted spirits, because he's otherwise forced to kill them before they harm humans (which also has a damaging effect on his own spirit). His own countryman, Unalaq, develops the spiritbending technique and teaches it to his niece and Kuruk's eventual reincarnation, Korra.
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender – Smoke and Shadow established a warlord named Toz, who ended several messy clan battles by unifying the Fire Islands under his aegis. This is brought up several times in Shadow, as the clans are still jostling for control and Fire Lord Zoryu looks to Toz's journals for ideas.
    • Yangchen cites her fight with General Old Iron, the subject of an extended flashback in Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift and her first mission as the Avatar, as an example of her favoring the humans over the spirits, which led to their eventual corruptions and forced Kuruk to fight them off.
    • Rangi's daofei makeup is described as being based off a river spirit worshiped near Jang Hui—in other words, the Painted Lady.
    • The Rift also established that Avatars must go to the Spirit World in order to contact their past lives, and that refusing a connection with their immediate predecessor means refusing a connection to all predecessors. Ironically, both Aang and Kyoshi were trying to speak with Yangchen.
    • At book's end, Kyoshi has come to the conclusion that she shouldn't get involved in political disputes any more. Judging by the events shown in "Avatar Day", where she didn't intervene during Chin the Conqueror's conquest, this is A Lesson Learned Too Well.
    • Though the color is different, Rangi bends white fire briefly near the end of the book. Bending different colored flame is something only done by Azula and later Zuko come Smoke and Shadow.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Hei-Ran kneels with a knife, tells her daughter that the Fire Lord is her witness and Atuat is her second... she only cuts off her topknot, but it is very reminiscent of a ritual suicide, where the second would have the duty of finishing off the principal so that their death throes don't become too indecorous.
  • Empathic Environment: Literal example. The Spirit World reacts to one's emotions. Notably shown when huge chasms are formed from Yun's grief and Kyoshi's anger. Seeing that the damage Yun's emotions caused have not healed is what lets Kyoshi and Kuruk know that Yun has not let go of his pain.
  • Family Theme Naming: Fire Lord Zoryu is among the many members of the Fire Nation royal family to have a prominent "Z" sound in his name. His half-brother's mother, Lady Huazo, points out that her family has a tradition of using the character "Zo" in names, but Zoryu's mother "thought it sounded pretty," not thinking at all about the political weirdness of naming her child the way her husband's mistress would have.
  • For Want of a Nail: Kyoshi confesses to Hei-Ran that she thinks everything would have gone better if she'd simply been able to ignite the ball of tinder that Hei-Ran tried to test her with in The Rise of Kyoshi. If she'd been able to prove that she could firebend when everyone already knew she was an Earthbender, that would have conclusively proved she was the Avatar, and prevented the deaths of Kelsang and Lek, and of Yun being sacrificed to Father Glowworm.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Early on in the book when Kyoshi passes by an island important to Yangchen she gets hit by a violent vision and almost drowns and, as the narration notes, it takes her an embarrassingly long time before she remembers she can just waterbend to safety. Likewise towards the end of the book, when Kyoshi decides to visit said island again, she gets off the boat and swims there the old fashion way for a while before thinking of waterbending herself there.
  • Generation Xerox: Like his descendant Zuko, Zoryu is a socially awkward young Fire Lord with boatloads of family drama. Likewise, Chaejin would be akin to Azula in that while he's amazing at accumulating power, there's no real thought on governance or what he'd do once he got the power, something Kyoshi easily gets out of him.
  • God-Eating: After defeating him, Yun ate Father Glowworm and gained his power.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Near the end of the book it's revealed that, rather than just being the carefree Avatar he was interpreted as being from the original show Kuruk spent most of his life secretly battling and killing various Dark Spirits that were created by Yangchen's favoritism towards humans. Kuruk's actions likely saved the world from being consumed by Dark Spirits but because of his shame over murdering spirits he deliberately kept the truth hidden from even his closest friends and became a hedonist as a form of self medication. This ends up being deconstructed as this led to the world believing that Kuruk was an unfit Avatar, unintentionally causing the major problems that plague the books, and leaving Kyoshi with a lot of resentment towards her predecessor, at least before she realizes the truth about him.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Chaejin is obviously power hungry and doesn't care if some of the common people will die in order for him to gain the throne, but he does genuinely believe that the spirits are opposed to his brother's rule (which, considering the world they live in, is not an unfair assumption) and that his becoming Fire Lord will help the Fire Nation. Zoryu wants to keep the peace and prevent a civil war...and is willing to kill a 'false Yun' and wipe out the Saowon clan to do it, even though he knows they didn't actually collaborate with the real Yun.
