I recently spent a whole weekend watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and got to thinking about what books the characters remind me of. That eventually led me to go through my book collection and talk to friends who also love ATLA. So, if you find yourself constantly thinking about Avatar like me, I’ve put together a list of book recommendations based on your favorite character.
Princess Yue: ‘Bloodleaf’
Before you start talking about how Yue isn’t a major character, she’s the literal moon spirit. And every time Sokka looks at the moon, he thinks of her. So, of course, I had to add her to this list. She’s also one of my favorite characters in the show, even though we barely see her.
The Bloodleaf trilogy by Crystal Smith follows Aurelia, a princess who runs away after a failed assassination attempt. The princess can see ghosts and has forbidden magic within her. While on the run, she makes new friends and uncovers a deadly plot.
Although the two magical princesses don’t have that much in common, the aesthetic of Bloodleaf reminded me of this Avatar character. Maybe Aurelia is what Yue could have been had she run from her destiny.
Fire Lord Ozai: ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’
If you love Fire Lord Ozai, you probably want to see more of him, either after he’s imprisoned (in the Avatar graphic novels) or before he became the ruler of the fire nation. Check out The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins for a story about another complicated character destined for great and terrible things.
The prequel to The Hunger Games follows Coriolanus Snow at eighteen years old, preparing for his first Hunger Games as a mentor to restore his family’s name. He is tasked with the District 12 female tribute, Lucy Gray Baird. Every decision he makes determines if she makes it out alive or dead.
Ozai and Snow (specifically during The Hunger Games trilogy) are incredibly similar characters, and I imagined they came from similar backgrounds in their respective worlds. The book shows a softer side to Snow, but I can’t imagine Ozai winning over Zuko and Azula’s mom being the way he was in the show.
Ty Lee: ‘The Circus Rose’
I love Ty Lee and wish we’d gotten more of her in the show. I’d honestly watch a whole series about her. So, if you loved the bendy acrobat that betrayed her lifelong “friend” Azula, then I think you’d like The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell.
The retelling of “Snow-White and Rose-Red” follows Ivory and Rosie, twins that have grown up in the circus under their mother, the ringmaster. When they return to a home that has drastically changed, tragedy strikes while Rosie is on her tightrope. It’s up to Ivory, her lover, and a dancing bear to save everyone.
Like Ivory, Ty Lee will do anything for those she cares about. They are also circus-folk like Ty Lee before joining Azula’s team to hunt the Avatar. I could see Rosie and Ivory being close friends with Ty Lee if she joined their circus.
Mai: ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’
V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, a magician that can travel between the four parallel Londons. While Kell is an ambassador between the worlds, he is also a smuggler, which could cost him his life. When he meets Delilah Bard after she robs him and then saves his life, he unwillingly trades everything for danger and new enemies that threaten all of the Londons.
You can’t tell me Mai and Delilah (AKA Lila) aren’t the same character in different fonts. The main difference is Mai doesn’t have powers, while Lila discovers her powers early in the books. Both characters have dark aesthetics and are tremendous fighters. Lila also dreams of adventuring, much like how I imagine Mai would after living under her family’s rules for so long.
Suki: ‘Jade City’
The first book in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga, Jade City follows the two crime families that run the only place that produces Jade. The substance grants powers to those with the proper heritage and training (called Green Bones). The family and other ruling families come to blows, and violence erupts in the streets. How the war ends will determine the fate of their home and all Green Bones.
Shae from Jade City reminds me of Suki in that they are exceptional leaders devoted to their friends and are also skilled fighters. Beyond that, Kekon, the book’s setting, reminds me of the Earth Kingdom. I could see Ba Sing Se from ATLA or Zaofu from Legend of Korra being the Kekon in the Avatar universe. So, if you’re interested in seeing an earthy, fantasy Godfather story, read Fonda Lee’s captivating series.
Azula: ‘The Poppy War’
I hate to admit it, but I love Azula as a character. Everything about her arc is fascinating, and I could watch YouTube videos about it non-stop. So when I found a book that is basically Azula fan-fiction (the author said that, not me), I was ecstatic at first. Until I tried to read it and put it down because of the dark content and triggering scenes.
