With Pokémon Sword and Shield out in the world, what better way to celebrate than with some book recommendations tailored by region?
Generation 1|| Kanto || The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson
Kanto is where it all began. It’s classic, home to the features of the series we’ve come to know and love, and given the Gen 3 remakes in the form of FireRed and LeafGreen, plus Gen 7’s Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee, it’s clearly pretty readily remixed. It also has elemental birds for its Legendary Trio.
And you know what? The Storm Crow checks all of these boxes. It has classic fantasy elements, like princesses with power, devastating war, and a magic untouchable except for a select few. It also has the elemental crows, which are beautiful, magic, POWERFUL birds that help the world thrive. The Storm Crow blends the new and the familiar in a way that should suit Kanto fans perfectly.
Generation 2 || Johto || The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
There’s a magic to Johto that strikes me in the form of historical fiction and flowers, the feeling that you’re somewhere familiar and yet altogether new, and I can’t think of too many books that convey this particular emotion quite like The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
In some ways, it feels like a classic book, set in the 1900s and told in a rolling, lyrical style that sets it apart in time. Yet it takes its characters to entirely new places, dislodging them from the familiar, and confounding the familiar while it’s at it. And while it’s not all sunshine and roses, it’s not entirely doom and gloom as well. It’s a journey, in the best, truest spirit of Pokémon games, and it belongs with the heart of Gen 2.
Generation 3 || Hoenn || The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
I could leave this at a 7/10 too much water joke, but I love this duology too much to cut and run like that.
The Abyss Surrounds Us checks off a host of Gen 3 essentials, making it a perfect companion to exploring Hoenn. Not only is it heavily water-based (piracy tends to involve the open sea in most cases, obviously), but it features gigantic and dangerous creatures that can turn the tide of whole factions warring against each other, enemies to lovers, and the imminent threat of global catastrophe if someone doesn’t rise to the occasion and put a stop to the worst of it all.
All it’s really missing is an aggressively trumpet-heavy soundtrack!
Generation 4 || Sinnoh || Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
If the Sinnoh region is your favorite, it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s the contests held in Hearthome City, with all their music and dress-up moments. Maybe it’s the physical/special move split that finally made battling more nuanced (tbh, one of my favorite changes made of the course of the series). Maybe you’re just really a big fan of the whole time/space/alternate reality situation going on between Palkia, Dialga, Giratina, and Team Galactic.
If any of these are the case, Once & Future might be for you. It has a musical wizard, jousting tournaments on robo horses (to satisfy the competitive spirit, of course), fantasy AND sci-fi elements, and space travel! Plus, the sequel is going to have some time travel as well.
DOUBLE PLUS, there’s a really cool magic sword! Not Sinnoh related, but hey, I figured I should mention it. Always talk about cool swords.
Generation 5 || Unova || Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
I’ll admit I don’t read as many city-based books as I would like, and those that I do read are DARK, which seems at odds with the neon lights and bold soundtrack that give Unova its distinct flavor. But Gen 5 still finds a match in Ace of Shades, because it’s not all about the glitz and glam, but the moral consequences underneath. What’s good, what’s bad, and where do we draw the line? What do we do when we cross it? Who can we trust, who can we call friends? How do we make things right?
Really, the core difference between Ace of Shades and Gen 5 is that New Reynes has a thriving casino scene while Unova is in it for sports and thrills, but isn’t it close enough?
Generation 6 || Kalos || The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
I have to say, I’m proud of my choices here. Some generations of Pokémon are harder to find a match in than others, but this time Kalos has its perfect match.
The Prince and the Dressmaker isn’t just a story set in Paris, the real world analogue to Kalos’s Lumiose City. It’s also colorful, extravagant, and filled to the brim with the power of friendship! I don’t just mean friendship that looks flawless and pure on the surface, though. I mean the kind of friendship with the power to say, “this is hurting me,” and the grace to respond with true, earnest change. Not to mention a willingness to come back and try again, because friendship is worth trying to preserve.
Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be thinking about AZ searching for 3000 years, ATONING for 3000 years, and maybe it’ll start raining on my face while I’m at it.
Generation 7|| Alola || Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Every Heart a Doorway doesn’t need the sunny, bright visage of Alola to be Gen 7’s perfect match. It makes for a darker counterpart, the state of things were Pokémon able to express conflict with more maturity and nuance. The cast of EHaD face murder instead of moving to a new region, but they have their own troubles, too.
More importantly, they have their portals to safety, their escapes from a world that refused to give them the support and freedom they needed most. EHaD is about finding the family that’s best for you, about discovering where your happiness lies, about learning to protect yourself when no one else will.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children allows kids to be themselves instead of someone’s plaything, and that is a critical feature of Gen 7 without a doubt.
Generation 8 || Galar || Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
We may not know Galar very well yet, but what we do know promises competition and adventure in England-But-Not-Quite. Add in the magic of Pokémon, belligerent antagonist forces, and some oddball but memorable characters, and you’re coming close to the classic features found in Howl’s Moving Castle.
It almost seems odd to associate an older book with the newest game, especially on release day, but maybe there’s a wish here as much as there is a comparison: may Galar bring joy and excitement and something new around the bend! And may every second spent there be full of wonder, even when the going gets rough!
So, which Pokémon region is your favorite? And which book rec do you think is the most accurate? Personally, I’m a Hoenn lover at heart (Emerald was the first Pokémon game I owned that wasn’t my mother’s before it was mine), but I’m proudest of the match between Sinnoh and Once & Future!
No matter where your love is stored, though, have fun this release day, whether you’re playing Sword and Shield, or thinking of revisiting generations past! If you wanna be the very best, I believe in you! ❤️