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Fanfic / Azula Trilogy

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The Azula Trilogy is a series of Avatar: The Last Airbender Fan Fics by TV Tropes contributor Master Ghandalf, who also wrote The Fall of the Fire Empire and Destinies Rewritten. It deals with the eponymous character's attempt to return to sanity and make sense of the ruin of her life following the events of the series' Grand Finale.

The first fic, Heart of Fire, picks up a year after the events of Sozin's Comet. The world is largely at peace, Zuko is Fire Lord, and Azula has been in a catatonic state in a mental hospital ever since her Villainous Breakdown. Fate, however, still has plans for her, as the fanatical Fire Nation General Azun refuses to accept that the War is over, and decides to use Azula as the ideal ruler for a renewed conquest. Coming out of her catatonia, Azula escapes from his men but has no solid memories of her former life, falling in with a pair of peasant siblings as she searches for her identity. Meanwhile, Zuko moves to confront Azun, while a dark power watches and waits from the sidelines.

The story continues in Path of Fire, and comes to a conclusion in Soul of Fire .

Note: Heart and Path were revised from their original versions as of 2018, and Soul was revised up to Chapter 2.

This work contains examples of:

  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Averted. Azula's personality is largely the same with or without her memories, though she's somewhat less ruthless and manipulative, and she's completely fine with who she was. It's later that she starts questioning things.
  • An Ice Person: Ilook favors ice-based waterbending moves.
  • Anti-Villain: General Azun who genuinely believes that the Fire Nation's rule is the best for the world but also doesn't tolerate pointless cruelty.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Jian Chin's soldiers are only loyal to him because of his superior earthbending.
  • Aura Vision: Ty Lee; the fic goes with the idea that it is, in fact, an actual ability she has, and is part of the reason she's so good at chi-blocking.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil:What ultimately does Zhan Zheng in in the end is the simple truth that War, by its very nature creates a desire for peace, thus correcting the balance of the world and making is goal of unending war impossible. When Azula informs it of this truth, it causes Zhan Zheng to doubt itself, weakening it enough to allow Aang to banish it.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The final fight against Zhan Zheng takes place within Azula's mind.
  • Big Bad: Zhan Zheng, the Spirit of War for the whole trilogy, though Azun and Wei Ming were the primary antagonists of the first and second stories, respectively.
  • Brainwashed: Wei Ming is suffering the aftereffects of this.
  • Broken Bird: Wei Ming. Her village and mother burned to the ground by the Fire Nation, forced to live in poverty in Ba Sing Se, imprisoned by the Dai Li after her father rebels against them, turned into a Joo Dee, and left immobile in a Lake Laogai cell for god knows how long while Joo Dee-afied. Needless to say, when Zhan Zheng joins with her, she becomes the walking embodiment of revenge. She becomes so consumed by it that she forgets her own real name and much of her old life, only remembering them while moments from death.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Azula cannot firebend during most of Heart. It doesn't stop her.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Ilook invented a waterbending move that's basically an inverted healing, functioning as "lay-on-hands, instant pain". He's rather fond of using it, too...
  • Continuation: Continues the storyline of the series, though shifts the focus to Azula.
  • Cruel Mercy: Villainous example: Azula sees letting the Governor live when she could easily kill him as the perfect humiliation. Given that she was still a long way from her Heel–Face Turn at the time, she probably meant it.
  • Deuteragonist: While Azula is the main protagonist of the whole series, Zuko is the deuteragonist in Heart, Ty Lee in Path, and Aang in Soul.
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue of Soul of Fire takes place decades after the main events of the series. Possibly far enough into the future that any follow ups could coincide with Legend Of Korra.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted, the only one who lets Azula off the hook easy is Ty Lee (largely because as Mai points out, Ty Lee likes everybody). This makes sense, as Azula isn't a particularly good person until quite late in the game - her reasons for doing the right thing in most of Heart and Path are almost entirely selfish, though she does make progress.
  • Easy Amnesia: Azula still has some of her memories, but not enough to make sense of her life. She remembers everything near the climax of Heart and stays that way.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Zhan Zheng could be seen as this, though he's a bit more knowingly malevolent than most; Koh, of course, is a straight example.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Learning how to comprehend good is an extended process Azula has to go through. Zhan Zheng, though, never learns.
  • Final Battle: The Battle of the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace in Soul, with three notable mini-battles ocurring roughly simultaenously: Zuko and Mai vs. Xang, Katara vs. Ilook, and Aang and Azula vs. Zhan Zheng.
  • Forever War:Zhan Zheng's ultimate goal. Azula defeats it by explaining that the very nature of War makes this impossible.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Wei Ming is one of the brainwashed Joo Dees, given supernatural powers by Zhan Zheng.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Azula's Ozai and Ursa hallucinations play these roles in "Path of Fire"- somewhat subverted in that they never appear together. The Ozai hallucination goes away after Azula delivers a Shut Up, Hannibal! to it, and the Ursa one when she meets up with the actual Ursa.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Azula got a good one in the end of Path, along the side of her cheek in her fight with Wei Ming.
  • Guile Heroine: Even while going through an Heel Realization, Azula still proves to be an hyper-competent planner and tends to rely on her exceptional cunning and intelligence just as much, if not more than, her firebending.
  • Healing Hands: Ursa has a firebending version of this power. Katara, of course, has the waterbending version, and Ilook can do this too, though he prefers reversing it.
