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Last Gate of the Emperor

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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-seeki 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.


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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-seeki 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.

30 review for Last Gate of the Emperor

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine from How Useful It Is

    This book was a great read! Right away, I enjoyed the humor. Since the story was futuristic, I loved the floating market as well as outer space adventures. Yared, the main character, sounded like a confident kid. He knew multiple languages and knew his way around authorities. He thought highly of himself because he called himself Yared the Great. I liked "the Ibis" who was Yared's competitor in the augmented reality games. Yared's only friend was the bionic cat so it was fun to read him stumble This book was a great read! Right away, I enjoyed the humor. Since the story was futuristic, I loved the floating market as well as outer space adventures. Yared, the main character, sounded like a confident kid. He knew multiple languages and knew his way around authorities. He thought highly of himself because he called himself Yared the Great. I liked "the Ibis" who was Yared's competitor in the augmented reality games. Yared's only friend was the bionic cat so it was fun to read him stumble himself in teamwork and friendship with another kid his own age. I liked when Yared's other competitors come together. 
This book started with an interview between an auditor and Yared. The interview spread out throughout the story. Then the story began with Yared giving a presentation in class. Yared and his uncle/guardian Moti moved around often. Yared took lessons to self defense himself if he had to, encouraged by his uncle, except Yared think his uncle was unintentionally giving him skills to survive in his thrill seeking/trouble making activities. Currently his rule breaking is skipping school so he could join in The Hunt for Kaleb's Obelisk, an augmented reality tournament. He's accompanied by his partner in crime, the bionic cat and his best friend. There are securities all over the place so among his plans was to hide in the garbage chute but the downside was that the garbage being dumped all over him. This tournament was against the rules so it took place in a secret location. When Yared arrived, he found the game required new registration and this time, he's to partnered up. He didn't like that, but worse, someone else showed up where he thought that person belonged in stories his uncle told. From there, Yared was led on an adventure where he discover more than he expected. 
Last Gate of the Emperor was well written and an adventurous read. There were a few twists that I was not expecting and I liked it. Yared's chatty personality was actually funny at times. I enjoyed reading the author's afterword and acknowledgment. I think this story can be relatable to many kids who are adopted because they would be growing up and wondering who their biological parents were. I liked that Yared has a drive for something even if it's to break the rules to do it. It's also cool that the story was based on Ethiopia. I do recommend everyone to read this book! xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details Many thanks to Scholastic for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Afoma (Reading Middle Grade)

    Last gate of the Emperor is a propulsive sci-fi adventure set in an Afrofuturistic city, perfect for fans of The Black Panther's Wakanda. This story deftly weaves vital issues like home, belonging, and family with fast-paced action and adventure and a generous serving of humor. Readers who enjoy middle grade action and adventure stories, sci-fi, or middle grade books set in Africa will enjoy this tale and what it represents. Read my full review on my blog. Many thanks to Scholastic for a free copy Last gate of the Emperor is a propulsive sci-fi adventure set in an Afrofuturistic city, perfect for fans of The Black Panther's Wakanda. This story deftly weaves vital issues like home, belonging, and family with fast-paced action and adventure and a generous serving of humor. Readers who enjoy middle grade action and adventure stories, sci-fi, or middle grade books set in Africa will enjoy this tale and what it represents. Read my full review on my blog. Many thanks to Scholastic for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Suuuuper amazing narrator for this, I highly recommend listening if you can. I'm surprised this isn't going to be a series, but I like that it's a standalone. Suuuuper amazing narrator for this, I highly recommend listening if you can. I'm surprised this isn't going to be a series, but I like that it's a standalone.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shaitanah

    While the plot is hardly original, the protagonist of this fun MG space adventure makes up for that with his personality. Yared is confident, brash, vulnerable, brave, and mouthy, very relatable and realistic. I found his reactions to be very believable; he feels like a genuine kid, but also has all the makings of a fantasy hero. His relationships with Besa, the Ibis, and Uncle Moti were particularly well written. Loved the world-building too! Now I'll definitely hunt down a book on the history o While the plot is hardly original, the protagonist of this fun MG space adventure makes up for that with his personality. Yared is confident, brash, vulnerable, brave, and mouthy, very relatable and realistic. I found his reactions to be very believable; he feels like a genuine kid, but also has all the makings of a fantasy hero. His relationships with Besa, the Ibis, and Uncle Moti were particularly well written. Loved the world-building too! Now I'll definitely hunt down a book on the history of RL Ethiopia. The villain was kind of generic, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment much.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Tournas

