The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Series: Theonite stand alone Rating: 5/5
Date of Publishing: February 19th 2019 Genre: fantasy
Publisher: self-published Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 558 Author’s website: https://mlwangbooks.com/

Quote of the Book

“The full power of the Matsuda line surged into motion as Uncle Takashi took hold of what remained of Yukino Sensei’s barrier and turned it into water. Tou-sama followed, lacing is brother’s stream with ice, forming scales as hard as steel and spines as sharp as swords. Uncle Takashi’s fury intertwined with Tou-sama’s cold precision to form a new creature, long enough to cover half the pass. It was the teeth of winter. It was poetry. It was God in water. The Matusuda Dragon reared up to tower over its enemies, ice shard eyes flashing with power beyond simple jiya. It gnashed its teeth, and the sound of its several thousand scales shifting against one another produced a hungry hiss.”

Blurb

A mother struggling to repress her violent past,
A son struggling to grasp his violent future,
A father blind to the danger that threatens them all.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

High on a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

Personal notes

I picked up the first book in the Theonite: Planet Adyn series before I even finished this one.

Song of the Book

Misaki’s character called for a song that is about never giving up.

Review

Sometimes when I am about half-way through a book and I am reading something as powerful and impressive as this was, I have a fairly good idea what my review is going to be about. And at that half-way point, I did think I was going to write about the world building, and characterizations, magic and everything else that I found to be notable about this story.

But, then I read the last half, and I can say that since reading Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass a few years back – I haven’t been so affected by a story as I was by this one, or so emotionally invested in characters as these, that I cried through a good twenty percent of this book.

See, I was expecting a regular epic-style fantasy, and when we had that amazing battle midway through, all I could think was holy crap, how is the author going to top this? And where can this possibly go from here with so many pages left? What I didn’t realize was, that the incredibly intense first half of the book, was only part of the story and not even the best part.

So, this stand-alone book works to set-up a little history of a country, and way of life of a people for a later series. While the front-half gives us this incredible world, people, and epic scale battle, the back-half deals with the aftermath, and is about a community finding strength to survive events that are just too horrifying to even imagine – surviving loss of everything from your loved ones to your home and livelihood. It’s about rebuilding and finding hope in each other, and coming together as people. But, at the core of all of that was Misaki, and even though it was filled with a community of people that were just as full of life as her, this was really her story.

Misaki was the heart of this book. She is a mother and wife, coming to terms with a life that maybe didn’t quite go the way she expected. Her story is about healing, regrets, grief, and feeling like you have no voice but also being scared to have one. And just as importantly, it’s about being responsible for your own happiness.

Misaki’s journey is raw and painful but it’s also fulfilling and beautiful. As a mother, daughter and wife – her every fear, joy, and regret, resonated with me, and I applaud her characterisation. Without her this would have been a great book with some very cool fight scenes (I’m still in awe over the Matsuda brother’s Ice Dragon) and a good solid base for a later series. With her though – it became an outstanding piece of storytelling that needs to be experienced, and one that is going to stick with me for a long time.

Other Notes and small criticisms  

Even with the huge amount of subtitled stuff I watch, which most of it is tv and film (where they sometimes tend to drop/change this sort of thing in favor of digestibility) and not print, it took me a while to keep the honorifics straight in my head. Particularly when there were a lot of different characters addressing one character. Misaki for instance, who is an elder, mother, and/or respected member of the community, has a different honor appropriate for each title depending on who is addressing her.

There was a handy dandy glossary at the back of the book, which I did use once at the beginning, but kindle makes these things not the funniest things to flip back and forth between, so I rarely end up using them once I get going, and just rely on my bad memory for the rest of the book. Making this quibble more my problem than the authors’. Hey, I had to think of something to criticize.

The ending – while I did like it giving Misaki a little closure, and setting up stuff for later books, I also felt it could have been trimmed a lot. At that point, I was happy with her present and didn’t want her past to interfere with the contentment she was beginning to find.

This review was written by Jennifer (BunnyReads)

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