Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow Part 1 continues from the events in the the previous series, The Search, in which Zuko finds his mother. This first book sets the foundation of unrest in the Fire Kingdom and new mysterious enemies. The art is lovely but this does appear to be intended for a younger audience, missing a lot of the wit and nuances of the animated series.
Story: Zuko bids fairwell to Sokka, Aang, and Katara and prepares to bring his new family back to the Fire Kingdom. But unrest is brewing and a new enemy has surfaced – the mysterious spirits known as the Kemurikage. They are influencing events in the Fire Kingdom: most specifically, they threaten to harm Mei’s father Ukano and his family if the statesman doesn’t do away with Zuko. A plot by the New Ozai (Urkano’s rebel organization) to overthrow Zuko by ambushing him as he returns to the palace goes into motion – one that a traitor in the organization (and love interest for Mai), may or may not have the correct information about in order to save Zuko. It is betrayals and twists, plots and counterplots aplenty as Zuko attempts to bring his mother and her new family home.
Several lesser characters appear in this chapter; it’s always great seeing reserved Mai and her interactions with the effervescent Ty Lee (who is now a Kyoshi warrior) are always amusing. Mai plays a large part in this book owing to her estranged father heading the rebellion against Zuko. She is very useful in ensuring that Zuko isn’t harmed. But in addition to seeing the returning characters, new characters such as Mai’s love interest Kei Lo, add more to the Avatar canon.
Quite a bit of space is given to Ursa, Zuko’s mother, and her trepidation over her new family and fear of returning to the palace where there was so much pain with Zuko’s father. It’s a nice touch that it wasn’t forgotten but it will be interesting if she grows in strength and stops being a nervous nelly all the time.
The full color pages are gorgeous – rich and vibrant – and the illustrations are clear and true to the series. Avatar fans will enjoy continuing the story after the animated series ended. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.