    The engaging cover portends an exciting sci-fi adventure, and the book definitely delivers one that will appeal to a wide audience. Yared is a rascally 12 year old who loves the augmented reality game that he plays with friends under the table. He lives with his Uncle Moti, his only family, along with his bionic lioness companion Besa, in the bustling metropolis of Addis Prime. I love the authors’ concept of this galactic Afro-futurist world, with “orbitals,” floating neighborhoods, farms and ma The engaging cover portends an exciting sci-fi adventure, and the book definitely delivers one that will appeal to a wide audience. Yared is a rascally 12 year old who loves the augmented reality game that he plays with friends under the table. He lives with his Uncle Moti, his only family, along with his bionic lioness companion Besa, in the bustling metropolis of Addis Prime. I love the authors’ concept of this galactic Afro-futurist world, with “orbitals,” floating neighborhoods, farms and marketplaces, cool transportation via “skysails” and bionic creatures, all framed by Ethiopian history and culture. It’s a really inventive mashup of a warm, rich history with the new, tech future. Pretty quickly Yared finds himself under attack by the legendary and feared Werari, and he must team up with his gaming nemesis the Ibis, a tech-genius kid his age, to figure out why he is being pursued, why Besa has been programmed with ultra-advanced mapping technology, and where the heck his Uncle Moti has gone. Why does it seem like all the ancient folktales Moti told him about Addis Prime seem to be coming to life? And is Moti really his Uncle?! This is a break-neck sci-fi adventure with a great pairing: Yared, a boy who is a sensitive, loving strategist who grieves the family he never knew, and the Ibis, a girl tech genius who makes all of Yared’s ideas come to fruition. There are lots of powerful women and Besa, as a bionic pet/guardian, is a wonderful sidekick. The collaboration between Mbalia and Makonnen, who is actually the great-grandson of Haile Selassie I, the last emperor of Ethiopia, has produced a dynamite story. I am pleased that it is a stand-alone title, although I would love to see more with this universe as the backdrop. As a language lover, I would have loved a guide or glossary on which of the many non-English terms are from Amharic or other languages spoken in Ethiopia, or a combination of made up words and real language, or both.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Yared Heywat has lived with his Uncle Moti since the death of his parents. They have moved around in very mysterious ways, often living in abandoned buildings that they fortify heavily. Yared has learned many skills from his uncle, along with a lot of mythological tales about Addis Prime and Akum, and his uncle has helped him build a robotic cat companion named Besa. When he sneaks out of school to play the popular augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb's Obel E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Yared Heywat has lived with his Uncle Moti since the death of his parents. They have moved around in very mysterious ways, often living in abandoned buildings that they fortify heavily. Yared has learned many skills from his uncle, along with a lot of mythological tales about Addis Prime and Akum, and his uncle has helped him build a robotic cat companion named Besa. When he sneaks out of school to play the popular augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb's Obelisk, things go badly wrong. Even though Yared is a top player, the game (which isn't quite legal) was reset, and all of the players have to start from the beginning, he has to register with his own name instead of an alias as his uncle has recommended, and he has to have a partner. He is paired with a girl called the Ibis, and is rather annoyed by her, mainly because she is probably a better player than he is! They head to the Gebeya, an outdoor shopping area in an airborne woreda. When the game starts to go badly wrong, and real threats emerge, Yared learns a lot of information about what really happened to his family, and who Uncle Moti really is. Even Besa turns out to be more than just Yared's robotic best friend. While the Meshenitai, the sworn protectors of the Emperor and Empress of Axum are ready to defend the rulers, there is a huge threat from the Werari and their monster, the Bulgu. Will Yared and the Ibis be able to work with the protectors to save Addis Prime and Axum? Strengths: This had a lot of good action and adventure, along with cool technology like the robotic Besa. There are lots of details about Ethiopian culture as well, and it's very cool to have an actual prince's perspective! Any book involving video or role playing games is automatically intriguing to my students, and of course, Yared's skill in this game is part of the hope of saving the world. Weaknesses: Remember, I personally sometimes find fantasy VERY difficult to understand. Like this author's Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, this book has a lot going on. Because this is creating an Afrofuturist world while incorporating lots of cultural details that might not be known to my students, it would have been helpful to have more deliberate world building. An introductory chapter (perhaps a flashback, after a chapter in medias res, with plenty of things blowing up) explaining how Yared and Uncle Moti lived, and some of the history of the areas difficulties with the Werari, would make this more accessible to readers who have not read a lot of fantasy. It helped that I read an E ARC of this book on a tablet and was able to look up any unfamiliar terms. What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and also adding to my list of books that include video games. This reminded me a little bit of Riazi's The Gauntlet (2017) with the market and the family secrets.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cece ✨

