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The Avatar

The bridge between the human and the spirit worlds, charged with keeping the world in balance. The Avatar is the only one who can bend all four elements, and reincarnates through each of the four nations in turn. For tropes relating to other Avatars, see Aang, Korra, Roku, Yangchen, and Wan, as well as the Avatar in general.

    Avatar Kyoshi
A servant girl for the Avatar Yun, who later finds out that she's the actual Avatar, and goes on a quest for revenge. Later in life, Kyoshi was the founder/creator of Kyoshi Island. She is best known as the creator of the Dai Li and the inspiration for the Kyoshi Warriors. She is also on record for the most triumphant demonstration of the power of the Avatar State, as she used it to alter plate tectonics.
  • Action Girl: She slowly becomes this over the course of the story.
  • Appeal to Force: Since she's no good at political intrigue or negotiation, this becomes her modus operandi: use her bending powers to enforce peace or balance. At one point, she's described as "the failure of diplomacy."
  • The Artful Dodger: Used to be this as a child until Kelsang took her under his wing. Her introduction as a child is swiping a priceless toy from Jianzhu and Kelsang's "experiment", which amuses the latter so much he ends up letting her keep it.
  • Ascended Extra: Kyoshi only spoke in the episodes "Avatar Day", Part 2 of "Sozin's Comet", and Part 1 of "Beginnings", plus a handful of namedrops, spirit visions, and worldbuilding background references. Here, of course, she's the star of the show.
  • Badass Boast: Gives a right heart-freezer to Zoryu when he tries to execute an innocent man to call off a civil war.
    Kyoshi: I care more for his life than I do for yours right now. Let me make myself perfectly clear. You live on top of what I control. Your islands are surrounded by my waves. You fill your very lungs at my discretion. So if I hear any news about 'Yun' being executed, you will truly learn what it's like when the spirits forsake you in the face of the elements.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Throughout the story, Kyoshi is plagued by self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy about being the Avatar, even worrying about tainting the Avatar legacy. She is also not a very skilled bender at the beginning of the story. She eventually settles on being a Pragmatic Hero who accepts that she has to make tough choices, including whether or not she should kill someone if it means peace and balance to the world. And even then, it's clear that Kyoshi isn't happy about that.
  • Combat Hand Fan: What Kyoshi inherits from her parents, and is sometimes used as a Power Crutch.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Well, prequel.
    • It's easy to miss, since on the surface they're both aggressive, powerful teenage girls, but Kyoshi presents some clear contrasts to Korra. Korra is a prodigy who was instinctively bending three of her four elements by age five, grew up very sheltered and isolated by her father, Tenzin and the White Lotus, and knew from a young age that she was the Avatar and never wanted to be anything else. Kyoshi, on the other hand, has trouble bending her own native element at first, was abandoned by her parents at a similarly young age, didn't have anything resembling a stable family life until she was working as Yun's maid at age 14 and, of course, had no idea she was the Avatar until it was revealed to her at literally the worst possible moment. Korra bonds with her Team Avatar because of shared hobbies and mutual friends, and they aren't her bending masters. Kyoshi's Team Avatar are also her bending masters, and they're from her parents due to the lack of any other resource she could call on. Aang's old friends and family became Korra's teachers and friends, while Kuruk's friends, for the most part, either wound up dead or as her enemies — in the first book, at least.
    • And, very obviously highlighted in the original show, Kyoshi is the opposite of Aang in many of the same ways Korra is: female, fierce, harsh, and willing to kill if no other option is viable.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Kyoshi hates her parents for abandoning her, concluding that they didn't want to be weighed down by a child during their criminal careers. Later, Lek suggests instead that they might have left her behind because they wanted a better life for her than that of a criminal. Kyoshi privately admits to herself that she had considered this, but was too angry at them to believe it to be likely.
  • Daddy's Girl: Kelsang is all but legally her adoptive father, and Kyoshi loves him fiercely. His death at Jianzhu's hands hits her just as if not harder than Yun's not long before.
  • Dark Shepherd: Kyoshi develops into the type of woman who gives people a chance to be better than themselves, and will kill them if they don't shape up.
    Kyoshi: [to Governor Te Sihung] You should have died tonight. I'll give you one chance to unsully yourself as governor of these lands. You will open the doors of your storehouses and make sure your people are fed. You will give back what you stole, even if it means selling your family's possessions. If you don't by the time I return, I'll make you wish you'd been captured by those daofei out there.
  • Fatal Flaw: Kyoshi has absolutely no political tact. Most of the problems in Shadow of Kyoshi are caused by her either jumping the gun, or unwittingly making a fool of herself. By book's end, through Lao Ge, she eventually decides not to get involved with internal political disputes.
  • Foil:
    • To Yun. Both were street kids picked up and raised by Kuruk's old friends (Kelsang for Kyoshi, Jianzhu for Yun), but their similarities pretty much end there.
      • Yun is an incredibly talented bender, to the point where he can liquify rocks and write using pebbles from a distance. Kyoshi has an immense amount of raw power—even bending the earth from the sea floor—but initially has trouble with small-scale bending and wasn't even much of a bender at the beginning of the story.
      • Yun is confident, charismatic, a skilled diplomat, and messy. Kyoshi has low self-esteem, keeps to herself, is tactless and blunt, and is a Neat Freak.
      • Yun is a talented Pai Sho player. Kyoshi cares nothing for the game.
      • Though he had his moments of insecurity, Yun embraced his Avatar status and worked hard to be the best Avatar he could be. Kyoshi initially did not want to be the Avatar and is constantly questioning if she is doing her Avatar duties the right way.
      • Yun received intense training when he was still known as the Avatar from master benders along with other skills like poison resistance and sneaking undercover. Kyoshi had to learn while on the run with her parents' old daofei gang.
      • Both wanted revenge against those who wronged them. But Yun responded by going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge towards those whom he deemed deserved it while Kyoshi realized that Jianzhu's death didn't make her feel any better.
    • Kyoshi to Korra. While they are superficially similar, both being headstrong teenage girls, their backgrounds could not be more opposite.
      • Kyoshi was abandoned by her parents on the streets at a young age, and forced to fend for herself. She was impoverished and often starved. No one had any idea she was the Avatar, and in fact Kuruk's friends thought another boy was. She was adopted by Kelsang, Kuruk's airbending friend, who did his best to care for her, but her relationships with Jianzhu and Hei-Ran were initially cordial but distant. It isn't until Kyoshi is sixteen, having known Kuruk's friends for years, that they catch on to her being the Avatar, and the knowledge splits them apart— Kyoshi grows closer to Hei-Ran, who takes her for a second daughter after she gets together with Rangi, but Jianzhu ends up killing Kelsang and makes a mortal enemy of Kyoshi in the process. And Kyoshi actually does have the high status of the Avatar, often being looked to not just for world-saving help, but for political power-brokering.
      • Korra was sheltered by her parents and the White Lotus after discovering she was the Avatar at a very young age. She spent her childhood in the South Pole compound focusing on her Avatar training, and being the Avatar is so intrinsic to her sense of self that she honestly can't imagine not being the Avatar in any way, shape, or form. She's never had to work or wonder where her next meal might come from, since her family or Aang's has always comfortably taken care of her; not only is poverty an entirely alien concept to her, but actually having to exchange cash for goods is something she's not used to, and the thought that she might need to didn't occur to her before it happened. She has good relationships with Aang's family and friends, with Zuko and Sokka protecting her and Katara and Toph mentoring her throughout her life. She's a person of high status on paper, but after the Hundred Year War, 99 years of which were Avatar-free, many people outright question the need for the Avatar and openly disrespect her.
  • Forgets to Eat: In The Shadow of Kyoshi, it's revealed that Kyoshi has a habit of skipping meals. Throughout the book, characters make note of this and frequently have to make sure she's eating.
  • Friendless Background: Rangi and Yun are her only friends, and she's only known them for two years. The other teenagers in Yokoya bully her constantly, and it's implied that she never got along very well with the other servants at Jianzhu's estate either.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: A big part of her character arc in the novel is seeking to develop the willingness to kill so she can take her revenge on Jianzhu. In the end, she does indeed kill Xu Ping An on her lonesome, and might have been able to kill Jianzhu as well had Yun not stepped in and done it himself.
  • Generation Xerox: Kuruk had feelings for Hei-Ran. Kyoshi, Kuruk's reincarnation, starts a relationship with Rangi, Hei-Ran's daughter.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: When she enters the Avatar state.
  • Happily Adopted: She's all but legally Kelsang's adopted daughter and sees him as her true father. When she goes to the air temple, she requests that Kelsang's image be put back up with the other airbending masters.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: She's really unhappy when Kelsang reveals his belief that she might be the Avatar. It takes time, but she eventually comes to embrace it.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Played with. Kuruk was in love with Rangi's mother Hei-Ran, making her own relationship with Rangi qualify in a bizzare Reincarnation Romance sense.
  • Missed the Call: An interesting case: she actually received the call in that she came to Jianzhu and Kelsang's little Yokoya experiment and had selected one of the true Avatar relics (which Jianzhu notes had not attracted any of the other kids), but when Kelsang urged her to pick more, she promptly ran away with her singular prize. Had she stayed and continued to correctly select the other three relics, she would've been correctly identified as the next Avatar right there and then. So it was less that Kyoshi missed the call and more that she herself hung up mid-call.
  • Neat Freak: Her time as a servant girl made her appreciate having things in order, especially since she had to tend to Yun so often.
  • No Social Skills: Living on the streets from a very young age, relentlessly bullied when she was a child and working as a servant, Kyoshi is not accustomed to the subtleties of human behaviour, which means she finds it very difficult when it comes to politics.
  • Origin Story: The Rise of Kyoshi serves as the introduction to her beginnings as Avatar Kyoshi.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The only things Kyoshi has from them are a journal detailing the secrets of their daofei group that she almost destroyed a few times, Jesa's gold fans that later become her Weapon of Choice, and the makeup and headdress from her father that becomes her Iconic Outfit.
  • Parental Abandonment: Her parents abandoned her as a child in Yokoya, with only a chest of their belongings to her name. She has neither forgiven nor forgotten what her parents did.
  • Parting Words Regret: After Kelsang is killed by Jianzhu, Kyoshi is torn up with guilt that the last true conversation they had was her being angry at him for revealing her identity as the Avatar to Rangi and Yun, feeling that she threw away her second chance with a father.
  • Revenge: The whole plot for The Rise of Kyoshi is Kyoshi getting revenge on Jianzhu for killing Kelsang and Yun.
  • Scars Are Forever: Kyoshi's Duel to the Death with Xu Ping An sees her being shot by lightning and while she does survive, the initial blast leaves her with permanent burn scars on her arms. It's why afterwards Lek gets her some gauntlets to cover her arms which end up becoming part of her Iconic Outfit.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Surprisingly, yes. Behind the intimidating Avatar persona she presents and becomes known for, Kyoshi is socially awkward, prefers to keep to herself, and almost fell on her face when Rangi brushed her fingers against her hand.
  • Start of Darkness: Kyoshi teetered on the edge of this in her youth after she watched one of her best friends consumed by a spirit and her beloved mentor Kelsang murdered by Jianzhu. This led her to run with bandits and other daofei in order for her to accumulate enough strength to kill Jianzhu. Fortunately, once she learns of the first raid, she changes tracks immediately and averts this trope's dark conclusion.
  • Statuesque Stunner: While she's not overtly described as attractive, Kyoshi's height is highlighted upon multiple times in the story, and her height was one of her defining features as the Avatar. Even by the age of seven she's much taller than other girls her age, leading Jianzhu to believe she's too old to be the new Avatar.
  • Street Urchin: After her parents abandoned her in Yokoya, she was kicked out into the streets by the person who was supposed to take care of her. Since Yokoya is a poor town, no one wanted to take her in and just left Kyoshi to fend for herself until Kelsang took her in.
  • Super Mode: The Avatar State, of course. She first taps into it after Jianzhu kills Kelsang. Later on, under Lao Ge's tutelage, she manages to figure out how to enter it voluntarily.
  • Technical Pacifist: Defied. Aang rationalizes that she didn't really kill Chin the Conqueror, only created the circumstances that led to his death. Kyoshi states that the distinction is irrelevant to her and she would have killed him more directly if the need arose.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Her earthbending is incredible in terms of raw power (best shown when she calls earth up from the sea floor during the battle with the Fifth Nation, something even Jianzhu couldn't manage), but her fine control is so poor she can't even move rocks smaller than boulders without shattering them (at first). Later events make it clear Kyoshi has this problem with every element save fire, which comes more naturally to her.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: While she doesn't directly kill Jianzhu (that would be Yun) she is more or less responsible for his death and finally achieves her revenge. After he dies and she looks at his dead body however Kyoshi is left wondering how she had so much contempt "for a container so small" and leaves him to be buried in the collapsing tea house. She also didn't realize until after the fact that spending all of her energy hating Jianzhu would leave her feeling empty once he was dead and left wondering what she was suppose to do now.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Do not dare hurt Rangi in any way in front of Kyoshi or you will face her wrath.
  • Youthful Freckles: She's described as having dark freckles.
  • Younger Than They Look: One of the reasons Jianzhu and Kelsang initially dismissed the possibility of her being the Avatar; she was already far taller than average for a seven year old and Jianzhu in particular assumed she was too old to have been born around the time Kuruk died.

