Updated 2020-12-12: Added “Loopholes”
Of all the stories I’ve encountered, Familiar of Zero (or “Zero no Tsukaima” as I still think of it) is an interesting case. I’ve never really seen the appeal of the anime and, while I haven’t had the opportunity to read the light novels, I’m doubtful I’d find them to my taste.
However, despite that, I still think it can be a lot of fun if you throw in the right replacement for Saito (usually a crossover) so you can either keep the canon characters entertainingly off guard or delve deeper into their psychology and culture than what I’ve seen of the anime.
As such, here are the ZnT stories which I found interesting:
Note: This list is incomplete and will be amended as I clear out my reading list.
- The Hill of Swords by gabriel blessing
- Emiya Shirou from Fate/Stay Night. A very long, detailed story with some very satisfying insights from Shirou along the way and some interesting character exploration for characters like Guiche and Kirche. Completed and quite possibly the only high-quality crossover which manages to run long enough to adapt the entire ZnT anime.
- Zero no Tsukaima: Saito the Onmyoji by SeerKing
- Hiraga Saito is a freshly graduated Onmyoji, from an Earth where the void element faded away (siphoned away to somewhere they can’t follow without the very void magic they’re missing) but there has been much more impetus to continue to innovate.
- If you like world-building on the topic of how magic works and why Louise has so much trouble, this is the fic for you. Heck, this story has a lot of interesting novel stuff, and it’s also over a novel worth of text already.
- Loopholes by DschingisKhan
- Louise summons Tabitha from across the field (after she summons Sylphid, though that’s not really emphasized much) instead of Saito from another world.
- This story feels so different from canon (but justifiably so) that I wrote a whole review for it to better explore what makes it distinctive.
- Everything and Nothing by The Sage of Toads
- An OC who is an Aether mage. When Louise attempts to complete the bond, it backfires and she becomes his familiar. The OC ends up mentoring her without anyone else realizing that aether magic and void magic are two words for the same thing.
- Devil Bringer of Zero by Himitsu the Hunter
- Ryoko and Ryo-ohki from Tenchi Muyo. An interesting mix of humor (mostly focused on Ryo-ohki) and serious character work (Ryoko and those around her). I especially like how this not only explores a Louise-Familiar dynamic which isn’t antagonistic, but manages to keep it interesting by mixing in other types of conflicts and setting up a friendship between Ryoko and Kirche.
- The Left ARM of God by RealmOfEmptiness
- Zeruel from Neon Genesis Evangelion in the “cute girl” form used for the Chromosome XX 10th anniversary figurines. That probably sums up everything you need to know about how the story plays out.
- Zero Interface by Golden Arms
- Ranma Saotome from Ranma ½. Simply put, Ranma is up to his usual foot-in-mouth shenanigans in Halkegenia. If you like your humor and character development to come from someone annoying as many ZnT characters as possible and surviving but you still want it well-written, this is probably your fic.
- That said, it does have character development and normal interactions, so don’t think it’s non-stop slapstick. It’s also another fic which spends an interesting amount of time on Kirche.
- it also helps that Ranma’s cursed form mysteriously changes. I won’t spoil how, but it makes for some very entertaining misunderstandings.
- Zero’s Cabbit by Kytranis
- Hiraga Saito… but one who stumbled upon Ranma Saotome Doesn’t Miyah! and got turned into a cabbit just before getting summoned. The set up is a bit silly, but the fic’s not bad.
- The Shinigami of Zero by Fenikkusumaru
- An OC cosplayer who becomes a real Bleach-style Shinigami when summoned. It does something interesting with Derflinger and it’s the first story I’ve seen where the idea is raised that maybe Louise botches all her spells because Void magic is too powerful to be controlled by ordinary means. It also spends more time on the Dragon’s Raiment (Zero Fighter) than any other stories I’ve read and it’s the first story I’ve seen to consider the possibility of re-creating the circumstances which allowed Siesta’s grandfather to cross over to Halkegenia.
- I will, however, caution potential readers that other Bleach elements start to come into the story later on. It’s done decently, so it’s still worth a read, but you may be disappointed if you were expecting something less action-oriented and more along the lines of a character-centric pure Zero fic with a Bleach-empowered OC making things interesting.
- A Happi Time by Granoc
- Happosai from Ranma ½. Comedic without going full-out crackfic. Louise summons the perverted old fart but, at the same time, someone who has the potential to teach her (and commoners) to beat mages without using magic.
- Dovahkiin of Zero by sayain673
- The cross should be pretty obvious from the title. It’s actually been quite a while since I read this and I don’t remember many specific details. What I do remember is that it included mentoring and scenes I enjoyed for the comparative magical theory.