    Thank you to Scholastic Press for the ARC Last Gate of The Emperor is a story that will have young readers thoroughly entertained and enthralled. Characters who leap off the page as charming, snarky, and sharp witted. Our MC Yared Heywat, the Ibis (who should have her own stand alone book), and Yared’s bionic lioness Besa are what makes this story indelible. They work together every step of the way, having a few natural hiccups along the way. Linking them all together, a found family, when Yared Thank you to Scholastic Press for the ARC Last Gate of The Emperor is a story that will have young readers thoroughly entertained and enthralled. Characters who leap off the page as charming, snarky, and sharp witted. Our MC Yared Heywat, the Ibis (who should have her own stand alone book), and Yared’s bionic lioness Besa are what makes this story indelible. They work together every step of the way, having a few natural hiccups along the way. Linking them all together, a found family, when Yared felt like he had none. Further, the descriptions flooded the senses. Readers will experience all the sensation of the sights and scents the moment Yared steps outside of his school walls. The scrumptious foods and the vibrant colors of a vividly imagined world, while keeping pace in trying to stay alive as monsters from myth try to take over Yared’s home. With only a few minor pacing setbacks, Last Gate to the Emperor is a page turner. There were a couple of chapters that had drawn out exposition, explaining back story to the point it felt a bit stagnant. Though, I loved how the authors took a stab at using an interrogation format to introduce the story and lead to the present moment nearing the end. It gave Yared’s character even more appeal in his back-and-forth dialogue with the interrogator. Find my full review on my Book Blog:https://sheafandink.com/2021/04/04/la...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jodie "Bookish" Cook

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Book Review Title: Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel Makonnen Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Science Fiction Rating: 3 Stars I didn’t know anything about this book before getting into it but the mix of African and Ethiopian fantasy was something I haven’t read much of and was interested to see. We are introduced to Yared Heywat who lives on a planet called Addis Prime with his Uncle Moti and his bionic lioness Besa. Yared is an orphan and has lived with his uncle since the death Book Review Title: Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel Makonnen Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Science Fiction Rating: 3 Stars I didn’t know anything about this book before getting into it but the mix of African and Ethiopian fantasy was something I haven’t read much of and was interested to see. We are introduced to Yared Heywat who lives on a planet called Addis Prime with his Uncle Moti and his bionic lioness Besa. Yared is an orphan and has lived with his uncle since the death of his parents, they often move around a lot which has left Yared quite isolated due the mysterious circumstances as they often find themselves living in fortified abandoned buildings and I immediately wondered why. Moti has taught Yared a lot of skills along with many tales about Addis Prime despite Yared finding the planet quite boring. Yared is your typical young boy often sneaking out to play a popular augmented reality game called The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk and one night things go very, very wrong. During his latest time in the game Yared is ranked as one of the top players when the game mysteriously resets and all the players have to start from the beginning and this time he isn’t allowed to use an alias he has to use his real name which struck me as suspicious straight away and he has to have a partner which is a problem for Yared as his only real friend is Besa. Yared ends up getting paired with a girl calling herself the Ibis and he is frequently annoyed with her mostly due to the fact that she is better than him making Yared come across a cocky and overly confident which didn’t make me like him as a character at first. As they navigate the game together real threats begin emerging and Yared learns a lot about his family’s history and who his Uncle Moti really is. While the Meshenitai, the sworn protectors of the Emperor and Empress of Axum are ready to defend the rulers, there is a huge threat from the Werari and their monster, the Bulgu. It seems like Yared and the Ibis will have to work together with the protectors to save Addis Prime and Axum but I am not convinced a young boy will be able to do that even if he is quite intelligent. I really liked the descriptions in this book as they were really vivid especially those that take place inside of The Hunt, especially the floating market which I would love to visit. I also really enjoyed how the author utilized different writing formats in this book as it opens with an interview and the combination of the different mythologies and genres was also really unique. The Last Gate of the Emperor has many strength and weaknesses for me though, it has some great action scenes and give us an epic adventure coupled with so outstanding technology. It also encompassed a lot of information from Ethiopian culture which was nice given the novel is also Own Voices and given that one of the authors is an actual Prince really helped the believability factor. However, I did find part of the novel difficult to understand and I didn’t really understand some of the terms and mannerisms as I am not familiar with the cultures the authors are drawing from. There is also a lot going on during these 300 pages and the length and audience choice wasn’t quite right for me. If this had been young adult or adult fantasy, the world building and characters could have been given more depth, especially the Afrofuturist world and could have incorporated a lot more cultural details that would have been helpful to have more deliberate world building. Another drawback for me was certain things needed more explanation like how Yared and his Uncle lived and some of the history of the world and the game that would make this a lot more accessible to people not familiar with the culture behind the novel. Overall, I really enjoyed the humour, characters and world building in The Last Gate of the Emperor but it definitely needed to be expanded on more for me personally. I think for people looking for a really action packed fantasy novel this would the perfect choice as it was very quick to read and really kept me hooked as a reader, there were however, a few issues that broke the immersive experience for me like having to look up terms or cultural mannerisms that weren’t explained in detail but I would definitely give the novel a solid 3 stars although this would be more like 3.75 for me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mutually Inclusive

    Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen could be described as Black Panther meets Ready Player One set in a mythical Ethiopia in outer space. With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, this page turning Afrofuturist tale follows a young boy named Yared as he joins the Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk – an augmented reality game that will change his life forever. Yared lives a lonely life in the city of Addis Prime. He was raised by his nervous Uncle Moti, who moved them Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen could be described as Black Panther meets Ready Player One set in a mythical Ethiopia in outer space. With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, this page turning Afrofuturist tale follows a young boy named Yared as he joins the Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk – an augmented reality game that will change his life forever. Yared lives a lonely life in the city of Addis Prime. He was raised by his nervous Uncle Moti, who moved them around a lot growing up. Uncle Moti tells him tales of an empire called Axum and war that spans the galaxy. Yared’s only friend is the bionic lioness Bessa gifted to him by his uncle when he was a small child. Despite his isolated life, Yared is a typical quick-witted kid, full of bravado. Our story begins as Yared sneaks out of school to join The Hunt For Kaleb’s Obelisk. He learns that some of the rules have changed – not only is he required to enter his real name into the game to play, but he is also forced to partner up with his biggest rival in the game, a young girl called the Ibis. Suddenly, nothing goes according to plan, and instead of jumping to the top of the leaderboards, Yared and the Ibis find themselves in the middle of an attack on the city. The stories Uncle Moti has been telling Yared for years seem to be coming to life, but as Yared starts putting puzzle pieces together, he realizes his Uncle has disappeared. Yared and the Ibis decide to work together to find Uncle Moti, and along the way, Yared learns that his life as he knows it may not be exactly what it seems. I don’t want to give everything away, but I have to tell you: this book is fantastic. I can easily see this becoming a very successful series, and even having comics, cartoons, or movies. The characters are all very relatable and likable (for the most part anyway). With nods to Prince Joel Makonnen’s childhood experiences growing up as the great-grandson of the last emperor of Ethiopia, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, readers will learn about Ethiopia’s rich history in unexpected ways. I specifically appreciated the afterword that sheds light on that history and points out all the ways it influenced the book. Kwame Mbalia is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in North Carolina with his family. Please visit his website at kwamembalia.com to learn more about him and his work. Prince Joel Makonnen is a direct descendant of Ethiopian royalty, Co-Founder and CEO of Old World // New World, and a lawyer based in Washington DC. To learn more about him, please visit his website at princeyoel.com. Thank you so much to Scholastic Books for sending a review copy of Last Gate of the Emperor. I can’t wait to see if the adventure continues in a sequel! Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads | Storygraph