    Avatar Kuruk 
Kyoshi's predecessor, from the Northern Water Tribe. His early death, coupled with his friends' inability to locate his reincarnation, plunged the world into chaos.

For tropes pertaining to his appearances in the original series, see here.

  • All-Loving Hero: One reason killing corrupted spirits had such a bad effect on him— Kyoshi notes he hates seeing others in pain.
  • Always Someone Better: Kuruk idolized Yangchen, and Yangchen fears his devotion to upholding her legacy led to him fighting alone and not sharing his burdens. Kuruk came to see himself as a failure who squandered her gifts.
  • Ascended Extra: Kuruk first appeared in the online tie-in game Escape from the Spirit World. Beyond that, he only spoke in the episodes "Sozin's Comet" Part 2 and "Beginnings" Part 1. While he only has two or three lines of dialogue in Rise, more about his history and personality is fleshed out through his friends' recollections of him, and forms the backdrop of Kyoshi's story. He gets a larger (but still relatively small) role in Shadow.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy:
    • His friends are full of stories about how he shirked his Avatar duties, but he was a dedicated and skilled Pai Sho player. Kyoshi later learns that he was actually truly dedicated to hunting down dark spirits threatening human lives, but chose to keep his actions a secret.
    • Kuruk would understand that the four elements are actually one in different states; information we learn from Iroh and Pathik in the animated series; and is revisited with Korra's fight against Kuvira when she metalbends but controls the metal like a waterbender. Kuruk also had the unfortunate luck of having very stubborn teachers who didn't want to listen unless it was done the right (read: their) way, and so Kuruk chose the path of least resistance, kept quiet and did what he was told.
  • The Charmer: Tagaka remembers him as a smooth talker.
  • Cultured Badass: He wrote poetry and was, as noted, a genius Pai Sho player, in addition to being the Avatar.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: The true importance of his tenure as the Avatar was ultimately lost to history. Yangchen's favoritism of humans over spirits caused many enraged spirits to attack the human world, and he spent his life cleaning up the mess she left behind by hunting them down.
  • Heartbroken Badass: The Shadow of Kyoshi reveals that Kuruk thought nothing of his life when he lost his own best friends who decided to pursue their own interests.
  • The Hedonist: Took up this lifestyle which irritated his friends; but none of them knew it was a coping mechanism to deal with the burden of defeating spirits.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Rise of Kyoshi reveals he wrote a poem for Hei-Ran; but never acted on it and chose to let her be happy with who she found. Shadow of Kyoshi would extend this to his friends: not wanting to burden them with the price of a shortened lifespan for slaying spirits, he chose to deliberately not tell them of what he was doing in order to preserve their lives.
  • Ladykiller in Love: He was a popular guy, but he had real feelings for both Hei-Ran and Ummi.
  • Mundane Luxury: His friends. Despite his duties, he loved his friends and cherished their time together.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Avatars tend to be this in general, but while we know from the original show that Kyoshi created an island, Kuruk sank one while practicing the Avatar State.
  • Posthumous Character: It's his unexpected death that kicks off the plot. Most of his characterization comes from Jianzhu's memories of him, and from a flashback he gives Kyoshi during their first proper meeting, where he reveals the secret of his traumatic time as Avatar and early death.
  • The Power of Legacy: Avatar Yangchen was idolized by humans, but her favoritism of them caused many spirits to be enraged. Kuruk hid this from everyone as to not taint her legacy.
  • The Promise: The one serious edict he gave as Avatar was to ask his friends to find his reincarnation and "do right by them."
  • Secretly Dying: Kuruk's draining battles with the spirits corrupted by Yangchen's favoritism to humans is what drastically shortened his life. Not wanting his friends and companions to share in his shame and pain, he never told them about it, letting them only see the hedonism he indulged in to self-medicate.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Pai Sho is swapped in here, but Kuruk's skill at the game (Kelsang calls him "unequivocally one of the greatest players in history") is an early indicator that he is smarter and more thoughtful than Kyoshi and his friends (and the reader) have been led to believe. His flashback in Shadow has him admitting that he gets bored in diplomatic meetings because he has to slow down for people who aren't as quick-minded as he is, and he assesses his final draw with Father Glowworm with the analogy that half of games between master players end in a draw. Notably, he is said to have played with Jianzhu daily, who is smart enough to have made himself the de facto ruler of the Earth Kingdom.
  • Stepford Smiler: Type 1: He deliberately took steps to appear carefree and happy with his life, while he was actually suffering from intense bouts of depression thanks to the mental and spiritual damage he took from fighting dangerous spirits, and losing touch with his friends.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: His death and the subsequent, unprecedented inability to locate the next Avatar caused a number of international crises.

