These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Alternate Character Interpretation – A lot of the controversy revolves around a reinterpretation of Katara and of the contrast between her Sugar Queen persona and the dark side she sometimes shows in canon. Some readers think it’s brilliant. Some see it as character bashing. Some think they see where the author was trying go with this but also think it was taken too far or otherwise poorly executed.
And the canon-reinforcedShip Sinking in Chapter 31 shows how this might not be a good thing.
Chapter 42 has been posted, and things are much clearer than before.
The fic had come very hard on the "Fire Nation best" and this is not about the war. They posses so far: reasons for the war that bemoan on and on, kind and just rules all around except legendary exceptions, connection to the origin of the world unbroken, dragon kin and superpowers, the greatest army in the world (stated literally that the Fire Nation could have ripped apart both North Tribe and Ba sing se when they want it) and know, fire ghost smacking the Stupidity of the core cast, not to mention the Zuko wankfest... yeah, its so thick it nearly chock one to swallow and this Troper likes this Fic
Arguments over the history and back story of the Fire Nation and Vathara's world in general can also be volatile and comes down to four points of contention:
When it comes to the causes of the war some people see "but"s that make the Fire Nation "Innocent" and others see "why"s that don't.
With loyalty some see it as a gun to the head forcing the Fire Nation to do things they don't want to, making them victims and ultimately innocent while others see it as, at worst, a gun to the head of a gangbanger; sure the gang will kill him if he tries to leave or go straight, but he joined up willingly and likes hurting people, so it's a non-issue. Either way, given a choice between murdering children and dying, anyone who chooses murdering children has no right to complain when someone kills them for it. Kuzon, who was far down in the line of succession, became lord of Byakko because most of his family died rather than obey Sozin's orders. Kuzon also got loyalty sickness, but survived it due to Shidan's healing fire.
Vathara's culture for the Air Nomads: she made them evil baby stealers as part of a Humiliation Conga who deserved to die, or is it a valid interpretation of what's presented in canon?
The Gambit Pileup, some see it as part of a complex web of reasons, others see it as someone set up the Fire Nation to go to war and kill the Air Nomads which makes it ultimately not their fault?
Of course, the idea that reasons do not equal excuses may qualify as expecting the readers to know the difference; it possibly doesn't help that, given how much Chekhov's Armory turns up, it seems reasonable to believe that we're only scratching the surface of the reasons. For example, it seems likely that everything we've learned about Late Air Nomad Culture is the result of them getting the same treatment from Fate that the Fire Nation got.
Iroh. And it is awesome. In canon, Iroh is depicted as Crazy Awesome but the viewer is never allowed to see that much (his escape, for example). In Embers, Iroh comes out of retirement.
Crazy Awesome - Played straight with references to Bumi: 'we all need to think like mad geniuses.' Deconstructed with Zuko. Many of the things he does, like suggesting that people of fire and earth live together, escaping by amphibious train, using firebending and oil as a drill to free the Suzuran, following turtle seals under the ice and so on are regarded as absolutely freaking insane. And yet he pulls them off. Which is awesome. However, from Zuko's POV, these things are shown not to be acts of mad genius, but acts of desperation, very throughly planned out, and/or very possible given Avatarverse laws of physics. Not to mention several decades of experience experimenting with lost or novel forms of bending: Zuko didn't come up with most of that stuff, Kuzon did, or knew it from Byakko training. Since the reader knows that no, what Zuko did wasn't actually that cool, the way other characters react to them, given what they know, sometimes feel like a Creator's Pet. Although not everyone is that impressed.
Sokka: Someone needs to learn the difference between stupid and desperate, and it's not me.
What Zuko is doing is, in the context of the world they're in, the equivalent of you asking somebody to board a boat made of skins stretched over a wooden frame with their family, and trusting it'll float through whatever the open ocean might throw at them to eventually reach land whose location is 'over the horizon that-a-way.' Getting people to agree to it means you must prove that you're Crazy Awesome—crazy, with that sort of idea, is a given.
