Reviews: Somewhat belated thoughts on Megan Whalen Turner’s Return of the Thief and on Avatar: the Last Airbender

t's here! It's here! I read it! And it's every bit as good as I hoped and expected it to be.

"It", of course, is Megan Whalen Turner's series finale, Return of the Thief. Click on the book cover for a link to my Goodreads review!


Just a couple of things to add that I forgot to include in that review:
1. Megan's self-insert! At least, I'm pretty sure she gave herself a walk-on. Those who've read the book, what do you think?
2. Ohmygosh, that direct quotation from Henry V! Very appropriate, and very, very clever.

As I said on Goodreads, I could envision a reader starting with this final book and liking it a lot, but you'd gain so much if you read the previous books first. In fact, I think I'm going to reread them all in order before tackling Return of the Thief a second time. And all of Megan Whalen Turner's books need to be read twice, at least.

Part Two: Avatar: the Last Airbender

The short version here is: R.J., you were right. This is a terrific show.
The slightly longer one is: Prince Zuko, you have given me a logline for querying my book. Here it is: Prince Zuko meets Katniss Everdeen when 16-year-old Kiril risks family, life, and honor to save his little half-brother from slavery.

The characters differ in some fundamental ways, obviously, and so do their stories. But the similarities are actually startling to me. Here we go:

Honor cover experiment

(Little Kiril, at about 12 or 13)

Both boys are sixteen. Both are expert swordsmen. Both are burdened by the expectation they will head their families (that's a much bigger burden for the Prince because, as he himself says, his family is seriously messed up.) And both betray/deeply disappoint family members who are dear to them. Finally, both boys are serious--neither has an especially strong sense of humor.

Kiril is a farmer, and a steady, thoughtful person. He does have flashes of Zuko's temper and pride, but these are not as much of a temptation to him as they are to the other boy. And Zuko's betrayals have very different motives than Kiril's. He has actually served, and done, evil, in trying to please his genocidal father and regain his honor. Kiril, on the other hand, is driven by the desire to save a child's life.

So their arcs are really quite different, in spite of the similarities above. I agree with Mark (google "Mark watches Avatar"!) that Zuko has possibly the best, and best-written, redemption arc I've ever seen.

But enough on this compare and contrast! Back to Avatar! Because Zuko isn't the only character with a redemption arc. Uncle Iroh is absolutely the best. And he, too, changes from a warrior serving a genocidal master to a man of true peace. Then there are the other kids. Aang, the avatar, is a genuinely sweet, open child. He's delightful. And Toph, also only 12, is pretty amazing, too--how could I have forgotten her? Born blind, the little girl has her own way of seeing the world, and what a way it is! Katara is a strong and admirable young woman, and her brother grew on me. I ended up liking him a lot--he's funny, loyal, and smart, but still a kid, and sometimes more than a little goofy.

I really enjoyed hanging out with these characters over three months. I loved the writing of the show, the beautiful colors the animators used, the moral questions the show dealt with so thoughtfully, and the heart and humor. Also, in spite of some tragedies, the show is hopeful. Good can prevail; people can change for the better and work with each other to create a better world. How we need that message right now.