Title: Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Number of Pages: 340 Pages
From Goodreads: 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.
This book has been on my radar since the early part of this year because the premise sounded fantastic. I finally picked it up when my book club picked this book for our middle-grade month. I’m so glad that this is the book that ended up winning the poll because this book was a lot of fun to read and I very much enjoyed it.
Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is an action-packed adventure. It’s full of twists and turns and a ton of moments that left me on the edge of my seat because I didn’t know how the characters would get out of the trouble they found themselves in. At some points, the action moved a bit too quickly and it was difficult to keep track of what was going on, but overall, it was a very exciting read.
I loved the main characters in this book. I thought Zack was great and he did a good job being thrown into the role of hero. I also liked Simon and Melissa, even though it took me a bit longer to warm up to them. I liked that it was clear that the characters were in over their heads, but they tried their best to navigate the situations they found themselves in.
I thought the mythology aspect of this book was very cool. I am completely unfamiliar with Chinese mythology, so I loved meeting all of the significant figures that played a role in this book. I loved how they were introduced and the little facts and tidbits that were given about them. I also liked how the public perception and memory of the myths played a role in the story.
Another thing that I enjoyed about this book was the themes of good and evil and sometimes it just isn’t that simple. I don’t want to say too much about it, but it gave me something to think about.
One final thing that I want to mention is that I absolutely adored the chapter titles in this book. They added something special and memorable to the book and I think lots of books could be improved by adding fun chapter titles.
Overall, this was a fun read. It was action packed and full of twists and turns. I liked learning about Chinese mythology, and I will definitely be picking up the sequel when it comes out.
Rating: 4 stars!