Water, Earth, Fire, Air… Isn’t it like coming home? I’m a recent recruit to the Avatar fandom, but I can already feel the inevitable impact this show has had and will have on my life. In our time of need, Netflix came through and added the classic Nickelodeon show to its line-up. I know I’m not the only adult watching this anime-style cartoon for the first time, and I know many are rewatching and reliving their childhood through it.
If you’re also a fan of Avatar The Last Airbender, (ATLAB) you may be craving some similar content. Well, look no further. I’ve gathered some books that I’ve read and some books I haven’t that may give you the Gaang feels all over again.
If you love the elemental magic system read Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
The Three Dark Crowns quartet (plus novellas) follows three sisters. Each year, the Queen of Fennbirn gives birth to triplet daughters. Each is born with a magical ability: poisoning, elemental control and naturalist abilities. Once the sisters turn 16, they must fight to the death for the throne. The newest cycle of triplets features Mirabella, an incredibly powerful elemental queen with the backing of the temple; Arsino, a mediocre naturalist; and Katherine, the weak poisoner in a long line of poisoner queens. These books are much darker than the tone of ALTAB, but the elemental magic is reminiscent of the bending in the show.
If you love the elemental magic system read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Set in the fantasy country of Ravka, Shadow and Bone follows Alina Starkov, a young orphan who develops a powerful ability after her military regiment is attacked. The country has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, an all-consuming darkness filled with monsters. With Alina’s new power, she has been whisked away by the mysterious Darkling, leader of the Grisha, a powerful group of magic wielders. If you’ve read any of my Grisha posts, you may know that The Grisha Trilogy, starting with Shadow and Bone, is not my favorite. However, the magic system is in part based on elemental manipulation that does remind me of bending.
If you love the elemental magic system read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
The Broken Earth Trilogy is an adult fantasy series that takes place in a world wracked by climate change and perpetual natural disasters. In this world, Orogenes have the ability to control the Earth, a power others fear and attempt to control. The Fifth Season starts with a terrible tragedy that sets a woman on a mission for revenge across the Stillness. The orogenic magic in this trilogy is essentially Earthbending. While the magic system is similar to bending, readers should be aware that this is an adult fantasy series with a much darker tone than ATLAB. However, readers are rewarded with a truly brilliant fantasy read – one of my all-time favorites.
If you love the Gaang read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Six of Crows duology is one I have not shut up about since I read it late in 2019. It quickly became a favorite of mine and for good reason. The books follow a group of rag-tag characters who band together to pull of an impossible heist. Set against the backdrop of Ketterdam – imagine Amsterdam and Las Vegas had a fantasy city child – the Dregs, youngest of the Crows gang, are on a search for freedom, money and glory. It’s a true misfit story where they all learn to rely on each other through good and bad (mostly bad). The Grisha magic system also relies some on elemental magic, another similarity to bending. As an added bonus… fans of Zutara (the ship name for Prince Zuko and Katara) may find a similar ship in this tale.
If you love the Gaang read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle quarter is another series I just adore. Blue Sargent has been told her entire life she will kill her true love with a kiss. When she meets a group of boys who attend the prestigous Aglionby Academy, she doesn’t think she has to worry about that prophecy. But she could be wrong. Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah are on an odd mission to find a dead Welsh king. When Blue gets pulled into their world and they into hers, they experience magic beyond their imagining in their small Virginia town. Yes, this is another Gaang recommendation for you because the friendships in this series are truly iconic.
If you love the Gaang read Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Maximum Ride series is all about a group of young adults who have wings. Yes, wings. When the youngest member of the “flock,” Angel, is kidnapped and taken back to the “school” where they were experimented on, the crew sets out on a journey to rescue her. Along the way, they face mutants and enemies who threaten their lives and their mission. I haven’t read this series in a long time, but I remember absolutely loving it when I started reading them in early high school. The “flock” aspect of this story reminds me so much of the Gaang on a mission.
If you love the adventure read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Lord of the Rings is a recommendation that probably doesn’t need much explanation. As one of the ultimate adventure stories in literature, this series follows Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee on a journey from Hobbiton to Mordor with a dangerous and powerful ring. A true adventure story, it is at its heart a story about the greater good of the world and its fate when evil overpowers good. Sound familiar? I couldn’t help but think about this series a few times when watching ATLAB, particularly when thinking about the reluctant hero and his friends who help him along on his journey.
If you love the spirit world read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes is a story that deals heavily in spirits and lore. Inspired by the Roman Empire, An Ember in the Ashes, follows Laia and Elias, who are on opposing signs of the Martial Empire. Laia’s brother is arrested by the Empire, and she embarks on a journey that leads her to spy on the Empire’s top military officials. Elias is a Martial solider in training, who is conflicted about his position as the top student, though he is secretly unhappy with what he is forced to do for the Empire’s sake. The spirit lore in this world is very similar to that in ATLAB. As a bonus, fans of Book II of Legend of Korra will likely enjoy this series even more!
If you love everything read the graphic novels!
This is pretty obvious, but the comics extend the ATLAB story in a unique but true-to-the-series way. While I’ve only read the first bindup of The Promise graphic novels, I’m excited to dive into more.
The books below are some that I have seen recommended for ATLAB fans but I have not gotten around to reading myself. As I read through them, I will update this post with more detailed explanations of these.
- The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee (Avatar Kyoshi series)
- The Witchland series by Susan Dennard
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
- The Shades of Magic series by VE Schwab
- The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
- Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Well, there you have it! If you’re a fan of Avatar, I hope you enjoy this recommendation list. Tell me your favorite character in the comments!