  10. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    This book review is originally posted in What Polly Reads. A review copy was provided by the publisher as I'm a part of the book blog tour but this does not affect my opinion on the book. When I started reading Last Gate of the Emperor, I thought it was gonna be just a middle-grade science fiction with bits of adventures here and there. Oh, boy was I wrong. Yared is a smart kid who can be viewed as a "problem student" in school. But as I read through his story, I realized that he's just another This book review is originally posted in What Polly Reads. A review copy was provided by the publisher as I'm a part of the book blog tour but this does not affect my opinion on the book. When I started reading Last Gate of the Emperor, I thought it was gonna be just a middle-grade science fiction with bits of adventures here and there. Oh, boy was I wrong. Yared is a smart kid who can be viewed as a "problem student" in school. But as I read through his story, I realized that he's just another kid longing for a real family, craving for a mother's touch, because, since the beginning, it has always been just him and his Uncle Moti. Following his adventure is truly engaging. I love how it was written in the first-person point of view because we really got to see Yared's adventure through his eyes. I'd like to say that this book is character-driven and I actually really liked that. Since the target audience of this book are those aged 8-12, the authors did a great job ensuring that these kids would really enjoy following through Yared's adventure by making this book read like a "friend's diary". Last Gate of the Emperor started off action-packed and it continued to drop all the action all throughout the story. I love how this book is one hell of a rollercoaster ride! For a middle-grade, it sure has a lot of action to keep the readers engaged with it. I can't think of another middle-grade novel that is as action-packed as this book is. I think it's really a good choice to include so much action in this book to inspire the readers' creativity and imagination. Even as an adult, this book got me thinking and imagining what each technology in here looks like and how it could "probably" work. Having said this, I think it's obvious that the writing style of the authors is so vivid and that they really took time to describe everything and everyone very clearly. It started off with ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, and ended up with FEELS, FEELS, FEELS. The thing with Last Gate of the Emperor is it is not only action-packed but it is also filled with plot twists. I literally did not know what to believe anymore when I got halfway through it. I think that Yared is also really confused with what the truth and what isn't anymore. Imagine discovering that everything you thought, or everything that was said to you since you were a kid, to be just "stories" or "tales" are actually real. But then something happens and then you become confused again and think, "What?! Is this REALLY real or NOT REAL??" Truth be told, the build-up to the final revelation was done good and that's when emotions started to just flow endlessly! Nevertheless, this book is full of twists and turns that you would just want to keep reading to discover what the truth is. Overall, Last Gate of the Emperor is a great middle-grade science fiction book. It is perfect for all ages, from middle grade to young adults to adults because it has an amazing character arc, lovely found family trope, and the plot is full of twists and turns!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paige Green

    Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: Last Gate of the Emperor Author: Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen Book Series: Standalone for now Rating: 5/5 Diversity: Black main characters and side characters Recommended For...: mg readers, sci-fi lovers Publication Date: May 4, 2021 Genre: MG Sci-Fi Recommended Age: 10+ (some scary moments, violence, attack on a city) Publisher: Scholastic Press Pages: 304 Synopsis: An Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiop Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: Last Gate of the Emperor Author: Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen Book Series: Standalone for now Rating: 5/5 Diversity: Black main characters and side characters Recommended For...: mg readers, sci-fi lovers Publication Date: May 4, 2021 Genre: MG Sci-Fi Recommended Age: 10+ (some scary moments, violence, attack on a city) Publisher: Scholastic Press Pages: 304 Synopsis: 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 absolutely loved this book! I loved the Ethiopian culture that was intertwined with this tale and I really appreciate that the arc came with a guide on the different items that were inspired by Ethiopian culture. The book had amazing character development and the plot was magnificent. The world building was awe-inspiring and I loved every minute of this reading this book. The only issue I had with the book is that I felt it was too short. The amount of material in the book could have easily lasted another 100 pages and I am excited to see if there will be more. Verdict: Highly recommend!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    Happy book birthday to this fabulous Afrofuturistic MG stunner! 🎉 @mbalia1 @princeyoel 🎉 Thx to @scholasticinc for the ARC. . . . Yared lives with his uncle and his bionic lioness Besa but *really* lives for competing in an AI game called The Hunt. One day the rules change and he is forced to log in with his real name instead of his alias. Somehow this triggers an attack in the city and Yared is forced to escape with his nemesis, Ibis. Suddenly all the stories Yared’s uncle told him in childhood appe Happy book birthday to this fabulous Afrofuturistic MG stunner! 🎉 @mbalia1 @princeyoel 🎉 Thx to @scholasticinc for the ARC. . . . Yared lives with his uncle and his bionic lioness Besa but *really* lives for competing in an AI game called The Hunt. One day the rules change and he is forced to log in with his real name instead of his alias. Somehow this triggers an attack in the city and Yared is forced to escape with his nemesis, Ibis. Suddenly all the stories Yared’s uncle told him in childhood appear to be more than fiction. . . . Kwame Mbalia (Tristan punches a hole series!) has teamed up with Prince Joel Makonnen of Ethiopia to write this fast-paced futuristic sci-fi novel set in Africa and outer space, but based in Ethiopian legend and history. Must buy! . . . #middleschoollibrarian #middleschoollibrary #library #librarian #futurereadylibs #iteachlibrary #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #librariesofinstagram #librariansofinstagram #librariesfollowlibraries #librarylife #librarianlife #schoollibrarian #middlegrade #middlegradebooks #iteach #librarylove #booksbooksbooks #amreading #bibliophile #schoollibrariansrock #bookreview #bookrecommendation #igreads #malibrary #msla #mediaspecialist