Creator's Pet - YMMV since there are some who enjoy the author's interpretation of Zuko, and others who would identify him more as a Canon Sue. However, just in case you forget for a scene how awesome Zuko is and how he can bend two elements, is a better trained healer than Katara, can detect and battle spirits that make the Dai Li run for cover, and is the direct descendant of a dragon, the reincarnation of Kuzon (complete with memories and skillz to match) the characters will make sure it won't be for long. When Zuko is not directly in the scene, you bet that the canon characters and OC's will be talking up his many good deeds, psychoanalyzing his previous actions, and speculating ad nauseum about his powers/ability/upbringing. This is mostly written to win the goodwill of the reader in support of Zuko, rather than to advance the plot. He also gets more Crowning Moments than the rest of the cast.
Iron Woobie - Zuko as well as his great-grandfather, Kuzon.
Koh seems to be spearheading the faction trying to wipe out humanity. Also, what happened during the attack on the Northern Water Tribe: killing the last healers and causing the public to lose confidence in him. And giving spirits carte blanche to kill lots and lots of people, mainly Aang's potential allies.
Wan Shin Tong appears to have a standing policy of having his agents steal records, even letters, from libraries containing any helpful information that might allow people to put two and two together.
Sozin using a hurricane to convince his people the current Avatar was out to finish what Kyoshi started and the only way to prevent it from happening again was to eliminate the knowledge of airbending. (To break the Avatar cycle?)
Yue taking command of the effort to preserve humanity, reviving the yaoren using Zuko as a test case, which, by the way, takes him out of the Fire Nation line of succession and basically means her people's enemies are screwed unless Aang restores balance.
Kuruk might have made a certain sexist statement in order to save the Water Tribes. It's notable that the healing benders of each element were wiped out during the term of their own avatar, with the exception of his. Koh might have gone after his wife because Kuruk was too good at his job, not because he wasn't doing it.
Kuzon forming a friendship with the Avatar in the first place, when his clan was sheltering renegade airbenders, might have been an attempt to cause Aang to reform the Air Temples. Then he turned Byakko into a refuge for dragons and enemies of the Fire Lord and spent the rest of his life Walking the Earth, making contacts and searching for Aang, with the Fire Lord's blessing since he thought Kuzon was spying on his behalf. Of course, Azulon eventually figured out he was being fed disinformation and had Kuzon killed. Alternatively, Shidan mentions that his family has been looking after Byakko for dragon-generations, so it's unknown how much of this was his plan. At the very least, he continued it after Kuzon's death and was the one to send Ursa to Ozai - and he seems quite proud that she killed Azulon.
Even hating Sozin and Mokoto, Byakko admired their power.
"That is the strength of your line! The strength we wished to steal for our own, through Ursa's children."
Azula using Ty Lee's chi-blocking to prevent Zuko benefiting from practicing his kata and train fully, allowing Mai to end up in a Kissing Cousins relationship with him in order to blackmail them later, on top of canon.
Ty Lee is keeping secrets from Azula, which is stated to be very, very hard to do. An Air Nomad (or at least the descendant of one), making friends with the favored heir? Who was using who, again? Not to mention that in chapters 33 and 34, she uncovers plots as easily as Azula, hijacks them for her own purposes, is the only reason they're able to pull it off and gets Amaya to heal Azula. And she'll probably get away without Azula killing her for it, too.
Averted partially in Chapter 35: she does get away with it, but it turns out that Azula has already known about her Air Nomad heritage for years now. She just doesn't consider them a threat, since airbending itself has already been wiped out.
Pakku for what he did to Katara's waterbending.
Misaimed Fandom - A Misaimed Fandom can occur when the audience misses the intended subtext, or if the storyteller failed to make their point in a convincing manner. Devoted fans of the story tend to see critics as the first case, failing to understand the motivations Vathara has created for various characters, despite the extensive author notes provided. Critics see this as the second case, claiming that the story and notes fail to reconcile the characters’ behavior with character development seen in dozens of canon episodes that are unchanged in this alternative timeline. Several paragraphs of debate on this and related subjects have been moved to the discussion page.
Moral Event Horizon: Even though this fic has several moments that would qualify for several characters, General Fong goes flying over this in Chapter 70 when he forces civilians to walk straight into Dragon's Wings' trapline after Zuko's forces/traps kill most of his scouts.