  • Half-Sibling Angst: Chaejin is Zoryu's older brother, but the latter became Fire Lord because the former is an illegitimate child.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Between the fact that she's fighting corrupt officials and the truth that she honestly is pretty scary, Kyoshi has to deal with most of the Earth Kingdom, including the people she is helping with her every action, being absolutely terrified of her. See also the truth about Kuruk in "The Greatest Story Never Told" above.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Hei-Ran tells Kyoshi point-blank that if Yun kills her, it's fine, because it will give Kyoshi a shot at killing him in return, and that she deserves it for the hell she's put Kyoshi, Yun, and Rangi through, basically saying that she deserves to join Jianzhu, Kuruk, and Kelsang in death. Kyoshi neither accepts nor rejects this, but in the end, takes the time to get Hei-Ran treated and saves her life, rather than pursuing Yun.
    • Rather humorously averted later on in the book when Kyoshi dives into the ocean to the wreckage of Avatar Yangchen's island in order to contact Kuruk and tells her crew of Fire National fishermen not to follow her no matter what. When they to retrieve her after she almost drowns she tells them she told them not to follow her and the captain says that the order was obviously stupid so they weren't going to follow it. Kyoshi dryly notes to herself that if more people in the Fire Nation had that level of common sense she wouldn't be in most of the situations she's stuck in for the book.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The first book had some more overt references to sex than the shows but this one takes it a bit further. Kuruk explicitly slept with his maid in one of the flashbacks, although nothing about the act itself is shown. Another point is while there are other half siblings in the franchise, notably Lin and Su, the implications about multiple extramarital sexual partners are mostly glossed over. All Lin says is that she and Su have different dads and Toph says Lin's dad was a nice guy with whom things didn't work out. Here, Chaejin is explicitly called the bastard child of Fire Lord Chaeryu and his mistress Huazo. Huazo regales Kyoshi about their passionate youthful relationship. Zoryu also tells Kyoshi that he's probably got other half siblings out there that he doesn't know about.
  • Identical Stranger: After bringing out a fake Yun to serve as a scapegoat who is actaully a Fire National citizen who looks near identical to the real thing except his eyes Zoryu points out to Kyoshi that peoples faces aren't as unique as they think they are (although he notes that there is probably no one on the planet who could masquerade as her). This truly gets brought into focus at the end of the book when Kyoshi meets Avatar Yangchen who, aside from her tattoos, looks and acts similar to her mother Jesa.
  • Irony:
    • Avatar Szeto saved the Fire Nation from being torn apart in a civil war by becoming a minister in the nation's government; by devoting himself wholly to the needs of his people, he became a revered figure in the Fire Nation and there's a festival set up in his honour. Hundreds of years later the next Firebender Avatar, Roku, rejects working with the Fire Nation to conquer the rest of the world, and ends up making a deadly enemy of the Fire Lord...
    • Fire Lord Zoryu resolves to break down the clans' power structures and have all power and fealty invested in the Fire Lord, thereby ensuring his descendants will one day sit the throne in peace. His descendants were not satisfied with complete control of the Fire Nation, and perpetuated 100 years of war to gain control of the other three nations, including almost total genocide of the Air Nomads.
    • The Fire Nationals of Kyoshi's day are thrilled to see Brother Jinpa. The nobles are fascinated by his lifestyle and abilities, while the commoners hope he'll bless their livelihoods and believe that meeting him is incredible good luck. The Fire Nationals of the original series, on the other hand, have all been taught that the Air Nation had a standing army and were backwards enemies that needed to be destroyed.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...:
    • After escaping the Spirit World, Yun is dying of thirst and exhaustion in the alley outside the teahouse. His teeth start chattering and he realizes how cold he is.
    • Literal example. Kyoshi uses an advanced healing technique to drastically lower Yun's body temperature, freezing his heart and lungs solid and killing him.
  • It's All My Fault: Both Hei-Ran and Kyoshi blame themselves for Jianzhu going off the deep end and killing Kelsang, and letting Father Glowworm drag Yun off to the Spirit World with the intent of killing him.