    Avatar Yangchen 
The Avatar before Kuruk, an Airbender who is universally beloved across the Four Nations.

For tropes pertaining to her appearances in the original series, see here.

  • 100% Adoration Rating: Everyone prefers her to Kuruk, Kyoshi included. Sadly, that preference came at Kuruk's expense, as he had to deal with the fallout of Yangchen's neglecting the Spirit World; if he had come clean about his spirit hunting and the reasons for it, Yangchen might have had a very different reputation.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Kyoshi recalls that two of her teachers lost their lives protecting her.
  • My Greatest Failure: Remember General Old Iron from The Rift? Yangchen's dealing with him during her first mission as the Avatar set a bad precedent for her era, where she often sided with the humans over the spirits, causing the spirits to become bitter and corrupted... and necessitating Kuruk fighting with and often killing them, which in turn took a heavy toll on him and ended with him dying when he was barely in his thirties.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Favouring humans over spirits in her lifetime caused dark spirits to invade the world in Kuruk's lifetime.

    Avatar Szeto
Szeto in his brief appearance in The Legend of Korra

The Avatar preceding Yangchen, a Fire Nation bureaucrat whose scrupulously ethical administration led to peace and prosperity for the Fire Nation.

  • Badass Bureaucrat: The Fire Nation celebrates him because he steadied the ship at a time of great crisis, but he's still the Avatar. We saw him causing volcanoes to erupt in the series.
  • Boring, but Practical: He carved his place in history not through prodigious feats of bending or valor in battle, but through mundane bureaucracy and diplomacy.
  • Magma Man: He’s seen performing Lavabending in a flashback in the series proper.
  • Named by the Adaptation: He was unnamed in the original series. Here, he's given the name Szeto.


Kyoshi's Friends

A firebender who's close friends with Kyoshi and Yun, serving as the Avatar's bodyguard.
  • Action Girl: Since she was raised by a former Fire Nation general, and trained to be the Avatar's bodyguard, she can be very effective in combat.
  • Affectionate Nickname: She's referred to by some members of the Flying Opera Company as "topknot".
  • But Now I Must Go: After Jianzhu's death, Rangi is reunited with Kyoshi, but mournfully tells her that she needs to look after her mother who is still poisoned and plans on going to the North pole to see the best healers. She sadly has to part ways with Kyoshi in order to do so, but Kyoshi doesn't hold it against her and the two girls hope they can meet again. Subverted, where she returns in book two, The Shadow of Kyoshi.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: She's this for Kyoshi.
  • Bully Hunter: Her introductory scene has her defending Kyoshi from some village kids that frequently pick on her. It's implied that it's not the first time Rangi had to do that.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rangi mentions missing her father at some points in the story, since her mother is known as a widow, we can infer that he died when Rangi was still young.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It doesn't take much to set Rangi off, and she's prone to violent outbursts if angry enough.
  • Honor Before Reason: Like all Fire Nation citizens, she considers her honor to be something that shouldn't be tainted.
  • Meaningful Name: Yee said on Twitter that her name is truncated English for the Korean word for tiger “horangi” because of her fierce personality.
  • Military Brat: She acts like it and is described as such by Lek.
  • Official Couple: She starts dating Kyoshi a third of the way through Rise and they stay together for the remainder of the duology.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: It's noted by Yun that Rangi looks strikingly like her mother.
  • Team Mom: Rangi is the “mom friend” to Yun and Kyoshi like Katara was to Aang, Sokka, and Toph. Kyoshi even calls her a “mother hen” at one point early in the book.
  • Technicolor Fire: During the end confrontation with Yun, Rangi's fire turns from yellow to white for a moment, channeling her own inner fury. This makes her one of only a few characters in the entire franchise who can change the color of their fire.
  • Tomboyish Voice: Rangi is described in the book as having a charred rasp of a voice.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Jianzhu kidnaps Rangi using poison, and subtly threatens Kyoshi to meet with him by cutting of Rangi's topknot and pinning it to his letter. The next time Rangi appears, she's devastated that her topknot was chopped off but is glad to see that Kyoshi was alive.
  • Tsundere: Rangi often has a prickly and angry demeanor but does show her softer side to those she cares about. A good example of this is in Shadow after finding out that Kyoshi knew about Hei-Ran's sacrificial plan to kill Yun and didn't tell her Rangi coldly tells Kyoshi that they are nothing to each other anymore and storms of leaving Kyoshi in tears. Hei-Ran then gets Kyoshi's attention and tells her that Rangi declares eternal hatred to her all the time and it usually takes about a week for her to show a sign that she cares. Rangi then angrily storms back about ten minutes later to give Kyoshi some noodles since she hasn't eaten anything yet.
    Hei-Ran: See? Even faster than I thought.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Rangi is this for Kyoshi and Yun.
  • Uptown Girl: Technically, she is this to Kyoshi. Rangi is a noble from an illustrious clan. Meanwhile, even though she is the Avatar, Kyoshi is a peasant born to daofei parents and grew up as an orphaned Street Urchin.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: She'd do almost anything to keep Kyoshi safe, although she's not as violently protective as Kyoshi is of her.

