The Sword of Kaigen — M.L. Wang

The Sword of Kaigen — M.L. Wang

The Sword of Kaigen has easily become one of my favorite books. I was instantly captivated from the opening chapters and did not want to put it down until the very end.

I think if I could have recorded my thought process while reading, it would have basically been “AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!” for like two thirds of it. The remaining one third would have been me, silently devastated at the emotional journey each character takes me on. This is a book that deals with different versions of forgiveness, both on personal and collective levels, which in turn requires different forms of strength. Some characters are (literally born to be) warriors who fight the enemy in open battle. Some characters struggle to make the best of a system that has doomed them from the start. Some characters have no skill in fighting, but are rocks when the time comes to rebuild. Reading about how each character used their strengths—as well as their weaknesses—was a highlight for me.

Because characters had such different strengths (and as such, ways of coping with the system they were born in), their ideas of forgiveness also varied wildly. People hurt each other over and over again, whether between nations or within families. Wars are waged, and family dynamics are unraveled. It may be hard to understand why, from my perspective (and forgive me for being vague), one character forgives another, but The Sword of Kaigen is ultimately about these characters’ journeys and what brings them peace in the end. And that’s what makes it beautiful, in my opinion.

Like let’s be real, I’d be down for bringing down the patriarchy, but I would also 1o0% be killed in that universe, lol. And let’s be even more real, in that society, I sure as hell wouldn’t try to bring it down singlehandedly, even as a powerful waterbender. Especially after all the other things Misaki had to deal with.

The worldbuilding is intense. You can tell which aspects of history influenced the main conflict, and it unravels beautifully throughout the book—not just through events, like full-scale war, but also via character thoughts and actions that are 100% in line with the ideals of that society. I learned more about the world through the character journeys than the history lessons, and I enjoyed them all.

I absolutely loved The Sword of Kaigen. I think it lives up to all the hype, ever, and if any of the above (or below, actually) appeals to you, definitely check it out!

Key words to help you decide: multiple POVs, military fantasy, waterbending, emotional gut punch, inverted history, warrior villages, badass female protagonist, mother protagonist, Japanese-inspired fantasy, elemental magic

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