Ron the Death Eater - Fans of the fic mistake Embers' version of Katara for an evil person when most of it stems from Vathara trying to explain Katara's lying, stealing, and torturing people for not telling her what she wants to hear in canon without making her evil. The author spent so long hammering in the paradox between everyone's descriptions of Katara and her own inner monologue showing her as a good person who only wanted to help others, and the way she treated Zuko, because she was trying to get the readers to see that it was unnatural and therefore there had to be a reason for it. The reason is revealed in Chapter 30, and alleviating even a part of it by Toph providing Katara with someone who knows the real her and doesn't hate her immediately allows her to be far more rational regarding Zuko, even though the authors notes reveal it's going to be a long road to recovery. Katara has been described as The Woobie by both Toph and Zuko, who felt bad enough about it to agonize over a letter of apology and do the equivalent of what his canon counterpart did in The Southern Raiders to help Katara overcome it (and to advance his own plans, after all. He may understand what it is to lose a mother and consider her childhood worse than his with Ozai, but they're still enemies.)
Going crazy from pent up aggression from a forced intra clan peace. The comparison is made to a normal fire based ecosystem, it must go up in flames in order to be healthy. However, because everyone is united under the Fire Lord they can't fight each other, leading to them attacking everyone else.
Stuck in the war, even if they wanted to stop, which they mostly don't want to. Fire bending is aggressive, it's not so good at defense. The Fire Nation has already committed so many atrocities that if they tried to stop/allow the other nations to get their feet under them, they believes everyone else will gang up on them and kill them all.
The Fire Nation generally rules captured territories fairly and justly, in a way similar to how the Romans and other ancient empires managed things, and the abuses are solely the fault of extremists, many of whom make policy. In chapter 20, ''her'' Zuko actually says that the Fire Nation has to keep fighting the warjust so it can keep its victims from exacting revenge!
This is all why The Avatar is needed, someone to be a neutral third party with enough respect and firepower to enforce such things. But not just any Avatar—Aang and his crazy airbending Idiot Ball culture is needed. Because that is the only one that believes in stopping the Cycle of Revenge.
Shipping - Vathara seems fairly determined to keep the fic gen, and centered on worldbuilding and character development instead of romance. She sinks two of the three main canon ships (Suki has yet to make an appearance), although Air Nomad cultural change would save Aang/Katara. The two 'maybe' ships in the fic Mai/Xander Expy and Iroh/Amaya both seem to be there as plot devices and probably won't amount to anything: Iroh left Amaya behind and neither seems to regard this as a big deal, and Mai was on the rebound and appears to regard Min as more 'little boy in need of assistance' cute than boyfriend cute. However, it would surprise many to note that most of the Avatar fics on the author's favorites list are Zuko/Katara. This may just be because it's the pairing of most Zuko-centric fics, or it might explain why Zuko, who is used to being hated and looked down on, cares so much about Katara's dislike of him, he tends to speak in rather complimentary terms about her when he's not talking about her dislike for him and certain things that are revealed to not be her fault, and he cares about hurting her feelings far more than anyone else's, including Iroh's. As witness the relative sizes and elaborateness of his letters of apology to both of them. If there is a ship, it's likely to be this, but since Aang/Katara is likely to be unsunk by plot and character progression the fic is more likely to continue to be gen.
Most likely Zuko/Katara? When it's he and Toph who like, respect, miss, and most importantly to both of them, trust each other? Zuko relaxes around her, showing off and playing around. They help each other, teach each other. They work at understanding each other. He shares secrets with Toph that impact his entire nation as well as just himself. He doesn't do any of that lightly, and would never consider doing so with Katara. Toph, on the other hand, clearly appreciates being appreciated and listened to. And she isn't phased at all by Zuko not being human. Yes, at the moment she's too young to be in a relationship, but for her culture, not to young to be thinking about one. And Vathara has taken pains to establish that Zuko isn't old enough for a relationship either. Their dragon expert gave him another four or five years, which puts both of them on about the same time frame. Additionally, given that Zuko is a prince and needs a wife his people can follow and trust to help protect them, Toph is about ideal. Everyone who's opinion matters to him who has met her thinks she's awesome; admiring her honesty, fairness, fearlessness, and fighting ability. Which is what she wants to be valued for. And given that he's establishing a domain of mostly fire and earth people, marrying an earth woman would be an important symbol of unity and equality, while the fire people need him to marry a woman who can fight.
