Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. May 2022. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665900706.
Gr 5 Up–Zach Ying has always had a hard time fitting in: he and his mom keep moving; they never have any money; and to top it all off, he’s the only Muslim Chinese kid at school. So when he learns that he’s meant to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China, he’s more than a little surprised. But a lot is riding on this: not only is his mom’s spirit hanging in the balance, but if Zach can’t seal the portal to the Chinese underworld in the next 14 days, the world will be overtaken by malevolent spirits. Oh, and the First Emperor didn’t properly possess Zach, instead attaching to his AR headset, which means Zach might have to find his own warrior spirit, something he’s pretty sure he doesn’t have. This is a creative, engaging story that will appeal to fans of ancient mythology and world history. The plot will draw readers in, but what will keep them is Zach’s struggle to belong, his journey to find himself and discover real friendship, as well as the highlighting of underrepresented mythologies. While the folklore and history might not be as smoothly incorporated as other mythological fantasies, it’s done well enough that middle grade readers won’t mind.
VERDICT This new series will grab readers with its dynamic plot, video game lingo, and relatable characters. An exciting new addition to the world of mythology- and history-based adventure novels.

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