“A student like you, who can absorb what he is told but also think beyond it, is capable of anything.”M.L. Wang, The Sword of Kaigen
In January, I picked up The Sword of Kaigen as part of a buddy read on Instagram. I’ll even admit I considered not reading it just before January started…. But I am glad I decided to pick this up. The Sword of Kaigen is a standalone fantasy novel written by indie author M.L. Wang. She has also written two other stories – Theonite: Planet Adyn and Theonite: Orbit – which are in this universe and take place at a different time. This review of The Sword of Kaigen will be spoiler free. Let’s jump into the review!
The Sword of Kaigen is a Eastern Asian inspired story about politics, propaganda and survival. We follow the story of Misaka and her 14 year old son Mamora. Misaka is a mother married to Takeru, a master of the whispering blade. She left her adventurous life to settle down and raise a family. When trouble arises, she has to draw from her past to protect her family. Mamora is training at the school when he meets a transfer student and everything he thought he knew about the world changes. It forces Mamora to question what he’s believed in.
“A life of dangerous adventures might seem worth it now, when you are young and seemingly invincible, but one day you will have children, and you will not want that life for them.”M.L. Wang, The Sword of Kaigen
I wasn’t quite sure where this story was going at first. I liked how the story unfolded from Mamora’s eye in the first half of the story. It set the tone of the story quite well. I also felt Mamora was an interesting character. I was drawn to his drive, passion and a sense of duty. I think Misaka surprised me the most. I found myself so intrigued by her character the more I read from her point of view. Her story was told through both flashbacks/memories and present day happenings. I felt the transition between present and past was a bit rough at first but the story that was told in the past gave her great character depth and growth.
The story pace was excellent. There were a few slow portions of the story but when the action started…. wow this story was off it’s rails. About 30% in and I was fully invested and on the edge of my seat. The climax of the story happens around the 70% mark and it does not disappoint. This left for a longer falling action which I’m not used to reading a sereis like the Wheel of Time and the rising action is long and the climax and falling action happen so fast. But M.L. Wang crafts a well thought out ending that wraps up everything to a “T”. My old complaint is I wish there was a sequel! I just want to keep reading and see where their story goes from here! I felt so invested in this wonderful story! ….And Chapter 27…. If you don’t know or haven’t read this yet…. all I have to say is WOW!
I had so many emotions while reading this story. There were moments I felt like crying or was angry and wanted to throw my book across the room. Other times I was straight up laughing. The rollercoaster of emotions I felt in this story surprised me but added so much more depth. Writing emotion is one of M.L. Wang’s greatest strengths.
“But if I learned one thing from Firebird, it’s that a person’s tragedy doesn’t define them or cancel all the good in their life.”M.L. Wang, The Sword of Kaigen
I enjoyed this avatar-esque magic system. One thing I felt this story succeeded with was power scaling in the magic system. I feel like I struggle with many stories with teens because usually young inexperienced characters quickly learn and master techniques that adults spend years learning and mastering. M.L. Wang could have easily made Mamora a god but I appreciated how M.L Wang managed the power scaling throughout the story. I loved the additional powers/abilities certain families had. The Whispering Blade and Blood Manipulation were rather intriguing and add more variation to combat then just manipulating water, air and earth.
I am extremely happy I decided to read The Sword of Kaigen. This is an early forerunner for Book of the Year for me. This was one of the easiest books to give 5 stars. I haven’t read a book recently that has drawn so many raw emotions from me. Beyond just the emotion I felt, I enjoyed the amazing character development. Every character went through a life changing journey. I can’t stress enough how great this story is. I highly recommend reading The Sword of Kaigen.