Winnie Zeng Vanquishes a King

Winnie Zeng Vanquishes a King
Age Range
Release Date
April 25, 2023
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As shamans, Winnie Zeng and her archnemesis, David Zuo, have accepted their roles in guarding the world from evil spirits. But with Halloween around the corner, the balance between realms grows fragile—and so yet another shaman is assigned to help Winnie and David protect the town of Groton, Michigan.

The catch? The new shaman is just the worst. Not only is she way too perfect—she also has an ego to match, and thinks she’s the best thing that’s happened to Groton since Winnie’s red bean brownies. Plus, she's confident she can save the world all on her own.

With evil spirits growing in number, Winnie and David find themselves in quite a pickle. While the newest shaman isn’t convinced there’s a storm brewing, this town is going to need all three of them on the same team . . . or there might not be a town left to defend.

Editor review

1 review
Trust yourself and your abilities.
Overall rating
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What worked:
Winnie has shaman powers but she needs the overspirit of her deceased grandmother Lao Lao, a former shaman, to access her full abilities. This relationship, called combining, creates a couple of significant twists in the plot. Winnie must learn to create the connection on demand before she’ll be able to face higher levels of evil spirits. Lao Lao is constantly shadowing Winnie and wants to accompany her everywhere but her useful mentoring advice is offset by criticism and nosiness. Plus, Lao Lao’s spirit must remain near Winnie’s pet rabbit so this adds a complication to traveling around town together. To further complicate matters, another shaman named David is Winnie’s classmate and they’ve developed a rivalry and competition. David has his own overspirit, a deceased Chinese emperor named Joe who doesn’t get along with Lao Lao. Winnie and David must combine their shaman talents at times but the results of these collaborations aren’t easy to foresee.
All shamans have uncommon talents to accentuate their magical powers. Apparently, in the first book, Winnie baked moon pies that helped her sense and defeat an evil spirit. This time, she knows the rogue spirits are increasing in numbers and power but she can’t tell where they are. Winnie has a magic cookbook that is somehow able to determine which recipe is needed but all of the other pages are glued shut. Winnie whips up a batch of almond cookies this time and she immediately feels her senses become more acute. She can even use them as weapons. David uses calligraphy as his magical talent while another shaman performs Chinese fan dances to increase her powers.
Winnie has feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that haunt her throughout the whole book. She defeated the demon in the first book but it seems a large amount of luck was involved. The Spirit Council makes her an official shaman and assigns her to protect the town of Groton, Michigan. One council member voices reservations about her role which only reinforces her insecurities. She struggles to link with her overspirit, David captures more spirits than she can, and the Spirit Council displays a lack of confidence in her by sending another shaman to Groton. This girl is pompous and “perfect” and there’s no way Winnie can match her talents and experience. The author thoroughly communicates Winnie’s trepidations so her ultimate success makes this almost an underdog story.
What didn’t work as well:
Winnie and David are very slow to recognize rogue spirits even though they will be obvious to readers. The characters are given one clue to look for but they immediately seem to forget it. In the end, Winnie thinks she should have noticed the spirits sooner and readers will most likely agree.
The Final Verdict:
The format of the plot will be familiar to young readers as Winnie tries to master her shaman powers. There aren’t too many surprises or twists to the plot although the shamans' tactics are sometimes unexpected. The author adds a bit of humor through character relationships and dialogue. I recommend you give this book a shot.
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