  • Japanese Politeness: Well, more like fantastical Japanese equivalent politeness. Kyoshi learns through her time in the Fire Nation that they value politeness and decorum in a way the other three nations don’t. She manages to offend several different people, even with Rangi trying to help her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kuruk, though the jerk part is pushing it. Kuruk spent a good chunk of his time as Avatar hunting dark spirits that were trying to kill humans, and killing all those spirits left him with damage to his soul. His hedonistic frat boy days was basically him self-medicating because there was no other cure, believing himself a failure who murdered sacred beings, failed at his duties, and disappointed his friends, who incidentally knew nothing about the 'dark spirit hunting' due to Kuruk wanting to keep them safe, and only Nyahitha knowing the truth.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Several Earth Kingdom bureaucrats and sages, including Lu Beifong, refuse to help Kyoshi find Yun, as they prefer to sweep the whole embarrassing 'false Avatar' affair under the rug.
  • Mask Power: Kyoshi and Rangi realize in the final battle that Yun is thrashing them because they haven't "put on their faces," meaning their daofei makeup.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: This gets referenced when Yun kills Lu Beifong, since by the formalities of martial arts, Lu Beifong is considered Yun's master, since he trained Jianzhu and Jianzhu trained Yun.
  • Mercy Rewarded: In The Rise of Kyoshi, Kyoshi spared Governor Te Sihung's life on the condition that he improve himself as a governor. Here, it's shown he took her warning to heart and has improved living conditions in Zigan.
  • Mook Horror Show: The first part of the initial non-flashback chapter is from the POV of a teenage boy serving as low level muscle for a Triad that had taken over a cramped Kowloon Walled City analog in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se. Someone is coming to root them out, there is a feared assassin on the level above, he is part of a group guarding a chokepoint, and things end up going poorly.
    Mook: The Avatar protect me, Yangchen protect me!
    Kyoshi: Yangchen isn't here right now, I am.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Yangchen’s predecessor had never been named despite appearing twice throughout both shows. He’d been called “Avatar Jafar” due to his resemble to the villain of Aladdin but this book gives him the name Szeto.
  • Narnia Time: Time seems to work differently in the Spirit World. Yun has no idea how long his fight with Father Glowworm lasts and is shocked to learn he was in the Spirit World for a week. Kyoshi is also able to see Kuruk's whole backstory and travel to Glowworm's swamp, while no more than a few minutes could have passed in the physical world before she drowned.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Kyoshi's attempts to make up for her initial gaffe of mistaking Chaejin for Zoryu just end up making things worse, as it makes it appear to the Fire Nation that Zoryu can't fight his own battles.
  • No Hero to His Valet: In the Fire Nation, the hierarchy of the teacher/student relationship trumps any other. Since Hei-Ran taught bending to Fire Lord Zoryu, that gives her the right to tell her reigning monarch that he’s being an idiot. She treats him like she does Rangi and Kyoshi, very strict but coming from a place of love.
  • Not So Above It All: Kyoshi and Rangi are both very serious but they find it hilarious when Fire Lord Zoryu is just as intimidated by Hei-Ran as they are and she treats him no differently than she treats them.
  • Pet the Dog: Yun doesn't want to kill Kyoshi. He rightly says that she was innocent of what happened to him.
  • Physical Fitness Punishment: Rangi, as Kyoshi's firebending teacher, often punishes her by making her hold Horse Stance for several minutes.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Kyoshi gives a hell of a one-liner right before she kills Yun.
    Kyoshi: I'm sorry for saying you had to live with your pain. Because you won't.
  • Put on a Bus: Kelsang's Sky Bison Pengpeng is stated to have retired after her adventure with Kyoshi in the last book and is now taking care of some calves of her own. Now Kyoshi is using Jinpa's bison Yingyong as her mode of transportation.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Governor Te has improved in leaps and bounds since the last book, building schools and hospitals for his people that are free for the poorest citizens.
    • Fire Lord Zoryu is a bit weak, and overshadowed by his illegitimate half-brother Chaejin, but he wants what is best for his country and his people. Kyoshi sides with him over Chaejin when she notes that Chaejin barely notices when lower-class people are killed, and he has no plan for what to do after he gains the throne. Played with a bit when Zoryu ultimately decides to frame Chaejin for crimes he didn't commit to bring a swift end to the conflict; while that was a stroke of genius, it's also the tipping point where he has a choice to be a Reasonable Authority Figure or an Evil Overlord, starting with if he'll execute an entire clan for a crime he knows they didn't commit. He almost does it, but Lao Ge bluntly reminds him that Kyoshi is watching—and she's not going to bother with diplomacy next time.
