Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Page Count: 352 pages
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A middle grade contemporary fantasy that follows a young boy as he journeys across China to seal the underworld shut and save the mortal realm.
Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.
The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.
And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.
Ah this was so much fun!! I’m really fascinated with history and mythology and I absolutely loved the author’s debut, and when I came to know about this book, I couldn’t wait!! And I loved every second of it!! I love their writing and it was interesting to see some familiar characters myths like the Dragon Boat Festival.
Zach’s such a sweet kid and he deserves a hug! I loved all the side characters. I love how it interconnects current politics and social issues with the characters.
I love the worldbuilding, especially the video gaming and virtual reality set up. It goes so well with the history and makes it very interesting. I love the writing with the humor and banter and also the pop culture references.
Love the representation of Chinese minorities, Zack is Hui Chinese, muslim and queer while Melissa is Miao.
If you love adventure filled quests, ancient Chinese history and mythology and story that will steal your heart, pick this up! THAT ENDING!!! I need the next book as soon as possible!!!!
*ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review