Currently, Zuko seems to regard Toph as the little sister he would have had if Azula weren't a monster, just like Iroh, who is delighted that she calls him uncle. Uncle could also be uncle-in-law.
As of Chapter 38, Zuko starting turning interesting colors when Shirong was asking him about Toph, so Toph/Zuko may well wind up being canon.
In chapter 27, we have the following bit of dialogue that may prove to be the best Chekhov's Gun (Chekhov's Relationship?) ever;
"Husband-stealing?" Iroh looked delighted, and amused. "I have not seen that custom followed in some time. You may wish to watch your step in Byakko, nephew."
"Yeah, right," Zuko muttered. "Only if she's blind."
Additionally, marrying a member of the high nobility like Zuko would go a long way toward reconciling Toph with her parents: by Earth Kingdom standards she would be succeeding and bringing honor to her family despite previous embarrassing behavior.
Further teased in the final chapter:
"When I'm old enough you point me at some good sake," Toph said firmly. "I've got some ideas fora cord that won't burn, and I'm going to need someone who can make sure it's red..."
The Scrappy - For a number of readers who don't buy into the alternative character interpretation, Katara becomes this at some point in the chapters before or after the end of the Ba Sing Se arc. Starting around chapter 30-31, there are efforts to reverse this by presenting the character as The Woobie. However, many of those who weren't persuaded by the reasons presented for the character's abrasive behavior when it happened also don't find the attempted cleanup afterwards to be convincing or soothing to the irritation that has been raised regarding this character.
The Water Tribes, Air Nomads and Earth Kingdoms have familiar ethics-based legal systems(assumption of innocence, punishment of the guilty, reparation to the injured) enforced by the heads of their communities. Competence and integrity may vary, and they may disagree on minutiae, but they can comprehend each other easily enough. The Fire Nation has a sociopathically selfish approach to justice: the only reason not to commit a hostile act is if the person you're attacking will kill you for it, and if they don't have the ability to stop you, then they deserve to lose property, to suffer pain and to die unlamented - Might Makes Right. The other nations dub this, as we would IRL, "homicidal mania."
Shidan:...to not take up weapons, to not prepare night and day to slaughter any enemies that would come against them - it is unthinkable. It is - one who does such a thing, who believes the world will not be dangerous, will not strive to kill him... That is what we call insane. ...And it is our dangerousness, our peril to each other, that keeps each clan from another's throats. If one member of the clan will not fight, and other clans know that to be true...
Langxue: They stomp on him, everybody else comes roaring in to fight, and the whole countryside goes up in flames.
This even applies to warfare. Zuko believes the War is wrong because the Fire Nation will be unable to hold its new territories, and as a result be unable to prevent retaliation by the other nations - retaliation that will kill pretty much everyone in the Fire Nation. He doesn't believe that the war is immoral, just unsuccessful. Vathara suggests this is inherent to their culture - a throwback to the constant state of clan warfare in which the only law was; "War is only immoral if you lose."
As team Avatar wanders the fire nation, we see that earth, air, and water also don't understand each other in all ways.
Aang has faith in freedom to the point that he doesn't understand that people can and will do things they don't want to do, let alone that people can make others want what others want. His belief in the sanctity of life is downright insane to the hunter instincts of fire and the hunter survival needs of water. The concept of true evil that one can not reason with is totally outside his worldview, and the pacifism of his culture is called into question as there are more definitions of harm than physical injury.
Water's orientation towards community often means that "good" is what benefits people inside the comunity of the tribes. Any crime against a member of the tribes from an outsider is 10 times worse than the same crime going the other direction. Members of the tribe who do evil are the tribe's responsibility. An outsider striking down an evildoer of the tribe is still attacking the tribe, even if the tribe would do much the same to the evildoer if they had the chance to do so.
