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Book Review: The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story)

Book Review: The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story)


The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

I am so incredibly thankful to have made some wonderful book friends, and to be able to blog with those friends about the books we read. Whether we love the book or hate it, we’re going to share our opinions with each other. Often we polish up our opinion and make it as tactful as possible before sharing it with the world through our reviews, but behind the scenes we get to share exactly how we feel with each other, no matter how raw our viewpoint. Because of these backstage experiences, I know when a book truly blows one of my friends away, what book makes them struggle for words strong enough to express the love they have for it. The Sword of Kaigen is one of the best examples of this, and not one but three of my co-bloggers absolutely adored it with their entire being, so much so that they had trouble finding the words. I can’t think of a stronger endorsement than that. And I’m thrilled that their love for this book is now one more thing that we share.

“Better to die sharp in war than rust through a time of peace.”

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Petriks’ Top 10 Books of the Year So Far (January 1st, 2019-June 30th, 2019)

Petriks’ Top 10 Books of the Year So Far (January 1st, 2019-June 30th, 2019)

The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top 10 List. (More info on this at the end of the post.)


Between January 1st, 2019 and June 30th, 2019, I’ve read and reviewed 61 books (33.6k pages). So far, it’s been an incredible reading year. There will be three rules I set in this list in order for me to give appreciation to more authors rather than having only a few authors hoarding this list. The rules are:

  • Rereads don’t count.
  • One book per author.
  • The book listed here are not exclusively published this year.

Do note that although this time there’s a rank to this list, I highly recommend every book listed below because I loved all of them immensely and they received a rating of 4.5 (rounded up on Goodreads) or 5 out of 5 stars from me. Without further ado, here we go! (All full reviews of the books listed can be found on Novel Notions and my Goodreads page.)


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Interview with M. L. Wang

Interview with M. L. Wang

Hi everyone, Petrik from Novel Notions here. Today I’m bringing you an interview with M. L. Wang, the author behind Theonite series and the recently released standalone, The Sword of Kaigen. If you somehow missed it, I have read and reviewed The Sword of Kaigen with extremely high praises. To simplify my praises, The Sword of Kaigen hits a lot of new milestones for me:

  • Number one favorite self-published book.
  • Number one favorite standalone fantasy book.
  • One of my favorite books of all time
  • It’s literally the only standalone fantasy novel I would rate 6 out of 5 stars if possible.

Yes, that’s how much I loved it! You can check out my review of The Sword of Kaigen on the blog or Goodreads and I hope it will convince you to order and read it as soon as possible. Now, without further ado, here is my interview with M. L. Wang!


  1. Hi, M. L.  Wang! Thank you for doing this interview with me. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your newest book, and the main inspirations behind your work.

Thank you for having me!

I got started in self-publishing with my Theonite Series (now two books long), which combines some of my favorite genres, including magic school, alternate history, and superheroes. Growing up biracial in the weird tangle of racial tensions that make up the USA, I was always morbidly fascinated by racism, prejudice, and the mechanisms behind oppression. This gave rise to what is probably the most distinct feature of the Theonite universe: the planet’s inverted racial hierarchy, with a West African empire having dominated the globe and Europe being the most devastated of its many former colonies. Readers of Theonite, whatever their background, are intended to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

My newest book, The Sword of Kaigen, is a military fantasy that takes place in the Japanese-inspired corner of the Theonite universe, thirteen years before the events of the main series. The Sword of Kaigen spawned from the few-sentence-long backstory I provided to explain the Matsuda family’s anti-Ranganese tendencies and to inject some WW2-esque tragedy into Duna’s history. The middle two Matsuda brothers’ names, Hiroshi and Nagasa, are extensions of that idea, implying national trauma (heavy-handed, I know, but I was in high school when I came up with it, okay? My metaphor game was in its adolescence).

In its original form, The Sword of Kaigen was a serialized story that I released to my newsletter subscribers in monthly installments beginning in 2017. When I realized that my little ‘novella’ had exceeded 100,000 words, I decided to complete the story and publish it as a proper novel. Part of the reason I got so carried away with The Sword of Kaigen was that it presented a convenient excuse to play with a lot of things that had a place in my heart but not in the already very busy Theonite series—Japanese martial arts, Chinese martial arts, complex adult characters, Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Japanese religious symbolism, big battles, and a more personal inverted history.

I’m alive to write this story because, in 1937, in a Jiangsu Province village outside Nanjing, a Japanese bullet missed my great grandmother when she bent down to get a cooking pot. Certain events in The Sword of Kaigen harken back to the Nanjing Massacre, holding true to the guiding principle behind the Theonite universe: the mile walked in another’s shoes. What if you had been on the other side? What if it had been your family?

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The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story)

The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story)

The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

Simply phenomenal; The Sword of Kaigen is a stunning achievement of empathetic and masterful storytelling.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that sinks its hooks and claws into your very soul. It transcends beyond what a 5-star book usually means to me. It is a book that I will plead, beg and maybe even force everyone to read, so that they can experience the same awe and emotions as I did.  Thus far, I have not gone down the road of awarding 6 stars to some of my favourites, but there are several that I could easily place in that category. Namely The Stormlight Archive, a few titles from Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Heir of Novron, the final omnibus of The Riyria Revelations. Now, this extraordinary stand-alone fantasy novel, which is a rarity in itself, has earned itself a well-deserved spot among these masterpieces.

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The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story)

The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story)

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars from start to finish for this exceptional Japanese-inspired military fantasy standalone. As of this moment, The Sword of Kaigen has become not only one of the four best self-published books I’ve ever read, but also my personal number one favorite self-published book.

This is one of those books where I just want to write “Please buy it and read it. It’s fucking amazing!” as my entire review. This book came out of nowhere and it totally stole my heart. If you’ve been following my reviewing progress, then you probably know that I like to keep and show my personal stats and facts on books I’ve read and reviewed. So here it goes. After The Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher, We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson, and Never Die by Rob J. Hayes, The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang is currently the fourth self-published book that I’ve rated with a full 5 stars. I honestly didn’t expect to love this book that much but I was madly engrossed by every page. Trust me, you’ll want to pre-order this book right now. I already did, it’s only $0.99 at the moment on Amazon for god sake! (More info on the amazing bonuses that come with the pre-order at the bottom of this review.)

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