An earthbender who is believed to be the next Avatar, who's quick-witted and easygoing.
  • The Ace: Prodigious earthbender, capable diplomat and scholar, and liked by pretty much everyone he meets. Despite his easygoing demeanor, he really does work hard on his lessons (bending and otherwise), and has a significant and genuine interest in the wellbeing of the Earth Kingdom. After he gets definitive proof that he's not the Avatar, though, he faceplants straight into Broken Ace.
  • Ax-Crazy: Has become this upon his return. Kyoshi realizes that Yun's revenge will never be satiated, for all but Kyoshi has apparently wronged him and thus they all have to die for it. Kyoshi ultimately realizes that as his revenge will kill everyone, she will have to kill her former best friend to end the rampage.
  • Back from the Dead: Subverted via Never Found the Body. Despite his apparent death at Father Glowworm's hands, he appears during Kyoshi and Jianzhu's climactic duel none the worse for wear, killing the latter before making a quick getaway. In Shadow, it turns out that he managed to survive the fight with Father Glowworm, killed and consumed the spirit, and busted out of the Spirit World.
  • Beard of Evil: Downplayed. When he returns to kill Jianzhu, he has neat stubble lining his jaw. It's never mentioned if he keeps this by the time of the second book, however.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: A running theme with Yun is that he lies to himself to protect his own self-regard:
    • He tells Kyoshi that if it turns out he wasn't the Avatar, he'd be glad it were her. In reality, he'd never even considered that to be a possibility and was only trying to comfort them both. It's part of what makes the news that he isn't the Avatar such a shock to him.
    • After Yun comes back, he keeps telling Kyoshi that she's the only innocent person in what happened to him and that he doesn't blame her. Zoryu points out, and Kyoshi later confirms during their final battle, that Yun actually resents her most of all, he just doesn't realize it.
  • Big Bad Slippage: In Rise of Kyoshi Yun is a kindhearted young man and Kyoshi's best friend who wants to become a great Avatar and help the world. This all changes after his father figure Jianzhu leaves him to die after Father Glowworm confirms he is not the Avatar and he gets dragged into the Spirit World. After killing the Spirit and returning home he has the misfortune to run into an Ungrateful Bastard of an innkeeper who refuses to give him a drink of water. The trauma finally causes him to snap, go on a murderous rampage, and kill Jianzhu in revenge. By the time of Shadow of Kyoshi Yun has now become the Big Bad and is determined to kill everyone who ever lied to him about being the Avatar which, Kyoshi realizes, now means everyone (except ironically Kyoshi herself).
  • Came Back Wrong: Kyoshi makes note of how when Yun shows up in the restaurant where she's trying to kill Jianzhu that something doesn't feel human about him anymore, despite being the picture of health. He also seems to taunt Kyoshi before leaving the restaurant by kicking a table into the wall, causing the restaurant that Kyoshi was trying to hold up to slowly break down.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After he's fought and been corrupted by Father Glowworm and broken out of the spirit world, Yun desperately tries to get some water first at a well and then at a tea house; he's refused both times because he has no way to pay. When he reveals who he is, the tea house owner cruelly tells him to waterbend if he wants a drink — and Yun snaps. First he rails at the ungrateful bastards whom he's dedicated his life to. Then he kills the owner, the tea house patrons and the guard at the well, and plans to do the same to all who 'lied' to him.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: As an earthbender, this is a given. So when Hei-Ran forces him to wear shoes to get better at fire-bending, he begrudgingly obeys.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: When Father Glowworm is enraged that Jianzhu wouldn't allow him to get his revenge on the Avatar, he grabs Yun instead and drags him off to the spirit world as Jianzhu closes the hole where he came from. However, he appears later on in the book alive, but somehow inhuman.
  • Evil Counterpart: Becomes one to Kyoshi after his Freak Out and Face–Heel Turn. He is basically what Kyoshi would have become if she let her rage at Jianzhu consume her and destroy her sense of empathy.
  • Face–Heel Turn: He is introduced as a friend and ally of Kyoshi. However, discovering his life's purpose was a lie, being abandoned to die by his mentor, and facing the ingratitude of the people he swore to protect drives him insane, triggering a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that leads to him becoming the Big Bad of The Shadow of Kyoshi.
  • Freak Out: The combination of learning he's not the Avatar and being betrayed by both his mentor and the people he tried to protect drives him completely insane, turning him from a kindhearted young man to a rage-fueled monster.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Despite telling Kyoshi that he would be happy if she were confirmed to be the true Avatar, when Father Glowworm confirms that Kyoshi was the actual Avatar, he breaks down mentally and Kyoshi realizes he was putting on a farce for both of them. This revelation, along with the drugged incense leads to his death.
    • Suffers a second one in The Shadow of Kyoshi when he first enters the Spirit World. The realization that he's not the Avatar and that Jianzhu betrayed him is so painful, Yun starts banging his head against the ground and a huge ravine forms in the swamp. It doesn't even register that he's in the Spirit World or that his life is in danger until his breakdown ends.
    • Suffers a third one when it's revealed that one of the men he worked to save during Tagaka's attack was completely ungrateful to him; and instead of trying to rise above such violent tendencies like Kyoshi would or even wants to, he completely succumbs to his own anger and inner desires and just kills the man.
  • Hustler: Subverted. Living on the streets of Makapu, Yun played tourists at Pai Sho for money. To give them confidence, he ran a gambit that put himself at a disadvantage. Only he never realized the gambit was supposed to be a scam and he was supposed to cheat. And he kept winning anyway.
  • Insane Troll Logic: However justified his desire to wreak bloody vengeance on everyone who lied to him about being the Avatar, it seems a fundamentally limited target list especially with Jianzhu already dead... except that he equates failure to convincingly challenge Jianzhu's assertion that Yun was the Avatar to lying to him about it, which boils down to everyone.
  • Mark of Shame: Yun's ink-stained hand is somewhat portrayed as this. The fight he gets it from is what calls his Avatarhood into question. Later on, it overlaps with Mark of the Beast. It's often described as looking dead and decayed, and is brought up whenever Yun is committing a horrible or unnatural act with the power he gets from Father Glowworm.
  • Not Brainwashed: Kyoshi spends most of Shadow believing that Father Glowworm is possessing Yun and tires to find a way to save him. Kuruk eventually has to tell her the Awful Truth; he is not possessed by Father Glowworm, nor is he meaningfully tainted mentally. He is just that furious over being misidentified as the Avatar and abandoned afterwards. This leads Kyoshi to realize that Yun will never stop in his revenge and has to be killed.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: For someone who wasn't the Avatar, it's impressive he fought Father Glowworm and won.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: After going through one hell of a Trauma Conga Line, Yun goes completely insane with hatred towards the entire world for lying about him being the Avatar. He goes so crazy that Kyoshi realizes that if she didn't stop him, he would try to kill every last human in the planet except for her.
  • Parental Abandonment: Most likely. It's implied he had no family when Kelsang and Jianzhu found him. He doesn't talk about his family with anyone and considers Jianzhu his father figure.
  • The Poorly Chosen One: The reader knows from the start that Kyoshi, not Yun, is the real Avatar. He really does try his hardest at being the best Avatar possible, but it's just not in the cards for him. Kyoshi ruefully notes after his (apparent) death that Yun would've made a much better Avatar than she ever could.
  • The Resenter: Despite his claim that Kyoshi is the only innocent in this whole tragedy, it's still clear that Yun resents her on some level for "stealing" his role as the Avatar. This resentment would end up being his undoing, as Kyoshi would take advantage of it to draw him within range of her killing blow.
  • Romantic False Lead: Despite the implied mutual attraction Yun had for Kyoshi nothing comes of their relationship before he is betrayed by Jianzhu and left to die. Afterwards Kyoshi falls for Rangi and her and Yun eventually become enemies.
  • Sacrificial Lion: He's the first major character to die in the novel (or so it seems) and immediately after Kyoshi is established to be the true Avatar. Not long after that, Jianzhu kills Kelsang, and things spiral out of control from there.
  • Samurai Ponytail: Has one in his official artwork, though it's never mentioned in the text itself.
  • Shadow Archetype: Yun eventually becomes Kyoshi's worst traits taken to their logical conclusion: a bloodthirsty maniac whose immediate solution to all of his problems is violence. Yun is Kyoshi succumbed to her anger and lashing out at the world for causing her pain.
  • Shipper on Deck: When he watches Kyoshi walk back to the compound with Rangi, he thinks the two look adorable together.
  • Shoot the Dog: Kyoshi is eventually forced to give him a Mercy Kill after realizing Yun can't be reasoned with, using waterbending to freeze his lungs.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: It's heavily implied he returned Kyoshi's unspoken crush on him, but neither was ever in a place to act on their feelings. And before anything could ever come of it, he gets dragged off to the spirit world by Father Glowworm.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Starts off as a Type 1. He's very cheerful and outgoing on the surface, but struggles from deep-buried feelings of inadequacy brought about by his continued failed attempts at bending any element but earth. Likewise, despite his widespread popularity among the world's dignitaries, it's pretty telling that his closest friends are servant girl Kyoshi and bodyguard Rangi.
    • A much more literal case occurs after he seemingly returns from his death, entering the restaurant Kyoshi and Jianzhu are fighting in, brutally murdering the latter, then leaving Kyoshi behind to keep the whole place from collapsing, all without losing the same beatific, unsettling smile.
  • Tragic Villain: Strong enough case to rival Azula herself. A child who was raised to be the Avatar, only to be fed to a monster when he's not and after much struggle to return home, is not only ignored but mocked by the very people he saved set him off the deep end. Kyoshi hates what he's become but can't let him run free.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Yun is this for Rangi and Kyoshi.
  • Villain Has a Point: In The Shadow of Kyoshi, he is understandably furious that he was raised to be the Avatar and lied to all his life, only to be left to die, with Kyoshi left to the mercy to Jianzhu. Then the people he was supposed to help mocked him when all he wanted was water after his traumatic experience. As he puts it, he was trained to protect them and they are being ungrateful; one person realizes this and tries to give him water to defuse the situation, but by then it's too late. Kyoshi even notes that his experience would have broken anyone, since it nearly broke her, and he says she was innocent of his trauma.
  • Walking Spoiler: He's presumed dead a third of the way through the first book. His return at the end of the book and his existence in the second make him impossible to discuss without spoiling one or more major plot twists.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The moment Father Glowworm confirms that Yun is not the true Avatar, Jianzhu has no remorse for leaving the boy who he had raised for seven years behind for the spirit to take him away into the spirit world.


An Air Nomad who serves Kyoshi as her chamberlain and secretary. He often tries to nudge her into paying more attention to her political obligations, which is unusual for a supposedly-detached monk. His sky bison is named Yingyong.

  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: The man is the Avatar's chamberlain, yet for all of that Kyoshi is frequently snappy and bitter toward him. He seems to get her back during his own discussions with Rangi.
  • Last Episode, New Character: Jinpa is introduced in the last chapter of Rise before going on to being major supporting character in Shadow.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Jinpa being the valet in question. He is very helpful to Kyoshi, but he also knows what a mess she is.
  • Technical Pacifist: He does believe in pacifism, but he also believes in other ideals (hinted to the reader to be the Order of the White Lotus, though Kyoshi doesn't have the context) that do require getting your hands dirty.


Avatar Kuruk's Companions

A celebrated group of friends who taught Kuruk how to bend the other elements— just not how to be a mature, responsible Avatar. His mistakes and theirs overshadow Kyoshi's life.

    As a Group 

  • Badass Crew: They were the Team Avatar of their day, and their reputations all precede them. Tagaka, the pirate queen, calls them butchers, as all of them have positively legendary body counts.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: They drifted apart shortly before Hei-Ran got married. Kuruk's death brought them back together in service of the next Avatar, and they broke again when Jianzhu killed Kelsang.
  • Famed in Story: Both as Kuruk's companions and as the complete badasses they are individually.
  • My Greatest Failure: Jianzhu and Kelsang both consider Kuruk's irresponsible behavior as Avatar to be their fault for not teaching him better. Hei-Ran doesn't weigh in on this, but it's not hard to imagine she feels similarly.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: They all want to mold Yun into the Avatar that Kuruk wasn't, and when the Avatar turns out to be Kyoshi, Jianzhu is ready to do the same to her.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Even if they could have done nothing to aid his battles with rampaging spirits, heal the emotional/spiritual/mystical damage he suffered in slaying them, or even keep his efforts at self-medication from wrecking his public image, Avatar Kuruk's failure to confide in them left them thinking the man they helped mentor wound up a lazy hedonist coasting on the peace Yangchen forged, with serious ramifications for their long-term actions.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Jianzhu and Kelsang began drifting apart as Jianzhu forced Kelsang out as Yun's teacher for fear he was gaining more influence over Yun.
  • We Were Your Team: The group fell apart after Kuruk's death; Hei-Ran drifted away on her own path, while Jianzhu and Kelsang took it upon themselves to protect the world in what ways they can, which in the former's case led him to eventually become a villain to the Avatar.


