Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Shadow of Kyoshi

Abrams. Jul. 2019. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419735059.
Gr 7 Up–Recently established as the Avatar, Kyoshi finds herself caught up in political power plays. While attempting to prevent a clan struggle from undercutting the vulnerable reign of the young Fire Lord, Kyoshi discovers that her friend Yun, thought devoured by a malevolent spirit, may have returned as a possessed, dangerous wild-card. Yee continues to explore the complexities of the fantastical Asian world underlying the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon series. The themes of revenge and the cost of violence return as well, and the book begins with horror and fear and further reinforces just how brutal control of the elements could be on the comparatively frail human form. These make for good stakes and keep Kyoshi relatable despite her almost deific potential. Ultimately, the book is about how being perceived as a godhead doesn’t stop one from being human, nor does it prevent either making or inheriting mistakes. The payoffs are emotional and effective, but leave the plot, character threads, and the larger setting still in flux. More jumbled than the previous volume, and more weighted down with its continuity, this doesn’t read as cleanly as its predecessor, but its themes are more complicated and don’t deserve pat answers.
VERDICT Fans of the previous book will enjoy the expansion of the reality of the Avatar world, but recent converts to the cartoon should be wary of the escalated mortal stakes and resistance to moral absolutes.

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