Kwame Mbalia

Last Gate of the Emperor

Last Gate of the Emperor

By:

Kwame Mbalia

Prince Joel Makonnen

Blurb:

An Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this journey to the stars.

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime — a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis — a game rival turned reluctant ally — Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.

Review:

I feel like I missed something while reading Last Gate of the Emperor. Why did things hinge on Yared? Why weren’t they able to defeat the bad guys ten years prior? Clearly, I missed something, and I didn’t skim, so I’m not sure how.

For once, I liked the male hero of a middle school book. Normally they’re brash and stupid and so full of their own abilities. Yared had those moments, but when push came to shove, he chose correctly. He wasn’t stupid, which I liked.

The world created was interesting, and I loved the sci-fi aspect, though I thought the last line in the book was eye-roll-worthy. I liked the characters, but ultimately this was a book not written for my age group, so I’m not going to rate it. I read it because Kwame Mbalia was associated with it, and I’ve liked the Tristan Strong books. It would probably be a good introduction to sci-fi for young readers, and hopefully, they wouldn’t miss what I clearly did.

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2)

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2)

By:

Kwame Mbalia

Blurb:

Tristan Strong, just back from a victorious but exhausting adventure in Alke, the land of African American folk heroes and African gods, is suffering from PTSD. But there’s no rest for the weary when his grandmother is abducted by a mysterious villain out for revenge. Tristan must return to Alke–and reunite with his loud-mouthed sidekick, Gum Baby–in order to rescue Nana and stop the culprit from creating further devastation. Anansi, now a “web developer” in Tristan’s phone, is close at hand to offer advice, and several new folk heroes will aid Tristan in his quest, but he will only succeed if he can figure out a way to sew broken souls back together.

Review:

I’m happy I listened to my librarian when she recommended the Tristan Strong series. It’s been a great source of entertainment and a nice light story to escape into. Plus, I’ve always loved mythology, and this is something I’m not super familiar with.

Tristan Strong Destroys the World picks up about a month after the last book. Tristan is doing a little better with his grief but has started having nightly nightmares. He ends up being drawn back to Alke when his grandmother is kidnapped. You end up learning more about her and the start of an explanation of why Tristan has his abilities.

The story ends not quite on a cliffhanger, but it does set up the following book’s story. This is supposed to be a trilogy, so we should reach a conclusion at that time. I kind of hope it isn’t, though. I’d love to read more in this world with these characters.

4/5

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

By:

Kwame Mbalia

Blurb:

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

Review:

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is presented by Rick Riordan. Now, I’ve read the Percy Jackson books, and I enjoyed them, but they came out after I graduated high school, so they don’t have the nostalgia attached to them that Harry Potter does. They’re good books, but honestly, I forget about them.

Anyway, Tristan Strong has a lot of the stuff I remember from the Percy Jackson books. You’ve got an everyday kid thrust into an impossible situation rising to the occasion. Honestly, I loved Tristan more than Percy. He was going through a lot and struggling, and several times I cried for him. Reading as Tristan became surer of himself was beautiful. He read like a seventh-grader, and I thought Mbalia did a great job writing him.

The non-god characters in this book weren’t as fleshed out, but that was really only two characters, so I didn’t have a problem with it. I loved the mythology in this story. I’ve heard a couple of these stories before, but there were so many I hadn’t. It made me want to research them. It was awesome.

I’ve got a stack of library books I need to read, of course, but as soon as I finished Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, I went to the library and picked up the sequel. I’m hoping that one day my kids will actually enjoy me reading books like this to them, and I can do that too.

4.5/5