A well-connected earthbending sage who has a lot of influence over the Earth Kingdom and other nations.

  • Anti-Villain: For all his crimes and the villainous tropes associated with him, he genuinely wants to help the Earth Kingdom and the rest of the world, and his ultimate goal is to give the planet a strong and capable Avatar who won't make the same mistakes that Kuruk did.
  • Big Bad: He's the main antagonist of The Rise of Kyoshi, with Kyoshi's journey to take revenge on him for Yun and Kelsangs' deaths juxtaposed with Jianzhu's own operation to recapture the wayward Avatar.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When Jianzhu throws down, he does so without any reservation. Attacking vital spots, hitting enemies from where they can't see him, and taking hostages mid-battle are all fair game for him.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Yun bends the rock bullet Kyoshi tried to send at Jianzhu's forehead by placing the rock in his palm and pressing it to Jianzhu's chest while his other hand is pressed against his back. He then presses the stone through until it comes out to his other palm covered in blood.
  • Defiant to the End: It's considered polite to resign a game of Pai Sho when it becomes clear you've lost, but Jianzhu is noted to always play to the bitter end.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Very possibly the most powerful earthbender in the world during the time period, up to and including Kyoshi when she's not in the Avatar State.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Killed at the end of the first book in the series.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted multiple times over. Despite his genuine affection for Kelsang, Yun, and Hei-Ran, he still murders Kelsang for interfering with his plans for Kyoshi, willingly leaves Yun for dead with Father Glowworm, and allows Hei-Ran to be poisoned alongside the Earth Sages he's trying to kill and his servants. He tells Yun that he loves him and is angry at people who belittle Kelsang even after having killed him, and it's not until he realizes that Hei-Ran is his last friend left that he starts to regret his actions, and that's less because Hei-Ran is hurt than it is because he's going to lose her.
  • Fatal Flaw: A dogged refusal to accept a scenario in which someone besides him mentors the Avatar. He needlessly assaults Kyoshi when she (justifiably) refuses to become his disciple, and is willing to alienate (and murder in the case of Kelsang) his friends, poison himself and commit mass murder rather than give up his hold on Kyoshi. His path is ultimately a self destructive one even before Yun returns.
  • Foil: Unintentionally or not he is one to two of the future Avatar Korra's enemies, Zaheer and Kuvira:
    • While Zaheer was an Air Nomad fanboy who despised authority figures, disregarded material links, was fiercely loyal to his friends and believed the Avatar had to be killed to truly bring balance to the world, Jianzhu is a man who is willing to go against his friend's interests and uses authority figures, bribes and materialism to make his vision of the perfect Avatar come true in order to bring balance.
    • Both Jianzhu and Kuvira are highly skilled earthbenders who come to wield great power over the Earth Kingdom, and both come from well-off families in that nation (though while Kuvira was adopted into the Beifongs, Jianzhu is a born Ganjinese). But while Kuvira openly rules the Earth Kingdom as a military dictator, Jianzhu uses a mixture of wealth, allies and influence to act as an unofficial ruler. And while Kuvira's plans don't involve the Avatar directly, and she expresses the belief that the Avatar is obsolete, Jianzhu is obsessed with being the Avatar's mentor, believing the presence of a capable one to be essential for the wellbeing of the world. Finally, Kuvira and Korra never feel any particular enmity towards each other and even come to see each other as allies, whereas Kyoshi's hatred of Jianzhu is very personal, and never heals.
  • Hero Killer: Over the cource of the novel he seemingly leaves Yun to die and actually kills Kelsang and Lek which only increases Kyoshi's hatred for him.
  • Hostage Situation: In the climax of the novel Jianzhu meets Kyoshi at the tea house in Qinchao Village and tells her that, if she doesn't return with her, he will drop the roof of the building on the unsuspecting occupants. He also makes sure to note that, if she forces his hand, he may decide to slit Rangi's throat when he gets home. Kyoshi promptly tries to send one of Lek's bullets through his head.
  • Hypocrite: When he finds out that Kelsang broke into his private study to find out where he went with Yun and Kyoshi, he has the gall to get offended that his friend didn't trust him, and complain that he can't trust those closest to him anymore. Even though, as Kelsang is quick to tell him, the secrecy of his actions and what he did to Yun more than earned his friend's mistrust.
  • I Have Your Wife: In the final act of the book he kidnaps Rangi in order to force Kyoshi to follow him. He even tells her during their final confrontation that he sent the shirshu after Rangi, not Kyoshi, since he knew the wayward Avatar would never follow him without leverage.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Shows little sadness or remorse for allowing Yun to be dragged off by Father Glowworm despite the boy admiring him and seeing him as family.
  • Murder by Inaction: He abandons Yun to die at Father Glowworm's hands, sparking both Kyoshi's murderous grudge against him and Yun's murderous grudge against everyone.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Aware that he might fail to bring in Kyoshi and die in the attempt, which happens, he prepares a final will and testament vouching for Kyoshi as the true Avatar and bequeathing all of his wealth and lands to her and sent it to all of the Earth Kingdom's most important individuals. The motive was not altruistic — it was his final attempt to influence Kyoshi's path as an Avatar to suit his ideals.
  • My Greatest Failure: Sees Kuruk's overly easygoing attitude before his death as a mistake he shouldn't have made as his teacher, which lead to the search for the next Avatar all the more difficult and the world being without an Avatar for years.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Just his name in general sparks fear in criminals, nobles and civilians alike due to his political power and intelligence. However, the name he earned on the battlefield "Gravedigger" really tells you why he's feared.
  • The Needs of the Many: Jianzhu desperately wants to help the multitudes of people in the Four Nations to become safer and more prosperous, but he's become emotionally dulled to the suffering of individuals. And he causes a lot of suffering for certain individuals...
  • Never My Fault: Once it's revealed that Kyoshi is the true Avatar, Jianzhu calls Yun a liar who deceived him, conveniently ignoring the fact that he was the one who decided Yun must be the Avatar, and if anything he's the one who was lying.
  • Parental Substitute: He's the closest thing Yun has to a father, and to some degree the feeling seems to be mutual. Doesn't stop him from abandoning Yun to Father Glowworm the second the latter is no longer any use to him.
  • Pet the Dog: In keeping with his genuine desire to help the Four Nations and bring some semblance to a chaotic post-Kuruk world, he applied for a loan with the Beifong family in the Southern Water Tribe's stead, hoping to use the money to help the Southerners build an effective naval fleet to better defend themselves. The effect of his application being denied (thanks to Hui) would be felt centuries later.
  • Red Baron:
    • He's known as "The Gravedigger" among the daofei for an unknown event in which he killed five thousand of the Yellow Neck criminals singlehanded. He eventually reveals the truth of the event to Kyoshi: He killed their earthbenders, then told everyone else that if they dug the deepest ditch possible by the end of the day, they'd be spared his wrath. When that was done he simply swept the earth over all of the holes, burying five thousand criminals alive in one fell swoop.
    • Lao Ge and Father Glowworm call him (the) "Architect." This might refer to his unique style of Earthbending, which seems to focus a lot on structural redundancy for its support.
  • Sore Loser: In Pai Sho, a true master can often tell how the game is going to go, and will concede if he has no chance of winning. Jianzhu will not, and always forces his opponents to play to the bitter end whether he loses or not.
  • The Strategist: He was this for Kuruk and uses it to his advantage to have ties all around the four nations.
  • We Used to Be Friends: He and Kelsang used to be close as companions to Kuruk. But after Kuruk's death, their friendship has become strained and he blames himself for the paths they all ended on. He shows a bit of remorse for killing Kelsang, but in Kyoshi's view, that look is brief.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jianzhu desperately wants to bring peace to the world after having to battle pirates and bandits that have terrorised the seas and the Earth Kingdom, and to do that he needs to fulfil his promise to Kuruk and properly train the new Avatar. His efforts to control Yun's training, and then attempt to get control of Kyoshi in turn, cause a whole lot of misery.


Avatar Kuruk's airbending teacher, who decides to take Kyoshi under his wing. His sky bison is named Pengpeng.

