The Last Gate of the EmperorFeatured
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.
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!