  13. 4 out of 5

    Soulfire

    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, 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I loved many things about this book. The amazingly detailed African setting, the resilience of storytelling and friendship and care even when lies are interwoven. The augmented reality game that taught real skills. Strong Black characters at every turn. And I was really frustrated. I'm tired of orphans who are magically "the one," but something that frustrates me even more? Non-orphans whose parents magically reappear and love them desperately with little to no repercussions. Especially wealthy r I loved many things about this book. The amazingly detailed African setting, the resilience of storytelling and friendship and care even when lies are interwoven. The augmented reality game that taught real skills. Strong Black characters at every turn. And I was really frustrated. I'm tired of orphans who are magically "the one," but something that frustrates me even more? Non-orphans whose parents magically reappear and love them desperately with little to no repercussions. Especially wealthy royalty magical parents. I think about all the kids in foster care, with divorced parents, whose parents have died, who don't know who their parent(s) are. And I'm annoyed that a magical nuclear family is the happy ending for so many YA books. I would have preferred if his adopted uncle had stayed his main caretaker, and their love and family had been venerated. Let's tell stories that elevate and cherish the people who are there for our kids, who love and are present.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    After I finished reading The Last Fallen Star, by Graci Kim, I started reading Last Gate of the Emperor, by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen. That's two books in a row I've now read with the word "last" in their titles. I actually don't have a whole lot to say about that. I just thought it was cool and worth mentioning. I spent all of June alternating between 5 and 3-star reviews. I'm starting off July with a 4-star review, my first since May. Last Gate of the Emperor is the 3rd book by Kwam After I finished reading The Last Fallen Star, by Graci Kim, I started reading Last Gate of the Emperor, by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen. That's two books in a row I've now read with the word "last" in their titles. I actually don't have a whole lot to say about that. I just thought it was cool and worth mentioning. I spent all of June alternating between 5 and 3-star reviews. I'm starting off July with a 4-star review, my first since May. Last Gate of the Emperor is the 3rd book by Kwame Mbalia that I've read. But it's the 1st I've given a 4-star rating to. You may recall that I gave both Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky and Tristan Strong Destroys the World 5 star reviews. I would describe Last Gate of the Emperor as Black Panther meets Star Wars, for the Middle Grade set. And that's such an interesting concept. I really liked this book a lot. But I just think it wasn't as good as Kwame Mbalia's previous books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pooja

    Guest Review! "In this book, the main character Yared moves from town to town but has a normal life, until he sneaks out of his school for HKO games. Then when he logins in his real name because of rule changes, the city is attacked and his uncle disappears. He finds himself working with his bionic lioness Bessa and his HKO rival, The Ibis, to save his uncle. They find a dangerous enemy and a monster on the way. When Yared discovers his past, everyone is shocked by it. It was a very interesting bo Guest Review! "In this book, the main character Yared moves from town to town but has a normal life, until he sneaks out of his school for HKO games. Then when he logins in his real name because of rule changes, the city is attacked and his uncle disappears. He finds himself working with his bionic lioness Bessa and his HKO rival, The Ibis, to save his uncle. They find a dangerous enemy and a monster on the way. When Yared discovers his past, everyone is shocked by it. It was a very interesting book full of surprises, secrets, and action. I liked The Ibis best because she got Yared out of trouble multiple times and was sensible and smart during the book. I would recommend this book to people who like action, surprises, a little suspense and fantasy." Disclaimer: This ARC was won in a Goodreads giveaway. This is the recipient's honest and voluntary review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Dulaney

    Authors Mbalia and Makonnen combine their talents to create a sci-fi/fantasy book with a futuristic Ethiopia, gaming, and robotics at the forefront. With the unusual planet, enemy, transportation, food names and more, readers will have to use context clues to try and stay on track with the very long expository section. Once the introductions are done and the “save this world” action with Yared, the Ibis, and Besa (boy, girl, and mechanized lion-type guardian) begins, middle grade readers are lik Authors Mbalia and Makonnen combine their talents to create a sci-fi/fantasy book with a futuristic Ethiopia, gaming, and robotics at the forefront. With the unusual planet, enemy, transportation, food names and more, readers will have to use context clues to try and stay on track with the very long expository section. Once the introductions are done and the “save this world” action with Yared, the Ibis, and Besa (boy, girl, and mechanized lion-type guardian) begins, middle grade readers are likely to enjoy the battle scenes that are liberally mixed with flying machines, friends and foes decked out in high tech metallic uniforms, inventive weapons and more. Further adventures are expected from Yared and Co. in the future and are more recommended for those in grades 6 and up who appreciate complex science fiction such as Card’s Ender’s Game and Westerfeld’s Leviathan series but without as large a page count. Thanks for the print ARC, Amazon Vine.

