Although Avatar: The Last Airbender primarily dealt with the adventures of Aang and his friends in stopping the Hundred Year War that ravaged their world, the franchise that spawned from it constantly expands on the past and future of that world in interesting ways. One of the most fascinating elements is the Avatar Cycle, with the Avatars previous to Aang just as interesting as the Airbender. In fact, the previous Air Nomad Avatar, Yangchen, is set to receive her own prequel novel in July.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Dawn of Yangchen will delve into the air nun's early life to a degree never seen before. As one of its most mysterious figures, many fans may be left wondering what it is we already know about Yangchen that the novel can expand on.
Briefly seen in the original series, not much was known about Avatar Yangchen until the comics and novels that expanded on the series could delve into her past. Briefly seen in a vision of Aang's using the Avatar State to airbend a massive gust of wind that swept across a field, Yangchen was doubtless powerful. When she later appeared to Aang during the episode "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters," she proved willing to use that power violently as she counseled Aang to embrace his duties as the Avatar, even above his philosophical commitments as a pacifist from their mutual Air Nomad upbringing.
The comic Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise provided one of the first sustained looks at Yangchen's early life following her mastery of the four elements. There, she came into conflict with a spirit known as General Old Iron, who she eventually made a deal with to honor the spirit for generations following an epic battle that tested the limits of her power. The novels The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi expanded on her career as an Avatar and her dealings with spirits as they took place in the wake of her legendary legacy, but what they revealed is that the Air Nomad Avatar may not have been as flawless as she first seemed.
Although Yangchen was revered in the centuries that followed her death for her ability to maintain peace and protect humanity from spirits, a key plot point in the latter novel involves the fallout of her decisions, which too often favored humanity over the spirits with which she dealt. Her successor, Avatar Kuruk, was forced to violently hunt down the spirits that ravaged the human world in retribution for Yangchen so often favoring the civilizations whose industrialization and colonization so frequently offended them.
While few knew of the negative consequences of Yangchen's actions, celebrating her for deals such as her diplomacy with the Fifth Nation pirates that kept the Earth Kingdom safe, a key theme of the prequel novels involved her personal regrets and failures in life. At one point, two of her bending masters and dear friends died in the course of her adventures. This all makes for fascinating fodder that her prequel novel could well delve into.
Other details sure to show up are Yangchen's animal companions, the flying lemurs Pik and Pak, as well as her scholarship of mythic Air Nomad figures such as the Gurus Shoken and Laghima. Guru Laghima proved a frequent reference point for The Legend of Korra villain Zaheer, who touted Laghima's disconnection from the material world as the inspiration behind the ability for airbenders to fly unassisted. Learning more about the anarchistic and possibly violent Guru and how Yangchen felt about his philosophies could prove to be one of the novel's most intriguing hooks.
However, there's really no wrong direction to go. Avatar Yangchen continually proves to be only ever more fascinating the more fans learn about her, and given just how admirable a job the Kyoshi novels did in exploring and fleshing out one of Aang's predecessors, The Dawn of Yangchen, by the same author F.C. Yee, is sure to deliver a similar sense of thrilling adventure.