The Sword of Kaigen

About my upcoming novel – The Sword of Kaigen

Hello Dear Readers! M. L. Wang here. With The Sword of Kaigen coming out in two weeks, I wanted to ramble a bit about the setting, characters, magic system, and the general experience of writing a 600-page fantasy.

The Setting

While I went to extreme, conscious lengths to research to the West African cultures that inspired the Yammankalu of the main Theonite Series (2016), that was not the case with this project. The knowledge of Japanese culture that I used to enrich The Sword of Kaigen is something that just happened to me.

My high school didn’t offer Mandarin, so I took Japanese. There was no martial arts club after school, so I took Okinawan drumming. There was no traditional Chinese martial arts school in my city, so I took karate (and taekwondo, which is Korean, but you get the idea). The kids in my high school Japanese class introduced me to anime, my Japanese teacher convinced me to study abroad in Japan, and my drumming group later had my family host several Japanese students. My college had limited African history and literature courses, so I took lots of East Asian-focused courses (again, lots of Japan). You get the idea.

It was satisfying and cathartic to pour all that knowledge into creating a vivid little corner of my universe. However, the act of replicating cultural markers on the page is more of a ‘hey, look at what I know!’ ego-stroke than interesting world-building. By far the most interesting element of the setting was the way in which the Japanese-inspired culture of our main characters interacted with an African-dominated world.

The Characters

The Sword of Kaigen focuses on a mother and son. As we watch each of them grow individually, we also watch them grow closer to each other, and subsequently, to their other family members.

At thirty-four, Misaki is the oldest protagonist I’ve ever written. I won’t go into all the twisted complexities of her character here, but suffice it to say that writing adult angst was a hugely rewarding change from the preteen-to-early-twenties angst that has dominated my work until now.

Mamoru has the restless energy of a typical Western fantasy protagonist, but it was interesting to explore how that would manifest in a confining culture steeped in misguided nationalism. The thing I’ll miss most about writing Mamoru is his enthusiastic engagement with his powers. Our young swordsman boasts as much inherited power as any of the Theonite protagonists but he is more talented (sorry, Daniel), better trained, and brought up in an environment that has pushed his abilities forward instead of holding them back. This gave me the freedom to have him go big, fall hard, and learn fast – a delightful experience I never had with any protagonist before him. Which leads me nicely to our next subheading…

The Magic

This is where SoK got really exciting. As much as I love the main Theonite Series, its heroes are comparatively inept with their powers. If Joan of Theonite gives us the first bumbling first steps into our magic system, the protagonists of The Sword of Kaigen are masters of it. In them, we get to see one particular type of theonite power (that being jiya, the ability to control water and ice) taken to its most intimate and spectacular extremes.

The protagonists of SoK have had decades to fall down, pick themselves up, hone their senses, expand their scope, and work out complex techniques. Where Theonite: Planet Adyn and Orbit are about discovery, The Sword of Kaigen is about the pushing the limits of theonite capability, literally straining the delineation between humanity and godhood. Anything I could dream in water, blood, or ice ended up on the battlefield in this novel (well… with the exception of one or two things I’m saving for later. I decided to wait on the ice shuriken).

I could not have had more fun in this cold and deadly playground.

The Themes

Despite the fun of so much magic and martial arts, I have to confess that The Sword of Kaigen was an emotionally taxing story to write. More often than not, working on it left my stomach in knots and my heart in ruins. Of course, there is an extent to which a work reflects its creator’s mental state, but I’m certain that working on SoK made what was already a difficult year for me that much colder.

The Sword of Kaigen is not a feel-good story with clear antagonists, pure heroes, and easy answers. Instead, it explores the complexities of war – how the individual has to reconcile the flaws in their own culture with still being a part of it, how loss affects communities, families, and individuals. On a personal level, The Sword of Kaigen is about taking responsibility for your own life, facing regret, and surmounting tragedy.

Goodness isn’t embodied here by a nation, a culture, or a political ideology. We forget sometimes that there is powerful good in doing right by the people in your life, and that heroism starts with being good to the people who need you.

For all their godlike powers, no individual in SoK leads a revolution, saves the world, or topples an empire. Their biggest failures and triumphs are not ion the battlefield but in the stillness between each other – in words unspoken, in short touches and glances, and all the small, human things that make them real.

The Sword of Kaigen comes out February 19, 2019.

SoK Sample Chapters / SoK on Amazon / SoK on Goodreads / SoK Artwork

Early Reviews: Novel NotionsBlue InkKirkus

The Sword of Kaigen Pre-order & Swag!