  • Batman Grabs a Gun: His greatest failure, and the reason he's been exiled from the Air Temples, was his long-ago decision to use lethal force against the Fifth Nation and create a storm at sea that destroyed their ships and killed dozens of pirates. He's deeply ashamed when Kyoshi learns the truth thanks to Tagaka.
  • The Big Guy: He is described as being around Kyoshi's height, which is quite a feat considering how tall she was.
  • Friend to All Children: Despite his intemitating size Kelsang has a real soft spot for children and becomes something akin to a giant teddy bear around him, especially around his future adoptive daughter Kyoshi.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Fifth Nation refer to him as the "Living Typhoon."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tagaka notes that he inadvertently helped her come to power via avoiding a Succession Crisis among the Fifth Nation fleet because his actions as the Living Typhoon got several of Tagaka's uncles killed.
  • Parental Substitute: Kyoshi sees Kelsang as a father figure, and he sees her as something like a daughter. When he couldn't stay in the Earth kingdom, he begged for foster families look after Kyoshi and twisted a few arms for her to work at the Avatar's mansion.
  • Shipping Torpedo: Kelsang was one; he wonders to Kyoshi if he should have allowed Kuruk to give his love letter to Hei-Ran (even though she was married) and let the two run off together. Kyoshi hotly says he did the right thing in having Kuruk burn the letter since that would mean Rangi would have never been born.
  • Simple Staff: Like all airbenders, he carries a staff that can turn into a glider.
  • Slashed Throat: How Jianzhu kills him, and the last image of her father figure that Kyoshi sees.
  • We Used to Be Friends: He and Jianzhu were close friends alongside Kuruk. But after the Avatar's early death and the time it took for them to find the next Avatar in the cycle, they're no longer as close as they used to be.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: He's been excommunicated from the Air Nomads for some years at the time of the novel's main plot, as a result of his actions against the Fifth Nation.


Rangi's mother. She resigned first her commission in the Fire Army to teach Kuruk firebending, and then quit her second career as Headmistress of the Royal Fire Academy for Girls to teach Yun.

  • Action Mom: Rangi learned her badassery from her mom. Their coordination on the iceberg fight leaves no gaps.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: She had some feelings for Kuruk, but ended up marrying Rangi's father.
  • Ascended Extra: She is a fairly minor character in Rise and could have been removed from the plot without consequence. She gets much more pagetime and development in Shadow.
  • Badass Teacher: She taught Kuruk to firebend and was trying to do the same for Yun, and actually served as a firebending teacher at a prestigious academy in-between those two periods. In Shadow, we find out that she also taught Firebending to the reigning Fire Lord. Rangi's skill at tutoring Kyoshi in firebending is likely due to her influence.
  • Disease Bleach: In Rise Hei-Ran is stated to look an awful lot like her daughter, despite likely being in her late 40's to early 50's, to the point that Kyoshi mentions she could pass off as her daughter's older sister. After almost dying from Jianzhu's poison and spending two years recovering in the Northern Water Tribe when Hei-Ran returns in Shadow she is stated to have grey streaking through her once solid black hair and has visibly aged between books.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Is this to everyone from Rangi to Yun to Kyoshi to the freaking Fire Lord, but she means well and it comes from a place of love.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When faced with certain death at Yun's hands, she orders Kyoshi to pursue and defeat him even if it means leaving her to die without a moment's hesitation.
  • Good Parents: She loves Rangi dearly, who returns the sentiment with full force. Their relationship is much healthier and more stable than Yun and Jianzhu's twisted parent/teacher relationship.
  • Honor Before Reason: Like all firebenders from the Fire Nation, she holds her honor high above anything else.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: She has her throat gouged out by Yun in Shadow, costing her her ability to speak.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: She tells Kyoshi in Shadow that because of her relationship with Rangi she considers her to be another daughter.
  • Mama Bear: She's very protective of her daughter, and when one noble offers to marry Rangi instead of her, she glares at them and tells them not to even think about trying.
  • Nerves of Steel: A gifted Earthbender is out to murder her. Her Firebending is extremely weakened after being poisoned and almost killed by her oldest friend, who'd already murdered her other oldest friend. She decides this is fine and sets herself up as bait, calmly playing a game of Pai Sho with her would-be murderer in order to give Kyoshi time to kill him, going so far as to insist that getting killed is fine by her so long as Kyoshi gets him too. He stabs her in the throat and she just pulls him closer and tries to kill him right alongside her, though she only succeeds in burning him. After all that, she is choking on her own blood and still orders Kyoshi to go after Yun.
  • No Hero to His Valet: The one exception to the social hierarchy in the Fire Nation is the teacher/student relationship. Which means that Hei-Ran has license to to scold the Fire Lord and refers to him as one of the kids.
  • Shipper on Deck: She is highly supportive of her daughters relationship with Kyoshi and tells her that Rangi's love for Kyoshi makes her like family.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Her daughter Rangi is stated to look a lot like her.
  • Taking You with Me: She makes a valiant effort to kill Yun when he comes to kill her, though neither die at that juncture.
  • Widow Woman: Is a widow, which leads to noblemen trying to court her, to no avail.


Mutually disliked by Kuruk's other friends for being a bad influence on him, Nyahitha is a former Fire Sage of the Bhanti tribe.

  • Closest Thing We Got: Played with. Rangi considers him this, since he is no longer a real Fire Sage, but Hei-Ran points out that the only reason he isn't is politics— he is just as qualified as Chaejin, but Chaejin and the Saowon had more political clout.
  • Con Man: He earns money by exposing people to the hallucinogenic gases and claiming they're having spiritual revelations.
  • The Handler: Describes himself as such for Kuruk's spirit world missions.
  • Secret-Keeper: The only one of Kuruk's friends who knew about his fights with the dark spirits.

The Fifth Nation Pirates


A self proclaimed Queen of Pirates from the Southern Water Tribe who raids and fights anyone in her way. She leads the Fifth Nation, a well-established and ruthless clan of pirates whose recent criminal activity along the Earth Kingdom's coasts has aroused the awareness of Jianzhu and his cohorts.

  • Cool Sword: Wields a jian made of jade. She nearly takes Yun's head off with it during the battle on the iceberg, but he's fast enough to pull off a Barehanded Blade Block.
  • Dark Action Girl: Ruthless pirate queen and a very powerful waterbender. She overpowers Yun in less than a minute, and later holds her own against Rangi and Hei-Ran simultaneously.
  • Exact Words: She's built her reputation as a Non-Action Big Bad on the claim that she's "not the bender her father was". Turns out eventually that this is true: she's far more powerful than he ever was.
  • Faux Affably Evil: She plays the part of a noble leader who only wants what's best for the Southern Water Tribe, but it's a flimsy act at best. Once Yun makes it clear he has no intention on negotiating a deal for the captured slaves that'll benefit her, she doesn't hesitate for a moment to show her sadistic true colors.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: She might be an unrepentant criminal, but her accusations regarding Jianzhu, Kelsang, and Hei-Ran's past deeds are all truthful, and the first major clue to Kyoshi (and the reader) that Kuruk's former companions aren't necessarily the upstanding heroes the narrative sets them up to be.
  • People Puppets: It isn't stated by the text and no one notices it specifically, but it's implied that Tagaka is a bloodbender.
  • Pirate Girl: And proud.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: While she was always evil, her choice to start abducting coastal Earth Kingdom citizens for use as slaves by the Fifth Nation is what compels Yun and Jianzhu to move against her.
  • Starter Villain: She's the first antagonist Kyoshi faces in the novel, and is defeated before the halfway point. Not long after that, Jianzhu takes central stage as the Big Bad.
  • Stronger Than They Look: She pretends at first that she's a feeble waterbender, but then reveals that she was stronger than her father and acted that way to distract the heroes.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Kyoshi is shocked to discover that one of the most feared criminals in the world basically looks like a typical Water Tribe woman, save for her more utilitarian choice in dress.

The Flying Opera Company

A daofei group formerly led by Kyoshi's parents. Their name comes from how they make themselves up to look like performers, and the fact that they're usually traveling by sky bison. Their signature move is called "dust-stepping," Earthbending such tiny fragments that they can walk across the sky, almost. Kirima, the Waterbender, has a variant called "mist-stepping," using tiny jets of water. When they're all Kyoshi and Rangi have, they become Kyoshi's bending masters.

    As a Group 

  • Badass Crew: They're not the highest on the daofei totem pole, but they are Kyoshi's version of "Team Avatar." They're also well-regarded among daofei because they're a rare group of benders among the wider daofei community.
  • Not Quite Flight: Their signature technique, dust-stepping (or mist-stepping for the waterbender Kirima), lets them walk across the air by bending very small pieces of earth or water to meet their feet as they're stepping into the air. Implied to be inspired by Jesa's airbending.
  • Put on a Bus: They leave Kyoshi's side at the end of Rise and don't return until the final battle of Shadow.
  • Signature Move: Dust-stepping, which is bending tiny fragments of earth in order to walk across the air. Kirima developed mist-stepping as a waterbending variation, and Rangi immediately adapts jet-stepping for firebending once she gets a good look at it. This is why they're called the Flying Opera Company. It's never stated, but dust-stepping was probably inspired by Jesa's airbending.
  • Signature Team Transport: Jesa's sky bison, Longyan. After Jesa's death, Longyan ran off. When Kyoshi and Rangi show up with Pengpeng, Lek, in particular, is thrilled.
  • True Companions: They were unflinchingly loyal to Kyoshi's parents when they were alive. They eventually become this for Kyoshi as well, along with Rangi.

