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Well, I am speechless….
The Sword of Kaigen has officially earned five stars from me for its amazing storyline and wonderful characters. This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down. I honestly thought nothing could live up to my love for The Poppy War but here we are. There are no words to describe how much I love The Sword of Kaigen but I shall attempt to!
THE SWORD OF KAIGEN BY M.L. WANG
A Theonite War Story
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.
I received a free copy of THE SWORD OF KAIGEN from the author, M.L. Wang, in exchange for my participation in the blog tour. Thank you to Karina from Afire Pages for hosting the blog tour. However, this did not influence my review in any way.
My expectations for The Sword of Kaigen were surpassed the moment this fantasy tome fell into my lap. I first came across this book when I read Novel Notions’ review and coming off of my high of The Poppy War, I was quick to snatch up this book.
From the beginning, The Sword of Kaigen caught my attention. The storyline is set during a time when tradition and modernity technology existed though not quite closely. The region of our story is Kaigen where traditions run deep and bloodlines were revered. It is a small province that is home to reputable warrior houses and powerful theonites. Theonites are being who can manipulate either air, water, or fire similar to the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The flow of magic in the book was beautifully described in such a way that it was vivid and almost realistic.
“His nyama was churning, all that terrifying power he had inherited from his father writhing like a knotted serpent trying to free itself from its own coils, strangling and biting itself in confusion. Her boy was in agony.”
I adore the style of writing in fantasy wherein authors bring life to their magic system; wherein they describe how it feels to hold such power, the tolls it can even have on a person, and how it interacts with the non-magical elements.
The Sword of Kaigen was utterly addictive. I would describe the book as a quiet fantasy in spite of the war and the deadly propagandas because it delves deeply into its characters.
Matsuda Mamoru was internally conflicted regarding the propaganda his Empire was feeding its people. He was raised on the ideals of being a loyal warrior to his nation but when certain facts are brought up, Mamoru begins to question his beliefs. Mamoru’s development from blind loyalty to protector was a turning point for many characters in the book. I’d like to believe that Mamoru is someone we all could be – a person who is not only loyal to his people but a seeker of the truth. Although he, at first, denies the facts, Mamoru shows bravery began not when he fought the Rangenese, or when he stood up to his father, but when he began to let go of his pride and fully realize the dangers of propaganda.
Mamoru’s mother Misaki could ask for my heart and I would readily hand it to her. My heart broke and healed for this woman. To be honest, I was emotionally invested in Misaki. Misaki as a parent was protective, loving, and somehow afraid. She was afraid that she would not be enough for her children, that her violent past would ruin her children’s future. As a wife, she was obedient and quiet; her marriage to Takeru is a silent winter. Yet it is also one of the best redeeming arcs I’ve read. Misaki’s development was birthed from pain as well as love.
“Wholeness, she had learned, was not the absence of pain but the ability to hold it.”
Another theme that The Sword of Kaigen brings to light is the cycle of abuse which we see in Takeru. Matsuda Takeru had endured abuse at the hands of his father to a point that his relationship with his wife is cold and distant. Their relationship withered and was neglected until the terror of war pushed them to face their failings. While I disliked Takeru in the beginning, his character redemption was very well written. Through him, M.L. Wang shows readers the long term effects of child abuse and its impact on the next generation.
The worldbuilding in The Sword of Kaigen is one I would definitely love to read more about. Technology like video games, wireless internet, televisions, and communication devices are a norm in the more developed provinces and exist along with the raw power of the magic systems. I also have to mention the friendships that The Sword of Kaigen portrays! This book is my favorite when it comes to fighting scenes for the details the author puts into each move, in fact, The Sword of Kaigen probably has my most favourite duel. My heart was in my throat the entire time I read that scene and it it was also a pivotal moment in the book.
I ached at the tragedy in this book but, oh my god, The Sword of Kaigen is amazing! It’s the kind of book that I want to shove into every fantasy reader’s hands. The Sword of Kaigen was memorable and as a writer, there were so many points I could take away from the book. Please, do pick up this book because it WILL hurt you but you will be the better for it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
M. L. Wang was born in Wisconsin in 1992, decided she wanted to be an author at the age of nine, and never grew up. She got her Bachelor of Arts in history in 2015 and currently works at a martial arts school in her home city of Madison.
When she isn’t building worlds on the page, she builds them in her aquarium full of small, smart fish that love to explore castles and don’t make noise during writing time.
🌺 Have you read The Sword of Kaigen?
🌺 Who is your favourite character?
🌺 If you haven’t read it, which element would you like to control?
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