For a limited time, my Japanese-inspired military fantasy novel, The Sword of Kaigen, is available for pre-order for only 0.99 on Amazon! Not only that, if you email your pre-order receipt to, along with a complete mailing address, you can get the awesome swag pack pictured below!

Pre-order The Sword of Kaigen (currently only 0.99) and submit your receipt to, along with a complete mailing address, to get your reader swag pack!

All entrants will receive:

  • A signed author letter
  • A bookmark
  • A sticker
  • A random art print from one of the awesome artists I’ve commissioned (so far, these include @tuffuny@merwild and @taratjah, though there may be more by the time the swag packs ship).

10 random pre-orders will receive all of the above + ALL art prints & 2 character stickers by @taratjah​.

1 grand prize winner will receive ALL of the above + 1 signed paperback.


If you’re curious about the artwork that might appear on prints and character stickers in your swag pack, here is the artwork by Coralie Jubenot (@merwild)…

And here we have artwork by Tara Spruit (@taratjah)…

And by Tiffany Jones (@tuffuny) (click to view full images)…

If you’re unfamiliar with The Sword of Kaigen, you can read sample chapters here!

25 Asian-Inspired Fantasy Books

Hello Dear Readers!

With The Sword of Kaigen, coming out in early 2019, I thought I would put together a list of East Asian fantasy books to get everyone in the mood. Since The Sword of Kaigen has its toes in a few different genres, I’ve been careful to include a diverse spread in this list – YA & adult, urban & epic, wuxia & steampunk, popular & little-known… There should be an Asian fantasy here for everyone!

And be sure to read to the end for the really exciting news (SPOILER ALERT: there’s a giveaway!)

1) The Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

An energetic high fantasy adventure, overflowing with Japanese folklore, from dragons, to yokai, to samurai.

2) Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

A military fantasy that draws on the warfare and cultural customs of Tang Dynasty China, lauded for its richly detailed politics and world-building.

3) In the Vanisher’s Palaceby Aliette de Bodard

In the Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard

A post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast between a human woman and a female dragon, inspired by Vietnamese mythology.

4) The Emperor’s Soul , by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

An epic fantasy featuring the politics, philosophy, and complex magic for which Sanderson is known and loved.

5) Ten Thousand Thorns, by Suzannah Rowntree

Ten Thousand Thorns by Suzannah Rowntree

A martial arts retelling of Sleeping Beauty, inspired by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (wherein ‘Beauty’ isn’t a slumbering damsel, but a swordswoman in a state of deep meditation).

6) Girls of Paper and Fire, by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

A sapphic fantasy about forbidden romance blossoming in a dark world of opulence and oppression, featuring world-building that draws on a blend of various Asian cultures.

7) Blade’s Edge, by Virginia McClain

Blades Edge by Virginia McClain

This sword & sorcery story of prejudice, adventure, and rebellion, follows two female protagonists with elemental powers.

8) The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

A sci-fi/fantasy novella of magic, machines, and politics that follows a pair of twins with prophetic abilities.

9) The Secrets of Jin-shei , by Alma Alexander

The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander

A complex political fantasy about a sisterhood of women negotiating power in a setting inspired by Imperial China.

10) Empress of All Seasons, by Emiko Jean

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

This Japanese-inspired young adult fantasy follows a half-yokai, half-human outcast in her quest to become empress, while concealing her demon half from the world.

11) The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War by RF Kuang

A bloody military fantasy inspired by twentieth-century China and the Opium Wars (but with magic).

12) The Girl with Ghost Eyes, by M.H. Boroson

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson

This nineteenth-century urban fantasy follows a Daoist exorcist through the streets of a San Francisco Chinatown full of martial arts and sorcery.

13) Huntress, by Malinda Lo

Huntress by Malinda Lo

A Chinese-inspired fantasy adventure featuring a love story between a pair of young warrior women.

14) Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Clockwork machines clash with ancient creatures of myth in a dystopian steampunk take on feudal Japan.

15) Songs of Insurrection, by JC Kang

Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang

A story of myth, music, and dragons populated by colorful characters on a quest to recover a lost magic and save the world.

16) Jade City, by Fonda Lee

Jade City by Fonda Lee

This martial fantasy thriller follows the violence and intrigue of gangster families grappling for power and resources in a Chinese-inspired city.

