Review Detail

Kids Fiction 268
Sci Fi and Video Games
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
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?
Good Points
While I have read my own personal fill of books where tweens save the world, actual tweens might just be discovering this type of book. Combing saving the world with video games is an excellent idea, and sets this book apart from other that are similar.

I was also really glad to see an Afrofuturist world, especially with the Ethiopian connections of Prince Makonnen. Since this book incorporates lots of cultural details it would have been helpful to have more deliberate world building-- I just wanted to know so much more about the background and folklore! 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 don't have a strong background in African culture, although reading Baptiste's new African Icons would help a little.

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.

It's great that we are starting to see a lot more fantasies with cultural connections, and I especially appreciated that this was a science fiction title with lots of those. It reminded me a bit of Riazi's The Gauntlet (2017) with the market and the family secrets. The cover alone will make young readers want to pick this one up!
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