  • Hero Killer: Wei Ming and Zhan Zheng-possessed Jian Chin. Ironically, Hero Killers created to pose a serious threat to Azula, a Hero Killer herself.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ilook's torture technique is essentially a corrupted healing. When Katara fights him, she tries to use a true healing technique to counter it. It...ends up doing a lot more than she expected. He loses control of his own powers, stumbles into a pool of water and promptly liquefies.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Zhan Zheng's true form. The ones he possesses, particularly Wei Ming, give off this vibe too.
  • Ironic Echo: Invoked by Long Feng when (he thinks) he has Azula at his mercy.
    "Aren't you going to gloat? Tell me how you've triumphed and how feeble I am before I expire?"
    "No. I'll just tell you what you told me a year ago: you weren't ever a player. Not in this game."
    "You could have at least come up with your own line."
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The Governor of Janxing is still alive and scheming after his final appearance, though considering his age Karma might probably be catching up to him sooner than later. Hasn't yet, though.
    • Inverted in Sozin's case who seems at first to avoid any punishment for his crimes. In a notable scene, Azula meets her great-grandfather and he reveals her that in the afterlife he is punished more than any other human being. Zhan Zheng also thinks he's going to get away clean...until Koh comes along, that is.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Zhan Zheng's ultimate fate. After Aang and Azula banish him back to the Spirit World, where does he end up? Koh's lair. After he gives Zhan Zheng a reason you suck speech and explains that it was he who gave Azula the knowledge to beat him, you can do the math on what happens next.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Azula isn't interested in going up against a fully realized Avatar, and decides against fighting Aang.
  • Mama Bear: Ursa doesn't particularly like Azula, but she does love her, as anyone foolish enough to attack Azula in front of her will find out.
  • Meaningful Name: Azula used Yujin (a variation on the Chinese word for ember) as her alias when she could neither remember who she is nor was able to firebend. Also "Wei Ming" means "Twilight", according to an online Chinese translator, and "Zhan Zheng" literally means "war".
  • Mugging the Monster: When Azula's ship is raided by Captain Shang and his pirate crew. Subverted in that Shang's side actually WINS at first thanks in large part to Ilook and their larger numbers, but Azula's iron will and Wei Ming's interference turn the tide in the end.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Were it not for the intervention of Zhan Zheng and its pawns, Azula would almost certainly have never been put into a position to regain her sanity and execute a Heel–Face Turn. Ties in to Azula's Breaking Speech at the end about how Zhan Zheng is self-defeating.
  • Oh, Crap!: After Azula first regains her memories. She only regains them partially, namely nothing regarding her downfall, effectively making her into her evil Book 2 version. She proceeds to mercilessly kill Akai's men, toss Ling, Joti and Akai into prison, and side with Azun. This, thankfully for everyone's sake, doesn't last long.
  • The Power of Friendship: Ling and Joti's, and later Ty Lee's, genuine friendship helps pull Azula back from the brink.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Azula gives Azun one in the climax of Heart, calling him an idiot for actually believing the official propaganda, and a weakling for needing to justify his action to himself and give him purpose.
  • Redemption Quest: The whole trilogy is Azula's road to rising above her flaws and proving to herself and everyone else that she's capable of becoming a better human being.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Several of the main villains reflect aspects of Azula's own nature, be it Azun's Fire Nation nationalism, the Governor and Long Feng's cold-blooded Chessmastery; Ilook has Azula's Ax-Crazy without her smarts or self-control; Wei Ming is a similarly deadly, unnerving warrior who comes from a different nation and the opposite social class - and she's a shadow-themed character pitted against a fire-themed character to boot!
    • The Governor of Janxing and his nephew, Bhan, are a Shadow Archetype of Iroh and Zuko- instead of the wise old man and his student, they're the Evil Mentor and his Bastard Understudy.
  • Spanner in the Works: Ilook's petty attempts to gain vengeance on Azula indirectly result in her gaining the knowledge to defeat Zhan Zheng.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Wei Ming has purple eyes, though people tend to find them (coupled with the rest of her appearance) to be eerie rather than attractive. The odd color is actually a sign that she's spirit-touched.
  • Time Skip:
    • Heart of Fire picks up a year after "Sozin's Comet". Path of Fire starts about a month after Heart ends, and Soul of Fire picks up directly from Path.
    • The final epilogue is set several decades into the future, far enough for Azula to be an old woman.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Ilook tries to interrogate and torture Iroh. First Ilook tried with threats that were ineffective, as expected; then he formed icicles only to have Iroh melt them with his breath (and could have burned him, had he been so inclined); finally Ilook used his corrupted healing technique that Iroh redirected on him. At which point, realizing that anything he tried would have failed miserably at best and resulted in Iroh torturing him at worst, he whined and fled.
  • Uncanny Valley:
    • Wei Ming is just off from normal human appearance and behaviour enough that she unnerves pretty much everyone she meets.
    • Zhan Zheng's true form is of a handsome, androgynous human, with just enough of its features subtly off to make it deeply unnerving.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In Soul, we are just told that Azula tells the Gaang her plan for defeating Zhan Zheng. We don't learn what the plan is until she puts it into action.
  • Visions of Another Self: At one point during Azula's trip to the Spirit World, she's shown visions of herself in other worlds, including one where she was banished instead of Zuko, and one where she was apparently born a peasant, (possibly shout-outs to What it is to Burn, and Distorted Reality, respectively).