Villain Decay - Whether Azula averts this or plays it straight in canon is YMMV, but while in canon she has her breakdown and goes from Magnificent Bastard to crazy person due to losing people she never regarded as friends in the first place, Embers first points out that Azula is less dangerous than Aang because all her moves are calculated, she thinks of the consequences of her actions, and limits the collateral damage, and then she's hit by lightning, which can cause brain damage, and given a concussion in the same scene, and Ty Lee notices very quickly that she's not thinking as well as she used to and is more prone to react with violence instead of trying to turn things to her advantage.
I am fairly sure she was hit by a rock, and remember her being described as concussed in the fic.
In Chapter 34, Amaya heals Azula, and tries a bit of therapy. It very much does not work.
Or does it?
If anything, this troper believes that Azula post-mind-healing is even more dangerous than ever. No only does she seem even more Dangerously Genre Savvy than before (keeping Mai close even after the loyalty break due to noticing how Mai is more willing to speak her mind honestly, and not discarding Ty Lee when she crashed into the lies embedded in the Way of the Onmitsu but supporting her and in doing so earning the favorable attentions of more of her father's shadowy, air-blooded ninja), Azula also seems to be picking up shades of Dragon with an Agenda, especially after the failed invasion arc, where she pulled a freaking Zuko and put the needs of the Fire Nation capital city's civilian population over her father/the Fire Lord's orders!
The Woobie - As of Chapter 31, Katara. Her tribe hates her and her own father threatens to kill her for something she wasn't aware she was doing. On top of that Aang both says she's a horrible person and reveals that there's no way they can ever be together unless Katara's willing to abandon her children the Airbender way; the way she lost her parents by her mother's death and her father's abandonment of the family... Toph is outright horrified by how Katara's treated, and Zuko feels as though doing this might have been Moral Event Horizon enough to mean he shouldn't be allowed to rule anyone, and feels compelled to write an apology even though he's from a culture based on cultures where apologies are considered worse than useless, what matters is actually taking action. Which he does, by sending her a way to both avenge her mother and get away from the people who have shown her they don't love her.
Although this 'apology' manages to send her into the Water Tribe version of loyalty sickness, since it forces her to choose between two parts of her family. The letter seems to suggest that Zuko knows he's forcing her to make a choice, and since he just survived loyalty sickness himself...seriously, What the Hell, Hero??
Her father and Sokka still love her, Sokka tells Hakoda to give her a hug later after they find out about the Air Nomads' way of life. They're still mad at her though, and don't quite know what to do with her at the moment. Which is probably worse.
She doesn't know that though. They don't know what to do with her, and need space, she feels alone and afraid because of it.
Of course, all of this neglects that Aang—whom a lot of people forget is twelve—is being forced to deal with suddenly having to mature and take on adult responsibilities. Since what he's being told he has to untangle is a clusterf*ck (in trope terms, a game of catch played with reproducing Idiot Balls), and as of Chapter 36 he is only starting to realize just how huge a mess he's expected to fix...it doesn't help in the least that, from what Kuei has said about Xiangchen having actually been the one doing what Aang says he was a hero to the Air Nomads for stopping, his views of his own people are going to be severely challenged.
The latest chapter tells us about Xiangchen and Subodei working together to kill Avatar Hirata, then take Yangchen and trap her in a gilded cage. That's right, Xiangchen is no hero.
Uncanny Valley - Apparently some Dai Li have relationships with Joo Dees because they're desperate for female companionship who won't be run off by spirit-wounds. Agent Bon does not see the attraction.
Some agents might have relationships with a Joo Dee. But that'd always struck Bon as - well, ew.
Unfortunate Implications - The number of these in the series was much of what inspired the fic. Some claim the fic has as many as it exposes,
What the Hell is "harmonious accord"? Something that can persuade mothers to give up their childrenat birth.
Not so much an Unfortunate Implication as a deliberate implication. Also Aang specifically says it was the children old enough, so not at birth but rather when they are done nursing. This Troper suspects that harmonious accord is airbending mind control, but rather than creating or pulling on existing emotions it helps you give up the emotions. Not necessarily an evil thing, think about grudges, hate, and fear, for instance.