During her Reddit AMA, author R.F. Kuang said that her book is essentially “a darker and more effed up Avatar: The Last Airbender, but if Azula were the main character.” It follows Rin, an orphan who trained her whole life to get into Sinegard Academy. While on the front lines of a war, she makes a deal to unleash her powers, altering the course of the world forever.
The book has extensive trigger warnings, including animal abuse, self-harm, genocide, and much more, so please check those out before you pick up the book. Rin was based on Azula, so they’re similar in personality, appearance, and powers. The book also takes place in wartime, like ATLA, and shows how skilled the characters are with hand-to-hand combat and their abilities.
Zuko: ‘Fire With Fire’
It was hard narrowing down books that reminded me of Zuko, but I managed to do it. Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria follows sisters Dani and Eden, who are raised to be dragon hunters. When Dani comes face-to-face with a dragon, she protects the creature. Meanwhile, Eden is stuck in her training and will do whatever it takes to “save” her sister.
The sisters’ dynamic very much reminds me of Azula and Zuko in season three. Zuko is Dani, turning his back on the family to do the right thing; Azula is Eden, set on being the best rather than doing the right thing.
Toph: ‘The Broken Kingdoms’
I couldn’t choose any other book than The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin for the character of Toph. The book is set a decade after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and follows Oree, a blind street artist in the city now known as “Shadow.” She can see magic but hides her abilities to protect herself. One day, she comes across a god, and her life is wrapped up in chaos. To save her home, she has to use her long-hidden abilities.
Both Oree and Toph are blind but use their other senses and abilities to get by in the world. They are also unintimidated and face every battle head-on. And if you don’t think that’s enough, they have a similar sense of humor and come up with nicknames for people (Oree calls a god “Shiny” while Toph nicknames Aang “Twinkletoes”). Just make sure to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms first!
Sokka: ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’
Have you ever wanted to read a book that follows the side characters in “chosen one” stories? Well, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is just what you need. It focuses on ordinary teenagers trying to get by while significant events happen around them.
If you’re anything like me, you think Sokka was pushed to the side for too long. Just because he can’t waterbend doesn’t mean he isn’t an interesting character. This book also has many hilarious moments that remind of scenes with Sokka, so you’ll be laughing the entire time.
Katara: ‘A Song Below Water’
Katara isn’t my favorite character, but I know some people love her. So I did my best to find a good book for Katara anyway.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow is about Tavia, a siren who uses her abilities to speak out against injustice. Tavia hides her abilities in a world where the population wants to keep sirens locked away. It doesn’t help when Tavia accidentally uses her siren voice at a police stop.
Tavia reminds me of Katara in that they both use their powers to fight for the greater good. Both also hide their abilities to save their loved ones: Katara to protect her tribe and Tavia to defend her best friend and other sirens around her.
Aang: ‘Trials of Apollo’ Series
I won’t accept any other recommendations for Aang-reminiscent stories than Rick Riordan’s Trials of Apollo. The five-book series follows Apollo being punished by Zeus for his actions in the prior series, Heroes of Olympus (the sequel to Percy Jackson and the Olympians).
Apollo, now a mortal named Lester Papadopoulos, works with new and returning characters to restore the Oracles around the globe that have stopped working for unknown reasons. He realizes early on that it’s the only way to get back to his home on Mount Olympus.
Much like Apollo in The Hidden Oracle, Aang is reluctant to fully embrace his destiny to save the world and be the hero he was born to be. Both characters also have the same sense of humor and goofiness.
Uncle Iroh: ‘The Way of Kings’
I couldn’t end this list any other way than with everyone’s favorite fire-breathing uncle, Iroh. The sage wisdom he spouts at any given moment reminds me so much of Dalinar from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. And it helps that the book is also set during wartime like ATLA.
The Way of Kings follows many characters throughout a war between feuding lands. Szeth is sent to kill the Alethi King Gavilar, but someone beats him to it. Kaladin volunteers for the fight to protect his brother, while Shallan takes the king’s sister under her wing and discovers the girl’s hidden powers.
Another character in the book is Dalinar, who followed a similar path to Iroh when Iroh’s son died. Dalinar was the murdered king’s brother. When Gavilar died, he started to doubt how he had lived and realized his kingdom’s lifestyle wasn’t for him anymore.