  18. 5 out of 5

    TheLifeTheFife

    Underwhelming Action This book offers great representation and is packed with action, but even with those two ingredients for success falls flat. For such an involved high sci-fi, there needs to be a lot more explanation of the world building than there is. Who are the Werari and why are they trying to defeat Axum? Has Axum been in hiding for so long that the regular planet has completely forgot about them? There is no explanation how an entire society can live in secret. And who is the Authority Underwhelming Action This book offers great representation and is packed with action, but even with those two ingredients for success falls flat. For such an involved high sci-fi, there needs to be a lot more explanation of the world building than there is. Who are the Werari and why are they trying to defeat Axum? Has Axum been in hiding for so long that the regular planet has completely forgot about them? There is no explanation how an entire society can live in secret. And who is the Authority and why do they care so much about what seems like small-fry policing? Are they connected to the Werari? Something different? Time and time again elements of the world were dropped without explanation, leaving me to fill in the gaps on my own. Add on top of that the sheer number of continuity errors, this book generated more confusion than anything else for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Destiny

    Last Gate of the Emperor is a middle-grade Afrofuturist sci-fi adventure. Twelve-year-old Yared is a video game enthusiast who comes to learn that the plot and world of his favorite video game game, along with his uncle's old stories, are more real than he's ever believed. Suddenly, he learns that his uncle's secretive nature and their constant moving around the country were all for a very good reason. Now Yared has to use all his in-game knowledge, and the hints his uncle has given him over the Last Gate of the Emperor is a middle-grade Afrofuturist sci-fi adventure. Twelve-year-old Yared is a video game enthusiast who comes to learn that the plot and world of his favorite video game game, along with his uncle's old stories, are more real than he's ever believed. Suddenly, he learns that his uncle's secretive nature and their constant moving around the country were all for a very good reason. Now Yared has to use all his in-game knowledge, and the hints his uncle has given him over the years, to survive a giant metal beast and vengeful alien invaders. Last Gate of the Emperor is a story of finding yourself and, most of all, finding your family. A good novel for any young person, but especially for black kids hoping to see themselves in fiction. I read an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book, but it was officially released a couple of days later.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alysha DeShaé

    Just, wow... I knew I would love it. Kwame Mbalia has such a way with words that you can't help but love his stories! But I bought this solely because of his name without knowing anything about the story. Totally worth it! So since I'm not going to be able to fangirl without spoilers, I'm just going to mention something that Prince Joel Makonnen talks about after the story. He says, "I also hope that as you read Last Gate, you’ll be inspired to discover your own history, no matter who you are or Just, wow... I knew I would love it. Kwame Mbalia has such a way with words that you can't help but love his stories! But I bought this solely because of his name without knowing anything about the story. Totally worth it! So since I'm not going to be able to fangirl without spoilers, I'm just going to mention something that Prince Joel Makonnen talks about after the story. He says, "I also hope that as you read Last Gate, you’ll be inspired to discover your own history, no matter who you are or where you’re from." Coincidentally, I recently started figuring out my family tree (looking forward to the results from the DNA test) and has someone who is half-adopted, I'm really curious where the biological half that I don't know about is rooted and comes from.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bridget Coila

    Read this along with my 11 year old son and we both enjoyed it. He devoured it -reading straight through without pauses for gaming or pretty much anything- which is always a good sign for kid engagement in a book. The plot is clever, the characters are interesting (and appealing to the 11 year old set) and the setting is fascinating. Mom liked the found family/chosen family themes and kiddo liked the compelling story and characters. The robotic guardian big cat was another plus for my robot-lovi Read this along with my 11 year old son and we both enjoyed it. He devoured it -reading straight through without pauses for gaming or pretty much anything- which is always a good sign for kid engagement in a book. The plot is clever, the characters are interesting (and appealing to the 11 year old set) and the setting is fascinating. Mom liked the found family/chosen family themes and kiddo liked the compelling story and characters. The robotic guardian big cat was another plus for my robot-loving, cat-loving child. Disclaimer: Received free as an ARC through Goodreads Giveaways. All opinions are mine- and those of the kiddo.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Thank you to Scholastic Press for a copy to review! This one is fun! Yared has the right amount of sass and irreverence that had me cackling. The Ibis was a perfect partner for him. And a snarky bionic lion? What a great trio. It’s non-stop action from the get-go. It doesn’t slow down either. I felt like a little more emotional depth could have taken this to another level. I would have loved to hear more about the Ibis and her motivations. With such fun action happening, the book didn’t seem to fi Thank you to Scholastic Press for a copy to review! This one is fun! Yared has the right amount of sass and irreverence that had me cackling. The Ibis was a perfect partner for him. And a snarky bionic lion? What a great trio. It’s non-stop action from the get-go. It doesn’t slow down either. I felt like a little more emotional depth could have taken this to another level. I would have loved to hear more about the Ibis and her motivations. With such fun action happening, the book didn’t seem to find itself in the more setting/characterization realm. But I still loved it! By the end I was whooping and rooting for Yared and company. I think plenty of kiddos will like this one too!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Celia McMahon

