The Legend of Korra Book Three, aptly named “Change,” picks up two weeks after the events at the conclusion of Book Two. The first chapter opens in Republic City, which has been overcome by spirit vines since the Harmonic Convergence. Unfortunately for Korra, her return to Republic City isn’t quite a hero’s welcome. Korra’s inability to send the vines back to the spirit world has created a public outcry. This leads to a confrontation with Raiko, President of Republic City, who banishes Korra from the city. However, it seems that the spirit vines are perhaps smallest of the changes caused by Harmonic Convergence. There are reports of new airbenders spontaneously appearing throughout the world. Bumi is the first to notice the ability, followed soon by Daw in Republic City. Raiko’s banishment only helps Korra make the decision that her next journey is to find, and recruit, the new airbenders and help rebuild the Air Nation. The chapter closes at a mountain prison where a prisoner named Zaheer (voiced by legendary punk rocker, Henry Rollins!!) has just discovered his own airbending abilities. His newfound power allows him to escape, leaving a message with the guards that it is the dawn of a “new age.” Zaheer believes that the time of the Avatar and the Order of the White Lotus (a transnational group of wise scholars concerned with training and protection of the Avatar) is coming to an end, and apparently believes that he will be one of the those to bring about that end. The appearance of new airbenders has fueled two distinct plotlines that have only begun to merge. The primary plot is focused on Korra’s journey to recruit the new airbenders to the Northern Air Temple and rebuilding the Air Nation. The secondary plot involves four criminals who believe that they are harbingers of a new age: Zaheer, an airbender whose powers only recently manifested themselves. Ghazan, an earthbender. Ming-Hua, a waterbender whose physical arms have been removed and replaced by tentacle-like appendages made of water. P’Li, a firebender with a Hindu-like “third eye” tattoo from which she can engulf anything in her path in flame. We learn that these four had attempted to kidnap Korra when she was very young. They were defeated through the combined efforts of Tonraq, Korra’s father, Chief Sokka (Avatar Aang’s brother-in-law), Fire Lord Zuko (Avatar Aang’s firebending teacher and friend), and Tenzin. So far their motives for kidnapping the avatar, and source of Zaheer’s belief in a “new age” are unknown. Korra and her companions experience mixed results in finding new airbenders from their previous stops. They have only managed to recruit a young boy, Kai, who proves to be very adept with his new abilities as well as well trained in deception. Kai, and his penchant for trickery, theft and general mischievousness, becomes a catalyst for a few developments in the main plotline. He is roughly the same age as Jinora, and the story is laying the groundwork for a bit of crush on Jinora’s part. His attempt to loot Ba Sing Se with his various con-games also opens up the story for a brief look into Mako and Bolin’s family history. Lastly, his abduction by the Earth Queen gives us the first look at Jinora’s spirit abilities since Harmonic Convergence and helps Korra locate all the airbenders the Earth Queen has abducted. Kai seems to represents the “trickster” in the cycle of the Hero’s Journey. His arrival is certainly chaotic, as he plays the police and Korra off of each other as a means of escape. His motives don’t appear to be purely malicious or evil, he’s simply a street-wise young boy for whom survival means being focused on his own self-interests. In the previous books the trickster title usually applied to Bolin, so it’s amusing that Bolin is quickly adopts Kai as his “little brother.” Aside from Jinora’s schoolgirl crush, Bolin might be the most invested in Kai. However, where Bolin is always good for a period of levity, Kai also underscores the differences in Korra’s newest journey. If a team, or nation, is only as strong as its weakest member, then Kai presents a unique challenge. He seems to be an orphan; he’s not used to being a part of a family. His first inclination while visiting Ba Sing Se is to see how much he can profit from his newfound abilities. I don’t believe that he doesn’t care about the repercussions of his actions, but he seems to honestly not be aware that there will be repercussions at all. He thinks he’s only putting himself at risk, but as a part of the team, a new member of the fledgling Air Nation, his actions, in particular his arrest, will have a significant impact on everyone. Ironically, the things that are his greatest strengths on the