    Jesa & Hark 

Kyoshi's parents and founders of the Flying Opera Company, who abandoned Kyoshi in Yokoya when she was young.

  • Combat Hand Fan: Kyoshi's famous fans were originally Jesa's. She began using them when her airbending got weaker after she left the air nomad ways behind.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Discussed. Lek suggests to Kyoshi that Hark and Jesa left her in Yokoya not because they thought her dead weight, but because they believed she would have a better life among law-abiding folk. Privately, Kyoshi admits to herself that this had occurred to her — she had just been too busy hating them for everything wrong with her life to seriously consider it. As for why they took him in, he was just a talented kid who could be replaced far more easily than their own flesh and blood.
  • The Face: Jesa. Considering most daofei are non-benders, and none besides her were Air Nomads, she and her unique abilities stood out. Kyoshi says that her fame quickly outstripped Hark's, and at one point describes them as "my mother's gang."
  • Guyliner: Hark's theatre ancestry is what inspired him and his allies to wear theatre makeup during their crimes.
  • Lovable Rogue: Hark was probably this considering he was able to convince Jesa, a promising Air Nomad, to help him with a heist.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Jesa was a pacifistic Air Nomad, before she fell in love with Hark and became a dangerous gang leader.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The only things Kyoshi has from them are a journal detailing the secrets of the daofei that she almost destroyed a few times, Jesa's gold fans that later become Kyoshi's Weapon of Choice, and her father's headdress and makeup that the company use when going on their jobs. All of these items come together to create Kyoshi's Iconic Outfit.
  • Parental Abandonment: They abandoned Kyoshi when she was a young child.
  • Tattooed Crook: Jesa had tattooed serpents that were originaly her Airbender tattoos when she completely joined the daofei. This was one of her most defining features.

    Lao Ge 

An elderly earthbender who harbors dark secrets. He becomes a mentor to Kyoshi when she uncovers his true nature.

  • The Alcoholic: Usually mentions wanting to get a drink, and Kyoshi and Rangi's first interaction with him was giving him money that he later used to buy alcohol. The drinking is eventually implied to be an act to conceal his true nature, since he doesn't touch a drop of liquor once he starts tutoring Kyoshi.
  • Badass Boast: Delivers a spectacular one to Fire Lord Zoryu on behalf of Kyoshi.
    Lao Ge: My friend is not a diplomat. She is the failure of diplomacy. She is the breakdown of negotiations. There is no escalation of hostilities beyond her.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Believes that the "way of the hunter" dictates that someone needs to strike fast and from behind before the opponent is even aware that they are there. When Kyoshi challenges Xu Ping An to a Duel to the Death Lao Ge gets angry with her, not because she wants to kill him, but that she would attack him openly even seeming disgusted at the concept of an honorable duel.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Acts like a senile old drunkard at first glance but the rest of the Flying Opera Company have no doubt that he can handle fighting the various lawman at Chameleon Bay by himself and rendezvous with the rest of them (which he does). And that's not taking into account his extracurricular activities as a seemingly immortal assassin.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: He's a longlived earthbender who's accumulated decades of experience. It is unknown how he stacks up to Jianzhu though.
  • The Dreaded: Kyoshi notes that her mother, an airbender and leader of the Flying Opera Company, was terrified of Lao Ge.
  • Drunken Master: He's completely plastered during the fight and chase sequence in Chameleon Bay. It doesn't hinder him in the slightest from taking apart entire squads of police like toys and escaping the mayhem without a scratch.
  • Foil: Relative to a few from the original series
    • Like Uncle Iroh. Both are powerful benders who liberally copy techniques from other styles, have a great deal of blood on their hands from past deeds, and take an interest in mentoring one of the protagonists. But while Iroh is The Atoner, devoted to Zuko and genuinely interested in turning him towards a better path, Lao Ge is a cynical Trickster Mentor who has no interest in helping Kyoshi pursue a more righteous path, and indeed is quite invested in achieving the exact opposite.
    • Like King Bumi he is an extremely aged Master Earthbender who goes against the grain of what's expected. But where Bumi is an eccentric The Good King within the system who has mastered earth bending, Lao Ge is outside of it removing obstacles and corrupt officials. While both are Trickster Mentors Lao Ge is more restrained than Bumi. This even shows up in their bending styles where Ge will hurl himself at a target while Bumi is content to use earth.
  • Long-Lived: He's been around for a long long time. He briefly discusses with Kyoshi how he thinks he has lived for so long, which may lead to her living for over two hundred years.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: He acts like a senile old fool, but in reality he's an immortal assassin.
  • Red Baron: His true name is Tieguai the Immortal.
  • Secret-Keeper: When Kyoshi reveals that she knows he's an assassin, she promises to not tell anyone and he promises in return to keep her "secret".
  • Would Hurt a Child: Shows zero hesitation in trying to kill Governor Te even after it's revealed the latter is only a child younger than Kyoshi.

A tough and sarcastic waterbender of the Flying Opera Company.
  • Badass Teacher: She's a seasoned criminal who serves as Kyoshi's first waterbending instructor.
  • Combat Medic: Averted, actually; unlike previous (or future) Team Avatar waterbenders described in the series, Kirima is not a particularly gifted healer. When she tries to heal Lek's hand after he gets his palm cut open by Wai, it leaves behind a blotchy scar. It's also the reason that, after Kyoshi's hands are burned from her duel with Xu Ping An, she immediately tells the rest of the group that they need to get her to a healer rather than try to heal her herself.
  • Cool Big Sis: They're not related by blood, but she still looks out for Lek like a protective older sister. Out of everyone in the Flying Opera Group, she takes his death the hardest.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Strikes up an almost-instantaneous mutual dislike with Rangi, which only partially abates over the course of the novel.
  • Healing Hands: Can use waterbending for healing, though by her own admission she's not very good at it.
  • Lady of War: Has a pretty crass personality, but the natural grace of waterbending comes out when she fights. She can waterbend at a level of dexterity and economy of motion the likes of which Kyoshi's never seen before, and even perform her own form of dust-stepping that the narration likens to running on starlight.
  • Mysterious Past: Rangi lampshades the unlikelihood of a waterbender running around with a bunch of earthbender criminals. The reader only learns about Kirima's history in offhanded snippets, and none of it really explains her current situation much.
  • Not Quite Flight: Can perform her own form of dust-stepping called "mist-stepping", which involves propelling herself through the air on tiny jets of water. She tries to teach Kyoshi how to do it, to no avail.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Before Kyoshi joined the Flying Opera Group, she was both the only woman and the only non-earthbender.
  • Water Is Womanly: Downplayed. Before Kyoshi joins she's the only woman and only waterbender in the Flying Opera Company. She has a crass personality but shows her grace when waterbending.

The youngest earthbender of the Flying Opera Company, known for his accuracy with small rocks.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: He slowly becomes this for Kyoshi.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: He's noted to be the youngest of the Flying Opera Group.
  • Badass Teacher: He is one of Kyoshi's earthbending teachers, helping her to hone her precision and accuracy.
  • Friendly Sniper: He can bend small rocks as if they were bullets and aim them with great accuracy.
  • Hero Worship: Practically worshipped the ground Kyoshi's parents walked on, since they saved him when he was young. He doesn't take kindly to Kyoshi's insults towards them.
  • Red Baron: Bullet Lek, referring to the precision and marksmanship he has when bending small fragments of earth.
  • Ship Tease: He asks Kyoshi if he has a chance with Rangi, although he might have just been teasing her, giving his reaction to Kyoshi's expression towards that question.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: As he walks into town with Kyoshi and Rangi going shopping, when all three of them are hit by darts of Shirsu poison Lek suffers an allergic reaction and dies on the spot.
  • Weak, but Skilled: His raw power is lacking, but he's very precise for an earthbender, specializing in throwing small rocks as if they were bullets, and even redirecting them mid-flight. Kyoshi's training sessions with him aren't so much learning earthbending as they are trying to emulate the same level of precision Lek has.

Another earthbender of the Flying Opera Company, he's a very large man who is also prim and graceful.