    This book was great from start to finish. Boys and girls alike will love the futuristic setting and high-octane action. This is a well-written, fast-paced read with lots of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Yared and The Iris are not a match made in heaven, but their friendship grows past competition and I think that's a HUGE message for young readers. Yared is viewed as a trouble maker in school when in reality he's trying to figure out who he really is as a person. The story begins This book was great from start to finish. Boys and girls alike will love the futuristic setting and high-octane action. This is a well-written, fast-paced read with lots of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Yared and The Iris are not a match made in heaven, but their friendship grows past competition and I think that's a HUGE message for young readers. Yared is viewed as a trouble maker in school when in reality he's trying to figure out who he really is as a person. The story begins with just him and his uncle, but deep inside he longs for a real family. A mother. This is a very character-driven book so it was nice to see someone like Yared in literature. This whole book is a whirlwind! Despite being an adult, I found myself in awe of all the tech described in the book so, I think kids are going to enjoy it a lot. This is due in part to the wonderful writing of both authors. Overall, this book is perfect for readers of all ages, and I think will be one of the best middle-grade books of 2021

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carli

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this action-packed science fiction adventure. Yared, who lives in an Afrofuturist city called Addis Prime, only has his uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa to call family. He loves playing an underground AI game called The Hunt, but because his uncle is strict about him putting his information out there, he always plays under an alias. When an update for the game forces him to use his real name, it triggers an attack on the city. Only then does Yared learn about his parents - and h ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this action-packed science fiction adventure. Yared, who lives in an Afrofuturist city called Addis Prime, only has his uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa to call family. He loves playing an underground AI game called The Hunt, but because his uncle is strict about him putting his information out there, he always plays under an alias. When an update for the game forces him to use his real name, it triggers an attack on the city. Only then does Yared learn about his parents - and his true identity. Hand to thrill seekers in grades 5-8.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Krissy Neddo

    Best for MS. Liked MC and his adventures, but so much going on that will take a strong elem reader to file away all the futuristic elements. Sometimes I felt like I had jumped into book 2 in a series. As if I had missed some world building elements that were key to my understanding the story. Not sure my elementary readers will stick with it to finish.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This fast-paced MG set in a futuristic Ethiopia has everything you could hope for: action, friendship, good v. evil, a secret that changes everything, and phenomenal writing. Young readers who enjoy the Rick Riordan Presents series will love this one. Be sure to add this to your classroom library!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barbaraleah

    I've tried four times to describe Kwame Mbalia's writing - but, well, I'm not doing well. 5th try - I love that his Black characters give a voice to many of my students who have never seen themselves in literature. Another good book! Yared, the Ibis, Uncle Moti....fun, quick read. I've tried four times to describe Kwame Mbalia's writing - but, well, I'm not doing well. 5th try - I love that his Black characters give a voice to many of my students who have never seen themselves in literature. Another good book! Yared, the Ibis, Uncle Moti....fun, quick read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I’m a little disappointed because the book will be difficult for students to dive into the book since world building is meh. Will purchase though sine it will probably end up on the Project Lit list.

  29. 4 out of 5

    LS Johnson

    I’m enjoying books by this author and will continue to recommend them. The book dragged a little in the middle and seemed to lose focus but still a great read if someone likes sci-fi/ futuristic books. And it does sound like this is the start of a series.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Addiswa

    Are you kidding me?! An ownvoices middle grade book with Habesha main characters and I'm just finding out?!! 🥺🥺😭 I'm so excited!!! Are you kidding me?! An ownvoices middle grade book with Habesha main characters and I'm just finding out?!! 🥺🥺😭 I'm so excited!!!

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