17) A Mortal Song , by Megan Crewe

A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

A human girl discovers that she was switched at birth with a spirit in this young adult fantasy, set in a version of contemporary Japan where humans coexist with the monsters and spirits of mythology.

18) Nightblade, by Ryan Kirk

Nightblade by Ryan Kirk

A coming-of-age action/adventure story of warriors and assassins coming together in the midst of a kingdom in turmoil.

19) The Priestess and the Dragon, by Nicolette Andrews

The Priestess and the Dragon by Nicolette Andrews

As I understand it, Inuyasha… but with a dragon. Hot damn.

20) Spinning Silk, by T. Cook

Spinning Silk by T Cook

A historical fantasy story of spirits, love, and politics that draws on the author’s extensive knowledge of Japanese folklore and language.

21) Book of Immortals: Disciple, by Kassandra Lynn

Book of Immortals Disciple by Kassandra Lynn

An ordinary woman falls into a sword & sorcery novel (as the antagonist!) and has to find a way to save the story in this Chinese-inspired wuxia fantasy.

22) Across the Nightingale Floor, by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

A martial arts tale of lords and assassins, set in a mystical reimagining of feudal Japan.

23) For a Muse of Fire, by Heidi Heilig

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

A young adult fantasy featuring pirates and a shadow puppeteer with the ability to see spirits, set in a world that incorporates elements of French colonialism alongside Asian culture.

24) Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

This Chinese-inspired dark fantasy reimagines the story of Snow White’s Evil Queen.

25) Gunpowder Alchemyby Jeannie Lin

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin

A family drama and adventure set against a steampunk version of the Opium Wars between China’s Qing Dynasty and the British Empire.

The Sword of Kaigen, by M. L. Wang

The Sword of Kaigen by ML Wang

Okay, I realize that this technically makes twenty-six, but I have to tell you a bit about The Sword of Kaigen, coming February 19th of 2019!

If you enjoy any of the books listed above, you’ll want to check out this epic military fantasywhich follows a family of ice-elemental samurai struggling to overcome their differences before invaders reach their peninsula.

And here’s the really fun part: as part of The Sword of Kaigen’s launch, I am hosting a giveaway featuring ALL of the books listed above!

To enter, all you have to do is join my Sword of Kaigen mailing list, through which you will also gain access to SoK discounts & pre-order swag (including bookmarks, stickers & art prints).

Enter to win your choice of the 25 books above!

5 winners will get to choose any book they want from my list of Asian fantasy books (sequels & prequels to listed books eligible upon request). Entry open until February 18th, 2019.

Good luck!

And in the meantime, don’t forget to add The Sword of Kaigen on Goodreads!

The Sword of Kaigen Updates – Now on Goodreads!

Hello Dear Readers!

M. L. Wang here with some quick SoK updates.

First, I’m delighted to let you all know that The Sword of Kaigen is now on Goodreads! If you use Goodreads, be sure to add it to your ‘to-read’ shelf and vote for it on the ‘Fantasy Releases of February 2019,’ ‘Asian Fantasy & Science Fiction,’ and ‘Can’t Wait Books of 2019‘ lists.

Next, I want to share some photos of the first proof copy of The Sword of Kaigen, which arrived in the mail yesterday.

There’s still a lot of tweaking I want to do, but I can now confidently say that these books are going to look fantastic! (Kudos to the printing service for finally figuring out how to render a cover image without doing all kinds of weird things to the saturation; that’s new)

Last, here are some photos of the first set of SoK art prints to arrive. Apologies for the lousy lighting. The sun was gone. (Art by Coralie Jubénot, printed with permission)

These prints will eventually be part of prize packages in my SoK pre-order giveaway.

Follow this blog or subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on SoK giveaways and pre-order rewards, including your chance to get one of these prints!

The Sword of Kaigen RELEASE DATE!

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m delighted to let you know that The Sword of Kaigen finally has its release date! Ebook and paperback versions will go live on Amazon February 19th, 2019!

SoK Promo Image 1.jpg

Subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date on all things SoK, from ARC availability, to giveaways, to pre-order rewards!


A mother struggling to repress her violent past,
A son struggling to grasp his violent future,
A father refusing to acknowledge the danger that threatens them all.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family be able to stand against it? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

Reasons to read The Sword of Kaigen:

  • Elemental superpowers
  • Rich Japanese, Chinese, and African based world-building
  • Tragedy
  • Heartbreak
  • A core cast comprised entirely of characters of color
  • Ice katanas
  • Superpowered battle

Read a more complete summary of The Sword of Kaigen here