Since Airbenders are Living Lie Detectors, Aang knew from the beginning that Zuko wasn't really going to hurt those people, which is why he doesn't understand why everyone's acting like he did something bad when Zuko lied first. Meaning the lesson about consequences is getting the reasonable reaction of wait, you're saying that you can lie and I can't?
Aang doesn't seem to realize there's a difference between not wanting to do something, and doing something you don't want to do. Just because Zuko didn't want to hurt anyone doesn't mean he won't use lethal force if he thinks he has to, such as that time with those Water Tribesmen who attacked the Wani, or any of the bandits he fought on the road.
For all we know at this point, to Aang there might not be much of a difference. He spends a good part of the canon trying to cope with it, which might be part of why Gyatso hadn't wanted him to be told he was the Avatar so young since that is really normal for his age. Sophistication in thinking is not something preteens are known for!
Confirmed to hell and back in Chapter 48. In Aang's understanding of the universe people do things Because They Want To.
Want to ride elephant koi? Ride elephant koi.
Want to stop practicing your earth bending because you're bored? Stop (at least until something more irritating comes to annoy you, then go and hide behind your bending practice).
Want the war to stop? Well he doesn't want to have to fight Ozai, but he has to if he wants the War to stop, so he'll do it.
This makes sense, until of course you apply it to other things. Hakoda is killing people, therefore he must want to kill people. If he didn't want to, then he could just stay in the village, right? Zuko's want got in the way of Aang's intent reading.
Often occurs in debate over the fic. In real life, genocides do not happen without certain prerequisites. Some people say that Vathara making the Avatar world more realistic by including those prerequisites is Rooting for the Empire since disobedience meaning death for the common soldier and a belief that they were attacked first would make what the Fire Nation did OK. By that logic, Nazi Germany's genocide, which had those prerequisites, was OK, which hopefully is not what the fic's detractors are trying to argue.
It's not. What the detractors are pointing out is that Vathara has forgotten one interesting word: Valkyrie.Loads of Germans hated Hitler and the Nazis, even during the war itself, despite the propaganda. Abraham Erskine's declaration that "the first country the Nazis invaded was their own" has a lot of Truth in Television in it. Canon, Piandao and Jeong Jeong didn't make noises about cultural differences and whatnot, they went out and won the Earth Kingdom back their capital the instant they had the opportunity. Giving the Fire Lord No Delays For The Wicked is equivalent to giving Hitler a workingSpear of Destiny.
Valkyrie is NOT a good example of resistance to Nazi Germany or its ideals. The group that carried out the plot only did so because Nazi Germany was losing; they didn't care about genocide or war crimes, all they cared about was preserving some of Nazi Germany's conquests and convincing the Western Allies to sign a truce with them so that, with Hitler gone, they could crush the Soviets. As if that was going to happen, but most of the plotters honestly believed that they could get the Allies to let them keep most of eastern Europe. Not only were they delusional, they actually agreed with the Nazis in many ways. Von Stauffenberg regarded the Poles as sub-human and his major objections were to Hitler's handling of the military side of the war. He and his compatriots were just as rascist and militaristic as the Nazis. Finally, nearly all Germans were loyal to the Nazis and Hitler until the very end; the cult of personality set up was strong enough that even where dissent existed (In March-April 1945) it never went beyond grumblings. A memoir I read by Bidderman offer a good example of this; he and his men weren't happy about the war, and they vocally expressed their displeasure to one another, but they never considered openly defying orders.
Indeed. As Ian Kershaw and many other historians have concluded, there was little active resistance within Germany. Dissent yes, but those who wanted to bring down the government were in a distinct minority.
What an Idiot: During his spirit-encounter with Roku, Zuko all but calls Roku an idiot for failing to see he could have prevented the war by undoing the unnatural situation Kyoshi had put them in, as well as for failing to accept his guilt in the matter. In Roku's defense, it's heavily implied that as a Fire Nation Avatar is born devoid of Loyalty, the suffering the Fire Nation was undergoing after having been forced to adopt a more Earth Kingdom-like social structure just passed over Roku's head. Roku himself doesn't even seem to know (or at least understand) that Loyalty, in a Fire National, is literally the difference between life and death.