(Photo edited, but original source is here)
I’m going to start this post in a very unexpected place: TikTok.
I’m almost thirty years old, so my first few weeks on TikTok felt like a very confusing whirlwind of Gen Z craziness. But when I made a post comparing one of my favorite video game franchises (Mass Effect) to one of my favorite reads of the year (The Last Watch, J. S. Dewes), I finally found my niche. Thousands of other book-loving gamers flocked to the recommendation, and I realized something--there are a lot of nerds like me out there!
As a result, I’ve decided to write this month’s AZP post on some books I would recommend checking out based on games you love in The Legend of Zelda catalog.
Come with me down this very niche rabbit hole!
OCARINA OF TIME
If Ocarina of Time is your favorite Zelda game, you probably have an appreciation for the Hero’s Journey! Link in Ocarina is a simple kid living in the forest, just trying to make a life in his little corner of the world until greatness is thrust upon him, whether he likes it or not.
Eragon, the main character of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, goes through a similar journey. He is just a young boy working on his uncle’s farm until he finds a dragon egg in the forest near his home. After that, he’s dragged along on an epic adventure that spans four gigantic books.
There are other similarities between Ocarina and the Inheritance Cycle, too. Firstly, it’s set in a big, sprawling world split into different lands ruled by various non-human beings. Additionally, Eragon has a mentor, Brom, who pushes him along on his journey (much like Kaepora Gaebora and the Deku Tree give Link an early push), a mysterious ally in Murtagh (much like Sheik), and a flying companion who talks to him in a way only he can hear (yes, I just compared Navi to a dragon).
The last similarity I’ll mention is more of a funny one. In both stories, you’re fighting a baddie with an uncommon-sounding name beginning with "G" (Ganondorf in Ocarina and Galbatorix in the Inheritance Cycle).
Overall, the books are long but enjoyable, and if you’re a fan of Ocarina of Time and looking for a new read, I’d bet you might just like this series!
If Majora’s Mask is your favorite Zelda game, you’re a bit of a contrarian. No hate here! I love Majora’s as well, but you can’t deny it’s a little weird and a little dark. That’s why I’m going to recommend THIS SAVAGE SONG by V. E. Schwab.
THIS SAVAGE SONG is not incredibly similar to Majora’s as far as the plot goes, but I feel like they have a similar energy. Schwab’s novel takes place in a city where bad deeds breed real monsters. Actual, tangible creatures of darkness that can cause real damage. This chain reaction calls to my mind the way that Skull Kid's attempts to crash the moon into Termina seem to bring out all the baddies from the woodwork as the three days progress.
Speaking of three days, that’s another thing I think Majora’s Mask fans will enjoy about this book: the timeline is quick. The other series I mentioned here spans years of Eragon’s life. THIS SAVAGE SONG takes place in just a few days' time. Of course, those days don’t repeat like they do in Majora’s Mask, but the sense of a ticking clock is a lot more present in this book than it is in the Inheritance Cycle.
Another similarity I see between THIS SAVAGE SONG and Majora’s is just the general dark energy. Where many other Zelda games have dark moments but are largely bright and fun, I feel like Majora’s is just the opposite--largely dark but with moments of light and levity. That’s the balance you’ll find in Schwab’s tale as well.
If you enjoy THIS SAVAGE SONG, there is also an excellent sequel called OUR DARK DUET with the same vibes.
THE WIND WAKER
Where are my fellow Wind Waker fans? I feel like this game is overlooked a lot, possibly because of its very youthful energy. But that very energy is why I would recommend that Wind Waker fans check out the Redwall series!
Wind Waker starts out with a very young Link living a blissful life of peace on Outset Island. He is thrown into his adventure out of his desire to save his little sister from the clutches of evil. Though nearly every book in Brian Jacques’ Redwall series features an entirely different cast of characters (with some overlap), this idea of innocent-youngster-becomes-a-hero-when-their-family-is-threatened is definitely a theme that reappears a lot.