street are his greatest weakness as a member of a team. In my recap of the first two books I noted that the role Jinora played in Unalaq’s/Vaatu’s defeat seemed important. I don’t think it is wise to ever assume the introduction of a child, or child-like character, is accidental in a hero’s journey. Usually they represent some kind of innocence or a call to a hero’s past. During the Harmonic Convergence, Jinora’s connection to the spirit world seems to be serving that purpose for Korra. It was nice to see that connection brought up again in the search for Kai and the other kidnapped airbenders. Her ability to astral project comes as a surprise to the others, and Jinora notes that it’s not as strong as it was during Convergence, but it’s possible if she can make a connection to the person or object for which she is searching. In this particular instance, Korra has noticed that Jinora and Kai have a connection, encouraging her to use that to locate Kai and the others. It’s very interesting to see the interaction between Kai and Jinora, a street rat and a child of relative privilege. They are both unbridled by the responsibility faced by Korra and the others. They don’t have to worry about their “approval rating” like Korra did in Republic City. Because of his circumstances, Kai has obviously had a great deal of his youthful innocence taken from him. But I’m anticipating that Kai and Jinora will come to represent more than just a side-story about puppy-love. In many ways, Kai’s redemption seems very much tied to Korra’s. If he is able to become a successful member of the Air Nation, as opposed to rogue element, then it seems plausible that he and Jinora could be the true harbingers of a new age, much as Aang and Katara, Tenzin’s mother, became for their time. I doubt that the spiritual connection between them, or Tenzin’s concern about it, is a throwaway arc. Chapter Five explores more of the history of the Avatar through eyes of those who worked alongside Avatar Aang. There is also the recurring thread of family, both related and extended, continuing from Book Two. In Ba Sing Se there was a reunion for Mako and Bolin with their grandmother and cousins. In Metal City we meet Suyin, sister of Police Chief Lin Beifong, both daughters of Toph Beifong, a blind earthbending master and Aang’s earthbending tutor. Unlike Mako and Bolin, Lin and Suyin do not have a pleasant reunion. The two have grown apart since Toph left to seek enlightenment and have not spoken in over 30 years. The tension is only increased by Lin’s concern for Korra’s safety. At this point the path of the four criminals has begun merging with Korra’s path. Suyin wants Korra to remain in Zafou to train her daughter, Opal, in how to use her new airbending abilities. Suyin insures Lin that Zafou is the safest possible city in the world. The situation not only pushes Lin further from her family, but also further from the rest of Team Korra. The discord between Suyin and Lin is an ancillary plot that seems to either be a microcosmic reflection on what it means to be family, a breakdown of Korra’s allies, or a combination of both. Given the emphasis on Suyin’s children, especially considering that her daughter is the new airbender, I’m inclined to think that “family” is going to continue to be a thread running through the chapters. Zaheer successfully infiltrated the Northern Air Temple acting as a new airbender seeking training. Kya, Tenzin’s sister, recognizes him and confronts him. Unfortunately, Zaheer is able to escape. The criminals’ path has come right to Korra’s front door. At this point it seems that the shadow represented by these four masters of the elements is quickly rising over Korra. Her journey to find new airbenders will soon lead directly to the Shadow (which is what I’m going to call the group until otherwise named). The Shadow, as a collective, represents another family metaphor. Individually they all mirror a part of the Avatar spirit. Together they seem to represent an unstoppable force. It is interesting to see this group forming and working well while Team Korra is struggling with Kai, the trickster, and familial dissent among one of its strongest members. Chapter Six is called “Old Wounds” and an early overview I found notes that this chapter focuses on Lin Beifong confronting her past. I anticipate that we’ll learn a bit more about Aang via the lens of Toph Beifong as well. I wonder if the idea of family and ancestry is how Korra will regain her connection to the past Avatars? Or if it will present a means by which future Avatars remain connected to Korra. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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