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

Book Giveaway! #Indiecember Reading Challenge

Hello Dear Readers!

M. L. Wang here to let you know that this month, I will be donating 10 signed copies of  Theonite:Planet Adyn to the giveaway for Megan Tennant’s Indiecember Reading Challenge!

To find out how to win one of these copies, as well as other indie books, goodies and gift cards, you can watch Megan Tennant’s Indiecember video or read more about the challenge on this page!

If you review Theonite for the challenge, it can be used to mark off the ‘PoC Author,’ ‘LGBTQ Author,’ ‘SciFi,’ ‘Fantasy,’ ‘Authortuber’ or ‘40-60 Review’ squares on the board.

Also keep in mind that through the month of December, 50% of all royalties from my Theonite books will go to charity! 

(More on my December charity month in this post)

It’s Charity Month Again! Buy a Book to Fight Malaria!

Through the month of December, 50% of my royalties will go to the Against Malaria Foundation!

For newcomers to this site who aren’t awaremy Theonite Series is a YA story in which a team of super-powered misfits fight crime in an African-dominated parallel universe. The world-building of Theonite is heavily based on West African culture (specifically that of the Mande of Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone and several neighboring countries). From the magic system, to the languages, to the themes of colonialism, my work owes a lot to West African history and culture. This month, I want to give something back, in the form of donations to a charity that helps save lives throughout Africa (including some of the aforementioned countries).

So, to support African-based fantasy as well as real life African people, pick up a digital or paperback copy of a Theonite book now!

My goal is to reach $200 dollars in donations for the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), a charity that works to distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets in areas affected by malaria. 

In the spirit of transparency (for which AMF is applauded), the following is a breakdown of how much will be donated for each purchase:

(Scroll down for international purchasing links – donations will be applied for all Amazon marketplaces)

If you have any interest in YA sci-fi/fantasy, or know someone who might like these books as a holiday gift, now is the time to get them! If Theonite doesn’t seem like your thing, I strongly encourage you to make a direct donation through AMF’s website.

If you are an author interested in donating a percentage of your royalties to AMF or any other charity this December, respond here or make a post about it with the tag #AuthorsAgainstAffliction and I will promote your book in my December newsletter!

Thank you and happy December!

International Purchasing Links:

USABook 1 | Book 2
AustraliaBook 1 | Book 2
UKBook 1 | Book 2
BrazilBook 1 | Book 2
CanadaBook 1 | Book 2 
China:  Book 1
FranceBook 1 | Book 2
GermanyBook 1 | Book 2
IndiaBook 1 | Book 2
ItalyBook 1 | Book 2
JapanBook 1 | Book 2
MexicoBook 1 | Book 2
NetherlandsBook 1 | Book 2
SpainBook 1 | Book 2 

#AuthorsAgainstAffliction – a chance for authors and readers to support charity through their love of books!

M. L. Wang here, author of the Theonite Series. Last year, I donated 100% of my December royalties to charity (specifically the Against Malaria Foundation) and ended up selling triple the number of books I had in previous months.

Since I am relying more heavily on my books for income this year (last year I worked a full-time job and wrote on the side), I will be donating 50% of my royalties this December. On the other hand, my book sales have been much better this year and I fully expect to exceed last year’s donation amount on that 50%.

This year, I also wanted to invite other authors to participate with me, using the tag #AuthorsAgainstAffliction (I know it doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I needed something general enough to cover everyone’s charity of choice and I like alliteration, sue me).

How it works:

If you are an author and want to participate, you can make a social media post or video including the following:

  • Name of the charity you will be supporting this December (if you’re undecided, I recommend checking out GiveWell.org for a list of the most transparent and effective charities currently accepting donations)
  • Percent of your royalties you plan to donate, bearing in mind that any amount helps.
  • Titles of your published book(s) and where we can find them! (I also include a breakdown of how much I’ll be donating per title in each format, though this is optional)

Tag your post #AuthorsAgainstAffliction and I will share it to support your work!

In December, I will compile a list of all participating authors and share it via my author newsletter and all my social media channels to encourage readers to buy the listed books either for themselves or as holiday gifts for others.

Last December, I did this alone and saw a huge spike in sales while raising over $200 in donations to combat malaria in the developing world. This year, I’m excited to have company!

Don’t have any books published? Please consider sharing this post with a published author you know!

Hopefully, we can get as many authors as possible onboard!