Hello, Umairah here!
Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated TV show has seen a recent surge in popularity as more people (including me) discovered it when it came to Netflix.
It may be a children’s show but it truly is brilliant and appeals to all ages with its loveable cast of characters, compelling plot, world building, interesting lore, complex villains and the best redemption arc in history (I’m looking at you, Zuko). Not to mention the great soundtrack, the animation and the perfect balance between action, humour and emotion.
Basically, I’m in love with this TV show and if you are too, here are some books, all by BIPOC, that you might like!
(1) If you shipped Katara and Zuko…
…then you will like We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
“You rise with the moon, I rise with the sun.” Although I do like the hate to love trope, I don’t ship Katara with Zuko (or with Aang for that matter). But if you are someone who does, We Hunt the Flame will make your enemies to lovers dreams come true:
- A quest to recover a lost artefact and restore magic
- A loveable cast of characters (they might not be Team Avatar but they’re certainly #squadgoals)
- Nasir has big Zuko vibes
- “People lived because she killed.”/ “People died because he lived.”
- A world inspired by ancient Arabia
(2) If you liked the idea of four nations based on four elements…
…then you will like A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
“Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony.” In A Song of Wraiths and Ruin the day of the week a person is born on determines their patron deity and magical ability (the author even wrote a horoscope for each day). For example, people born on Monday specialise in light magic! And if that hasn’t convinced you:
- Malik is soft like Aang and Karina has a similar personality to Toph
- Malik and his sisters are very close and would do anything for each other just like Katara and Sokka
- Top tier romance (that is enemies to lovers- Zutara fans rejoice)
- Some of the best world building I’ve ever seen in a YA fantasy
- West African inspired!
(3) If you liked the cat-and-mouse chase between Zuko and Aang…
…then you will like The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
If, like me, you wish there were more fantasy books with the cat-and-mouse trope (if you know any tell me in the comments!), don’t mind a dash of romance on the side and wish Zuko talked less about his honour then you’ll like The Tiger at Midnight:
- A cat-and-mouse chase between a soldier and an assassin who are each other’s targets
- A hate to love romance (another one for the Zutara fans)
- Moral dilemmas galore
- Gorgeous world building
- Inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology
(4) If you wish Azula were the main character…
…then you will like The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
Rin, the main character of The Poppy War, is quite similar to Azula- they even both wield fire- although they are the way they are for very different reasons. This book is extremely dark (check the content warnings before reading) and is kind of like what Avatar: the Last Airbender would have been like if it were for adults not children:
- An adult military fantasy inspired by Chinese history
- Despite her moral decline you can never hate Rin because you know what led her to it
- Examines war, power, revenge and what can drive people to extreme cruelty
- Full of gods, shamans and general chaos
- In Avatar: the Last Airbender there is a positive attitude to magic, in The Poppy War it destroys the wielder and drives them to insanity
(5) If you shipped Sokka and Suki and/or Azula and Ty Lee…
…then you will like The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
If you thought Sokka and Suki were adorable wait until you meet Haidee and Arjun from The Never Tilting World. And the other main relationship, Odessa and Lan, do remind me of what Azula and Ty Lee might be like if they were together! In general, The Never Tilting World is worth a read if you like the idea of:
- An imaginative climate fiction fantasy novel
- A world split between day and night
- Two goddess twins (with rainbow hair) who don’t know the other exists
- Pitched as ‘Frozen meets Mad Max’
(6) If you loved the more mysterious story lines…
…then you will like Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
If you liked watching the mystery unravel in Ba Sing Se or in ‘The Puppetmaster’ (Book 3, episode 8) then Descendant of the Crane is the right book for you. Full of political intrigue, mystery and some of the most twisty plot twists I’ve ever seen this book will keep you guessing until the very last page:
- Queen Hesina is brilliant you can’t not love her
- Impeccably crafted characters and relationships
- Chinese-inspired fantasy
- “What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.” (I just love this quote)
(7) If you think Katara should have been the main character and/or Azula deserved a redemption arc…
…then you will like Mirage by Somaiya Daud
This book is basically what would happen if Katara had to be Azula’s body double, and it is brilliant. If you loved the emphasis Avatar: the Last Airbender put on developing the characters and their relationships then Mirage and its sequel, Court of Lions, are the books for you:
- Moroccan and Amazighi inspired science fiction/ fantasy
- Deals with themes of resistance to colonialism, cultural appropriation and poetry as a form of resistance
- Beautiful romances that will make you swoon/ cry/ melt into a puddle of yearning
- This is the book of my heart just trust me and read it!
Do you like Avatar: the Last Airbender? Which books would you have put on this list? Let me know in the comments!