She had taken every hardship like a stroke of a hammer, turning it into strength.
Hello, friends! First of all, I am so sorry for my inactivity these past few days. I want to reply to comments and write posts, but school is sucking all the time and energy away from me.
I also haven’t blog hopped in what feels like forever, and I feel bad. I’ve been reading a few posts here and there, but I never have the time to comment, even though I really want to. And I know that it isn’t a big deal at all, but I do feel slightly guilty about it, and I feel like I owe you guys an explanation!
Second of all, welcome to my stop on the #TheSwordofKaigenBlogTour! This tour is hosted by Karina @ Afire Pages, in partnership with SoK’s author, M.L. Wang. Read on the find out all my thoughts on this underrated gem!
The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
Published February 19, 2019 by M.L. Wang
Adult high fantasy
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.
Content Warningssexual assault, graphic violence, war themes, death of a loved one, emotional and physical abuse, suicide
You learn over time that the world isn’t broken. It’s just…got more pieces to it than you thought. They all fit together, just maybe not the way you pictured when you were young.
The Sword of Kaigen follows the Matsuda family, mainly, Misaki Tsusano-Matsuda, her husband, Takeru, and Mamoru, their eldest son. The Matsudas reside in Kusanagi, a peninsula found in the Kaigenese empire. Because Kusanagi is home to many powerful warrior bloodlines, Matsuda being the most powerful one, Kusanagi is nicknamed “The Sword of Kaigen.”
In The Sword of Kaigen, we come to learn that the Kaigenese Empire has been feeding lies to the natives of Kusanagi. The neighboring Ranganese Union isn’t as weak as their history lessons and the Empire’s propaganda tell them, and this book follows what happens when the Ranganese Union launches a brutal attack on the Sword of Kaigen.
➣ You can tell just how much effort was put into the world-building. What’s so interesting to me is that Planet Duna, where this book takes place, is an African-centric world, where white people are the marginalized ones. The author beautifully explains why they chose to write Duna as a juxtaposition to our world here. Additionally, the many, many fictional cultures and languages mentioned in this book are inspired by ones that exist in our world, and the author is very faithful in representing them. I’m amazed at how much research creating Planet Duna must’ve took.
➣ Misaki was an amazing protagonist to follow. More often than not, mothers in books are dead or relegated to the sidelines, so I appreciated that M.L. Wang chose to write a book centered on one. I empathized with everything Misaki gave up to become a mother, and I loved her quiet strength. Her journey is truly heartbreaking because of the misogyny, heartbreak, and tough decisions she had to face, but it was empowering to see her come out stronger in the end. Misaki Tsusano-Matsuda is now one of my all time favorite female characters.
➣ The Kaigenese Empire reflects many real-life governments. The Empire takes advantage of the rural Kusanagi peninsula’s old-fashioned ways to feed its natives lies and propaganda. And what saddens me the most is that this fictional government calls to mind a lot of real-life ones.
➣ The fight scenes are AMAZING. The fight scenes in The Sword of Kaigen call to mind anime battles, and if you know anything about anime battles, you know they’re epic. The people of Kusanagi are well-versed in swordplay and martial arts. They also have the ability to control water and ice. The characters are never given an easy way out in the fight scenes, and you’re guaranteed to be on the edge of your seat while reading them. To read more about how M.L. Wang writes fight scenes, read this guest post.
➢ It was hard for me to get into the book at first. If you’re new to the fantasy genre, I wouldn’t recommend reading The Sword of Kaigen. It immediately throws you into the world and chucks foreign terms at you without explaining them. But I think that the author didn’t take much time to ease us into the world because this isn’t their first book set in it.
➢ I couldn’t connect with most of the characters. This may be because I’m a character-driven reader and this book is very much a plot-driven one. But I wasn’t rooting for any of the characters besides Misaki. Also, I found most of the side characters two-dimensional.
I had a few quibbles with The Sword of Kaigen, but I feel like those were more “me” things than actual faults committed by the book. I seem to be in the minority who didn’t rate it 5 stars too. If you’re looking to support more self-published books and/or Asian-inspired fantasies by Asian authors, look no further!
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.
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I hope you enjoyed reading my review and that it convinced you to pick The Sword of Kaigen up, because you really should! Thank you again to Karina for organizing this blog tour! Make sure to check out everyone else’s stops for reviews, guest posts by M.L. Wang, quizzes, creative posts, and more!