Another commonality between Wind Waker and Redwall (or, honestly, Legend of Zelda as a whole and Redwall) is the black-and-white nature of good and evil. In Zelda, all ChuChus and Bokoblins, etc., are evil. There are (to my knowledge) no instances of ChuChus or Bokoblins deciding to hang up their swords (or… goop? In the case of the ChuChus?) and work for the side of good. So it is with the majority of Redwall books. All the main characters in Redwall are woodland creatures. Mice are good guys. Rats are bad guys. Good is good, evil is evil, and at the end of the day, good prevails. The Redwall novels can get a little violent at times, but they’re still written for kids and teens. Ultimately, they’ll leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, just like Wind Waker does.
If the nautical aspect specifically is what draws you to Wind Waker, I have a few specific Redwall books to recommend. Both TRISS and MARIEL OF REDWALL take place largely at sea. I’m sure there are more! But those two come to mind instantly when I think of seafaring Redwall tales.
Twilight Princess, like Majora’s Mask, is one of the darker tales in the Legend of Zelda catalog. But where Majora’s Mask is dark in an off-the-wall, kind of eclectic way, I feel like Twilight Princess is thematically more like a standard Zelda game while keeping the dark aesthetic. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the more mature-seeming Zelda games, as the Link we meet in Twilight Princess isn’t a child like the one we encounter in Ocarina or Wind Waker, but a young adult with a job on a farm and a girlfriend (???) in Ilia. This is why I’m picking a newer Young Adult novel as my recommendation for Twilight Princess fans.
A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN by Roseanne A. Brown is a sweeping fantasy tale featuring a young man looking to make a new life for himself and his family and a princess in political trouble who plans to use that starry-eyed young man for her own plans… but begins to doubt her ability to go through with her dark designs for him as she gets to know him. SOUND FAMILIAR? I thought so.
Now, A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN does have a romance element to the plot, and I know Link and Midna weren’t set up as a romance necessarily (though some have interpreted that last, longing glance at the mirror to mean as much), but, thematically, we’re checking a lot of similar boxes here. Brown’s book also features dark spirits that are separated from the world at large but manage to slip through, which I find similar to the portals that open to the Twilight over Hyrule, allowing the Creatures of my Nightmares to come through (*shudder*).
All in all, there are some differences, but I am confident that many Twilight Princess fans will find something to like in A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN.
BREATH OF THE WILD
If someone says Breath of the Wild is their favorite Legend of Zelda game, I assume that worldbuilding is incredibly important to them. After all, the map of Breath--the gorgeous, complex world that the player gets to explore--is one of the things that has made that game such a major success. This is why I’m recommending that fans of Breath of the Wild check out Robert Jordan’s sprawling fantasy epic, The Wheel of Time.
Now, if you google this series and notice that there are like, fourteen books, do not be afraid! I don’t know that I would recommend all of them, as I honestly have not read all of them yet. I have read the first four books in the series so far, though, and that’s enough for me to say that many Breath of the Wild fans would at least enjoy the series that far!
There are a few similarities here (apart from the massive, gorgeous fantasy world). Perhaps most notably we have the concept of the series itself. As the title suggests, The Wheel of Time presents time as a circular thing. A wheel that turns and turns, bringing events and reincarnated souls back around again and again. If that doesn’t sound like the many reincarnations of Link throughout the Zelda timeline, I don’t know what does!
I also see some similarities between the main character, Rand al’Thor and Link, as well as similarities between one of the female leads, Elayne, and Zelda. The entire plot (at least for the first several books--all I can vouch for!) centers around the characters’ attempts to a) survive and b) prevent the imprisoned dark forces of the world from breaking free. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that (these books are all like six inches thick), but that’s the heart of it.
Overall, if you like sprawling fantasy worlds and epic tales featuring men wielding magical swords… you’ll find things to enjoy in this series.
If you’ve made it this far in this post, you are clearly a fan of both fantasy books and The Legend of Zelda, which means that we should probably be friends. Find me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @mjkuhnbooks. Also, I have a fantasy novel of my own coming out from Saga Press on 9/7/2021! It is a fantasy heist called AMONG THIEVES and features betrayal, magic, and lots of witty banter. If any of that sounds interesting, there’s more info here!
So, what do you think? Are there any other books you would recommend for fans of The Legend of Zelda franchise? Let us know in the comments or online!