F.C. Yee Talks Exploring a Deliberate Contrast in ‘The Legacy of Yangchen’

The Legacy of Yangchen is the latest book in the Chronicles of the Avatar series, and the last of the Yangchen duology. In the aftermath of the events of The Dawn of Yangchen, the airbending Avatar finds herself in the difficult position of having to de-escalate conflicts between heads of states of the Four Nations, in the midst of the threat of a powerful new weapon. To makes things even more difficult for her, she must turn to assistance from Kavik, whom she’s not on good terms, following an act of betrayal by the latter from their previous adventure together.

Author F.C. Yee is once again at the helm of this latest story within the Avatar universe. Asked how he would describe the dynamic between Yangchen and Kavik this time around, and he compared it to that of people from different competing and nominally allied intelligence agencies, trying to work together. He pulled a lot of inspiration from spy thrillers when writing The Legacy of Yangchen, where although one may have agencies from allied countries working together, there still may be some underlying agendas and trust issues present. As he emphasized, “How far can somebody trust their allies is a question that I want to pose in the book.”

Even writing Yangchen alone proved to be an interesting challenge this time around, as Yee continues her from the state of mind that she’s in at the end of The Dawn of Yangchen.

“She wasn’t super trusting of individuals at the beginning of The Dawn of Yangchen, and one way you can take a character is like, okay, how do we make them transform in a positive direction?” he explained. “But then a question I was interested in exploring is what happens if she’s dealt another blow, and she’s moved into the negative direction? How will she recover? Will she recover? So hopefully that story is what the carries forward in Legacy of Yangchen.”

Writing this installment was both a continuation from its predecessor and a story that had to stand on its own. Additionally, he talked of a set of constraints that he was working under, that was predefined in the Kyoshi duology. Yangchen is before Kyoshi’s time, and so as Yee pointed out, “What was unique about it this time, is that it was working within more balance than I’ve ever experienced before, on writing these books, because as is natural, when a book comes out later in a franchise, there’s more and more constraints that apply, versus something new that comes out earlier.”

Aside from an exploration of allied forces working together despite potential conflicts between them, central themes of The Legacy of Yangchen that Yee identifies includes that of how far bonds between family and friends can be stretched before they truly break, the weight that one puts on those bonds versus doing what is right, and also how far people will go to do what is best for the world and others. Those were some questions that were top of mind as he was writing this book, by way of a deliberate contrast.

“In Kyoshi’s book[s], family means everything, whether that’s relations or found family, and it’s a true moral compass,” Yee said. “In Dawn and Legacy of Yangchen, family is used as an excuse for a lot of things. So I sort of wanted to push that boundary of how much can it be relied on as a moral compass. So I know that’s a big leap to take, maybe an uncomfortable one, but I was curious in exploring that question.”

Throughout the course of writing the Chronicles of the Avatar books, Yee has been guided by that of Mike DiMartino, co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. He described the ongoing mentorship as an absolute pleasure, as DiMartino has continued to coach him in story crafting and explore different genre and thematic questions. Yee finds him dependable in bouncing ideas off of him and is guided in exploring them as well.

Much like how when Yee wrapped on the Kyoshi duology, at the time of being interviewed for The Nerds of Color, he doesn’t know as to whether he’ll continue on with writing for the series. However, if he had his choice of what Avatar to tackle next, he named Avatar Szeto as a possible candidate. The Fire Nation Avatar before Roku and Yangchen’s predecessor, Yee got to develop some of his history already in the books.

“One of the most notable animation character designs aspects about that particular avatar before he had his name, he has a large notable hat,” he explained. “So he could have what could be construed as a viziers hat. Now a vizier is essentially a minister or an advisor to a ruler in power. So that’s a cue that I took from his animation design to start thinking about, ‘Okay, what if there was an avatar who was more of an advisor?’

“So that’s how that character… honestly, I thought that’s how those background elements began to flesh out in my head. So that’s the story of Avatar Szeto,” he later added. “That might be the first time I’ve ever told that story. And then Szeto is a name that dates back… I mean, it means minister or to some capacity. So that’s how it all fit together.”

Regardless of what comes next for Chronicles of the Avatar, The Legacy of Yangchen is now out today wherever books are sold. For those attending San Diego Comic-Con, Yee will be present to take part in panels and signings.

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