- Surrogate of Zero by Charles Bhepin
- Shinji Ikari, post-Evangelion… now more a cosmic horror shackled by a human mind than a human and with Asuka piggybacking along in his mind. A rewrite of Points of Familiarity.
- Points of Familiarity by Charles Bhepin
- Shinji Ikari, post-Evangelion. Same plot as Surrogate of Zero but done a little differently and with more than just Asuka tagging along. Abandoned but still worth a read.
- Team Zero by Cataquack Warrior
- Jesse, James, and Meowth from Team Rocket. This story is an interesting mix: a light-hearted balance between humor and serious stuff. Sort of like Pokémon with the odd dash of humorous fourth wall bending, actually.
- It also presents a nice change since it’s rare to see Team Rocket as protagonists, they make good willing familiars, and they’re good at being comically well-intentioned, hard-working, loyal screw-ups.
- New Familiar New Trouble by Lord of the Magi
- If you’re going to read a Zero fic with an OC who always seems to be ready for whatever the setting throws at him, read this one. As with all stories that succeed at this, the author seems to understand that the entertainment must come from keeping the reader guessing about what the OC will do next and how they’ll stay unpredictable rather than whether they’ll succeed. For example, it’s the first fic I’ve seen where:
- It’s discovered that Siesta is a first-generation mage
- There’s a potion accident that temporarily body-swaps Louise and her male OC familiar
- We finally see a familiar using conjuring tricks to impress at the familiar exhibition
- A human familiar summoning a familiar of their own… and also getting one that isn’t ordinary
- God’s Eye by MarksmanKNG
- An OC classmate of Louise’s summons another OC as The Eye of God. Saito is also present as in canon. A good implementation of several novel concepts tied together in one fic. However, I get the impression the author’s experience with Zero no Tsukaima is from fan-translated materials since various names and terms differ from the usual. (eg. “Dragon’s Plumage” rather than “Dragon’s Raiment”)
- Plus, as a side benefit of the author focusing on a pair of OCs who don’t replace the canon characters, there’s more wiggle room for them to be original as long as they succeed as interesting characters. (Canon characters have to work harder to retain familiarity in the face of being original.)
Candidates (Need More Chapters)
- A Pet Wizard by Qaint
- Harry Potter, during the summer after Cedric Diggory died. One of the few fics which explore Louise summoning someone who is then recognized as a mage. It’s also interesting in that it’s still cutting back to Dumbledore and crew in a manner that suggests they might find a way to intervene in some future chapter.
- Mistress of Death by The Fanfic Stealer
- Harry Potter, millennia-old Master of Death. This only has about 5,000 words so far but, if it’s continued, it could be very amusing indeed.
- Dragonrider of Zero by The Dimension Crossing Mew
- A Pern dragon and her rider who are lost and dying between. This fic is actually listed as complete, but the author hasn’t ruled out the possibility of continuing it. I’m listing it more for the feeling of potential it shows.
- Alchemist of Zero by KitsuneSwordsman95
- An Edward Elric who sacrificed his life to save Al rather than his alchemy. While it’s only 22,000 words so far, I already get the impression that the author has plans for both an interesting friendship between Kirche and Ed and an interesting “alchemy is (re)introduced to Halkegenia” subplot… probably including Louise learning alchemy since I seem to remember her being good at the theoretical side of her magical education.
- Louise the Lyrical by MangamanZX
- A 93-year old Nanoha. While not marked completed, this hasn’t been updated in over a year. It makes an OK oneshot but, if it is completed, this has the potential to become one of the best “summoned mentor/teacher” stories around.
Desired (Stuff I’ve Yet To See)
- Louise becoming her own familiar
- Either summoning or being summoned by an alternate universe double or making a copy of herself with memories intact.
- …or, now that I think about it, her becoming master and familiar in one person. That’d be difficult to write since it’d rely heavily on exploring how it affects her as a person and the social ramifications, not to mention the need to create the magical implications from whole cloth, but it has a ton of potential to be interesting if the author can pull it off.
- Louise becoming the familiar of a non-mentor
- Possibly another human, but I get the feeling the most fun is to be had making fun of the familiar bond by making Louise familiar to an animal summon who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the familiar bond is backwards.
- Louise summoning someone who is as stubborn as she is and refuses to come to some kind of agreement
- I’ve seen this done in The Shinigami of Zero, but it didn’t last long enough to really explore the dynamic. I’ve also seen Emperor of Zero explore the idea of someone very independent who has their own plans very different from Louise’s but Napoleon’s too diplomatic to remain antagonistic.