  • Recognition Failure: Kyoshi mistakes Chaejin for Fire Lord Zoryu without knowing the family drama involved. Chaejin was invoking this (dressing as close to the Fire Lord as he could get away with and making sure to meet Kyoshi first) in order to discredit Zoryu as part of a long campaign of such insults.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Justified; Yun died because his so-called mentor left him to be taken by Father Glowworm, and drugged him and his best friend. He already avenged himself by killing Jianzhu but is furious that his teachers led him on about being the Avatar and then supposedly discarding him like trash, so he wants to ensure they pay for the lie, regardless of what they knew. As Kyoshi notes, however, it was a misunderstanding and if it were up to her and Kelsang, they would have saved Yun.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Yun aims to brutally kill everyone who 'lied' to him about his being the Avatar. Kyoshi slowly realizes that this means basically everyone he ever met. Except Kyoshi, who he calls the only innocent.
  • Shout-Out: The ship captain Joonho is probably named in reference to Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Most of the levity in the story comes from The Comically Serious Hei-Ran playing off of her Deadpan Snarker healer, Atuat.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: On the Avatar page.
  • Taking You with Me: When Yun slashes Hei-Ran's throat, she grabs him and throws a fireball at him to attempt to kill him back. Although neither actually dies.
  • Terror Hero: Kyoshi is a giant thug with both immense bending and physical power who does not do either subtle or diplomatic. Even when she does not consciously make use of intimidation she is frightening, and she consciously makes use of intimidation rather often.
  • Tragic Dream: Both Kyoshi and Rangi want Yun to come back and recapture the simpler moments of their earlier years with Rangi in particular mentioning at one point in the novel that she wants the three of them to return to the mansion in Yokoya and enjoy some of Auntie Mui's cooking again. By the end of the book it becomes clear that Yun is too far gone and his desire for revenge has made him too different from the boy they once knew forcing Kyoshi and Rangi to fight him to the death. After he dies they can only cry at the loss of their friend and what could have been.
  • Trash the Set: Jianzhu's mansion, which had been a major setting throughout the first book, is almost completely demolished in the Final Battle with Yun, symbolically closing the book on the days of Kyoshi's youth before she became the Avatar.
  • Turn in Your Badge: An aggressive version. When Kyoshi realizes all the lawmen she brought with her are corrupt and driving out innocents in order for their boss to gain control of the area, she collects their numbered headbands. Not only is this symbolic of revoking their authority, but she can use the headbands to look up their names and pursue further punishment if they try to make an issue of it.
  • Unable to Cry: After escaping the Spirit World, Yun has intense grief when he senses Kyoshi's Avatar spirit. He also happens to be dying of dehydration at the time, so he can't cry and is forced to bottle up his feelings. Unfortunately, this results in him expressing those feelings a little later in a much more devastating way.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Yangchen, despite her amazing reputation, ended up favoring humans moreso than spirits, which made many of them dark and violent in her time and into Kuruk's. Due to Kuruk's own depression and desire not to involve his friends, Kuruk would spend his life beating down and extinguishing spirits at the cost of his own life. Worse, the problem rears its head during Aang's time, with General Old Iron returning to destroy Cranefish Town, and would be present come Korra's time in which her uncle is able to find a way to pacify and purify dark spirits.
  • Villain Team-Up: By the midway point of the book Kyoshi believes that Yun and the Saowom clan are working together with the Saowon's sheltering Yun and providing him with the resources necessary for his revenge while Yun helps undermine Zoryu's rule and prop up Chaejin as a superior Fire Lord. Turns out though this is subverted; Yun is acting entirely on his own to hurt Zoryu because of his resentment towards his friend not needing him anymore and the Saowon are just using Yun's actions to push their own agenda forward, which Kyoshi realizes after she interrogates Chaejin and Huazo and finds out that they genuinely don't know where Yun is.
  • Was It All a Lie?: This is Yun's motivation. He lived and died for the lie that he was the Avatar, and his teacher left him to die upon realizing he was a fraud.
  • We Need a Distraction: Kyoshi realizes to her horror that the riot in North Chung-Ling is the perfect cover for Yun to try and assassinate Hei-Ran. Indeed the entire riot was just to keep Kyoshi and co distracted so Yun could complete his deed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lao Ge is notably absent when the Flying Opera Company returns. He shows up in the epilogue to threaten Zoryu on Kyoshi's behalf.
  • Where It All Began: The Final Battle in the series between Kyoshi, Rangi and Yun, takes place in Jianzhu's mansion in Yokoya where the three became friends and the books truly began.

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