  • Acrofatic: He's described as large and bulky, but that doesn't stop him from dust stepping or keeping up with his allies.
  • Badass Teacher: Becomes one of Kyoshi's earthbending teachers, specifically teaching her how to use her mother's fans.
  • The Big Guy: Is described as being massive, but Kyoshi is surprised at how softly he moves on the ground.
  • The Dandy: Almost! He wears expensive clothes, but they don't quite fit him...
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: He's the one who trains Kyoshi to fight with her fans, and emphasizes the grace and beauty of it.
  • Manly Tears: Played straight, understandably, when he sees Lek's dead body in Kyoshi's arms.
  • Red Baron: Flitting Sparrowkeet Wong, referring to his grace in the air.
  • Serious Business: As it turns out he considers fan dancing to be a very serious art form and during his training with Kyoshi he transforms from the quiet Big Guy into a Drill Sergeant Nasty when she doesn't get the moves right.

Daofei Elders


The highest-ranking member of the Autumn Bloom.

  • The Bully: Kyoshi quickly identifies him as this. In particular, his management strategy is little more than "give orders, then give punishment when they aren't carried out correctly." He gets mad when Rangi asks him tactical questions about their mission, because it illustrates how much he doesn't know.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He tries to ape his brother's Affably Evil nature, but he's not as good at it. Xu is genuinely friendly to those he favors, but Mok can barely contain his rage over even the smallest of insults.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: He escapes judgement in Rise, but is defeated by Kyoshi at the beginning of Shadow.
  • Starter Villain: In Shadow, he's the first enemy Kyoshi faces. He's less of a threat in his own right and more of a vehicle to show what Kyoshi's been up to in the past year.


A high-ranking member of the Autumn Bloom daofei band.

  • Hidden Depths: He is a surprisingly spiritual man, and bows before Kyoshi when she is revealed to be the Avatar.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: He respects strength, so when Kyoshi "accidentally" breaks his hand to keep him from stabbing Lek, he backs down.

    Xu Ping An 

Leader of the Yellow Necks, one of the largest and most dangerous bands of daofei in history. He considered himself the protector of the world... meaning the world owed him for allowing it to exist. He is thought dead at the start of the story.

  • Affably Evil: If you didn't know of his atrocities, you'd swear he's a pleasant chap for good conversation.
  • Character Death: Kyoshi kills him during their duel when she airbends them into the air and drops him to his death.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: He attempts to do this to Kyoshi during their duel by shocking her with lightningbending until she drops dead. As it turns out only the first blast of lightning he shot, which hit her fans and fried her hands, actually hurt Kyoshi and her chainmail Battle Ballgown absorbed most of the shots so she plays dead until she can lay a counterattack.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Xu Ping An blasts Kyoshi with lightningbending. While fans of Avatar know it to be a rare ability kept within the Fire Nation royal family, in Kyoshi's time it was downright mythical among even the Fire Nation akin to unaided flight of Airbenders: A technique so old and mysterious that it was thought to be a myth.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Absolutely nothing to indicate he was a bender, let alone a firebender, before he does it.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He seems like a nice guy that you could probably have a drink with, but under that facade is a deranged psycho who unleashes random acts of cruelty at the drop of a hat. This is best exemplified when he thinks he’s killed Kyoshi, where he electrocutes her “dead body” and kicks her in a show of disgust.
  • It's All About Me: Xu is under the belief that there is no one in the entire world who is more important than him and as such no one who can rebuke him for doing whatever he wants. When Kyoshi has him at her mercy she sees that beyond the fear he has for her he is enraged that she would dare look down on him and hold him accountable for his actions.
  • Playing with Fire: The necessary perquisite to the below:
  • Psycho Electro: Kirima points out that he is absolutely delusional. When she says that he calls himself the General of Pandimu, Lek asks where Pandimu is, and Kirima answers that it doesn't exist, it's just what he calls the world and thinks he owns it. And as it turns out his also a skilled lightningbender who tortures and almost kills Kyoshi during their duel.

Earth Kingdom Sages

    Lu Beifong 

One of the richest men in the Earth Kingdom, and Jianzhu's mentor.

  • Back for the Dead: What's an Earth Kingdom Sage doing at a Fire Nation garden party? Gettin' murdered.
  • Blue Blood: He is such an important figure that he got his turn in interpreting traditional Earth Kingdom geomancy to find the next Avatar before even Jianzhu, one of the previous Avatar's companions!
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Lu > Jianzhu > Yun
  • Spin-Offspring: Inverted; he's Toph's (and Lin's, Su's, Opal's, etc) ancestor.

     Chamberlain Hui 

Jianzhu's rival among the Earth Sages. Most of his energy is devoted to contradicting him.

  • Commander Contrarian: He will oppose anything Jianzhu suggests, even if it benefits himself.
  • Corrupt Politician: Anything he does is to further his own gain, or at least to be as much of a hassle to Jianzhu. This goes up to convincing Lu Beifong to deny the Southern Water Tribe a loan that could have helped them build a naval fleet, all just to spite Jianzhu.

Fire Nation Nobility

    Fire Lord Zoryu 
The reigning Fire Lord, a young man overshadowed by his older, more charismatic half-brother, until he... isn't.

  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Huazo explains that the "zo" in his name means "ancestor," while a possible meaning for "ryu" is "dragon."
  • Family Theme Naming: Like most members of the Fire Nation Royal family, he has a prominent “Z” sound in his name.
  • Generation Xerox: Like his descendant Zuko, he’s a socially awkward young reigning monarch with boatloads of family drama.
  • I Lied: He prepares to renege on his promise to spare the impostor Yun and the Saowon Clan, and is only stopped when Lao Ge threatens him into compliance.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Villainy might be too strong a descriptor, but his ruthless decision-making was even praised by Lao Ge.
    • He frames Chaejin's clan for collaborating with Yun to undermine his authority and arranges to have both him and Yun's innocent lookalike executed to consolidate his authority and avoid a civil war.
    • At the end of Shadow, he resolves to dismantle the clan system of the Fire Nation and consolidate all power and authority in the royal family, a project he knew would take generations to finish.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He is pretty chill about Kyoshi mistaking his half-brother for him. Although he nearly leaves this behind when he's about to order the execution of Chaejin and his whole clan for something he knows they didn't do, in order to end conflict in his territories.
  • Spin-Offspring: Inverted. He's the ancestor of the Fire Nation royal family.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Whilst he makes villainous decisions, they are more pragmatic political choices than outright evil. Ultimately, his decision to dismantle the clan system so the royal family has complete unregulated authority and power within the Fire Nation will eventually result in the rise of Fire Lord tyrants like Sozin, Azulon and Ozai, causing the Hundred Years War and resulting in countless deaths.
  • Villain Has a Point: Twice over in the same conversation. After declaring that the members of the Saowon are traitors, he points out to Kyoshi that, while they may not have been working with Yun, they were perfectly happy to use Yun's actions to their advantage in order to undermine his rule, plus they've been plotting against him in various ways for years and likely would have killed him if Chaejin had been able to usurp the throne. He also tells Kyoshi that Yun likely hates all of his former friends and that everything he has done has been designed to hurt them personally due to his resentment. Kyoshi realizes after her talk with Kuruk that the latter is true and eventually comes to the conclusion that Yun can't be saved.


Zoryu's illegitimate older half-brother. His mother was important enough that the Fire Lord was forced to acknowledge his existence, but he was very deliberately not the heir.

  • Ambition Is Evil: He seeks his younger brother's throne, and is willing to cause a civil war in order to get it.
  • And Then What?: Kyoshi doesn't ask him this outright, but she quickly realizes that he has no actual plan for what he'll do to solve the Fire Nation's problems after taking the throne from Zoryu — he assumes that once the 'rightful ruler' is on the throne the spirits will favour him, he'll think of something and everything will sort itself out.
  • Bastard Bastard: He's been plotting against his legitimate half-brother for years.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: He's certainly a legitimate threat to the stability of the Fire Nation, but ultimately he's just a pawn in Yun's quest for revenge.

    Lady Huazo 

The mistress of the previous Fire Lord, mother of his eldest son, and head of the Saowon clan. She uses politics to undermine the current Fire Lord in an effort to gain more power for her clan.

  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While she'll admit Chaejin would also give the house ruling power over the Fire Nation, she does truly love him as her son.
  • Evil Matriarch: The head of a Fire Nation noble house who seeks to put her son on the throne through unscrupulous means.

Northern Water Tribe

    Master Amak 

Ostensibly hired by Jianzhu to be Yun's Waterbending master, his past is mysterious... and sinister.

  • Master of Disguise: He is able to use a special chemical to turn his eyes Earth-Kingdom green, disguising the fact that he is a waterbender.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: His death is the point where it gets real.

    Sifu Atuat 

Amak's sister. A master healer of the Northern Water Tribe, she saved Hei-Ran with both her waterbending and her friendship.

  • Badass Boast: "Anybody can punch someone with water. I punch people's energy pathways with water so that they live a few more decades."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Much to Hei-Ran's frustration.
  • Pragmatic Hero: When treating people at the Fire Nation party, she clearly uses triage philosophy on which patients to save.

Alternative Title(s): The Shadow Of Kyoshi, The Rise Of Kyoshi Avatar Kyoshi


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