Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor | ARC Review

Thank you to One World Publications and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.

 Book: Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor (Zachary Ying 1) by Xiran Jay Zhao
Release Date: July 7th 2022
Tags: Middle Grade | Chinese History | Chinese Mythology | Chinese American mc | Gay mc |
Trigger/Content Warnings: Racism | Diaspora


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.

You all know I love me some middle grade and especially those that are more diverse. Which is what instantly drew me to this book. It wasn’t so much the plot that kept me interested, but the characters. Namely Zachary.

Zachary right off the batt strikes me as a pretty smart kid. He knows how the world works. He’s seen it. He knows that his friends aren’t really his friends because they don’t see him as equal. They are just a way to get through school. Keep your head down and just don’t stand out. Unfortunately that is just what happens when it turns out he is an ancestor to the once known dragon king of China.

I felt for Zachary throughout the whole book. He has so much heart and he is a good kid but he doesn’t always seem to see himself that way. But the way he will go through the fire for his mom, the way he questions what is going on. It all enriches the story for me. Deepens it. There is also the diaspora that runs throughout the book. Zachary being of Chinese heritage but having grown up in America while his two companions and the 3 guides are all of China. They know everything and he doesn’t. But does that make him less? And he feels betrayed by what the Chinese government did to his father.

The plot didn’t do as much for me as the characters. The idea of their guides, spirits of past chinese figures, into the VR glasses was okay. It wasn’t quite as game like as the start of the book suggested and I was glad for that. I was really angry about that betrayal at the end. How can you do that to a kid?

7 thoughts on “Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor | ARC Review

I welcome your thoughts and opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.