The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom released on May 12, and it’s everything that fans of the franchise could have hoped for. Somehow at once a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild and a story that stands on its own, Tears of the Kingdom manages to build on its predecessor. The game takes the Switch story players enjoyed and adds both new depths and new heights … literally.
Since the game has been out for less than a week, I’ll avoid spoilers in this story. But if you’re already carving your way through the game and worried that it won’t last, these book recommendations offer a piece of the magic that Zelda does. They won’t replicate the game entirely, but they’re certainly better than nothing. Each book on this list offers a strong example of one aspect of the game franchise that I find especially notable. So, if you’re looking for something new to read (or in the case of some of these classics, re-read), to quote Navi, “LISTEN!”
The Shadow of What Was Lost
Many of Link’s adventures in Hyrule involve time travel as he searches across centuries for the lost princess. He must also contend with the cognitive dissonance he meets on his journeys: How can this boy be the hero of legend?
Similarly, James Islington’s high fantasy novel follows the land of Andarra, which until recently, was ruled by a race of people with the power of precognition and time manipulation. However, when civil war erupts and the previous order is overthrown, the world finds itself thrown into chaos. We find a boy who discovers his true power, an ancient evil that has been locked away, and mythic swords.
The Name of the Wind
There’s one massive difference between Link and Kvothe, the primary character of The Name of the Wind: Players never actually get to hear Link speak. By contrast, almost everything readers experience in The Name of the Wind comes directly from Kvothe’s—somewhat distrustworthy—lips. So why is Rothfuss’s classic here?
You could point to Kvothe’s training with a sword or the magic that pervades the world of the Kingkiller Chronicle, but there are two better reasons to recommend The Name of the Wind to fans of Zelda. The first is that Kvothe, like Link, begins his story with almost nothing – and what few precious items he does have often seem flimsy. Just as Zelda players must learn to cycle through weapons and discard equipment, Kvothe is forced to be economical to the extreme. He also learns to appreciate the small things: a new shirt, a free meal.
Most importantly, however, is that a Zelda game is never complete without its iconic music, and the same is true of Kvothe. Before he was a magician or a swordsman, Kvothe was a musician, and the soul of the trouper is present throughout the entire narrative.
The Princess Bride
William Goldman’s beloved classic is fantastic in every sense of the word … and in every format. Both the book and the movie are works of genius, depicting the star-crossed young love of Buttercup and farm-hand Westley. When it appears that Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry the wicked Prince Humperdink.
From that decision comes a romping story of wrestling giants, fencing matches, and Fire Swamps with Rodents of Unusual Size. Just as we see Link go to extraordinary measures to save Princess Zelda, so we see the man in black pursue Buttercup. Self-aware and full of parody, The Princess Bride has plenty of heart, too.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
One of the best aspects of the Nintendo Switch installments of the Zelda franchise is the feeling of genuine discovery players experience in the sprawling, open-world environment. In a world where everything is interactive—trees are meant to be climbed, paragliders are meant to be flown, and of course, pots are meant to be broken—it truly does feel like you’ve taken on the role of hero. You’re not just sprinting through levels, but traveling a vast continent. You learn the struggles of trying to ride a horse and climbing a mountain in the snow.
Few books before or since have made readers feel the strain of a journey like The Lord of the Rings. There’s Frodo—a small person, rather like Link, who is forced to wade into the depths of hell to finish his quest. There’s Aragorn, the Ranger of the North who must reforge a broken sword and fight with the blessing of a princess. And if you like a world that truly comes to life, well, the Ents really do.
One of the most fun parts of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the way you can fashion almost anything into a tool or weapon. During my gameplay, I made a sword with a boulder at the end of it and a shield made out of a pot lid welded to a wooden crate.
Brandon Sanderson took a similar concept and built an entire world out of it. In Warbreaker, practitioners of magic can Awaken objects to do their bidding. Imagine a rope that can tie its own knots, clothes that can stitch themselves back together … or attack another person. The story follows two sisters, Vivenna and Siri, who enter the court intrigue of gods who can use such magic.
But Siri notices one small strangeness: Despite the God King’s stature, she never seems to hear him speak. Can she find a way through his aloof nature and uncover the secrets that threaten her homeland?
Featured photo: Nintendo of America / YouTube