• Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

  • Zachary Ying
  • By: Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Narrated by: Neo Cihi
  • Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Percy Jackson meets Tristan Strong in this hilarious, action-packed middle grade contemporary fantasy that follows a young boy as he journeys across China to seal the underworld shut and save the mortal realm.

Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.

©2022 Xi Ran Zhao. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Pokémon Go meets Puzzles and Dragon in this modern take on Chinese Legends

Oh boy this book was quite a rollercoaster. I want to start by saying, I loved the book. It was fun, interesting, and very relatable as a person who grew up being a part of very different cultures.

This book will take so many twists and turns (in the best of ways, I swear). As the book progresses, the audience can really tell that the book is a love letter to gaming culture, animes, movies, and of course, yugioh. It’s so refreshing reading something that my middle school self would have obsessed over (in other words healing my inner child).

There is so much content amongst the roughly 9 and a half hour long novel, that the voice actor just excels through. Perfect casting, sounds like a middle schooler, sounds like a friend, and does voices with so much more emotion then many other audiobooks. (No spoilers but there is a bit of that vocal break that comes from being sad. He has such subtlety!)

Okay I do want to warn you guys that there’s a lot of learning that comes with this read, google will be your best friend. But hey, trust me, the supernatural poetry battle is worth every penny.

On my second re-read now, thank you for making it this far

1 person found this helpful

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Good plot. So so narrator.

The plot is great.

But they should've used a narrator that speaks Chinese. It was distracting to have the narrator speak Mandarin with an American accent for the supposedly ancient emperors.

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Interesting, informative and fun

Good narration and awesome main character. A bit outside what I usually read, but an interesting story with a lot of facts about China. Neat that it does not equate Chinese people with the Chinese government. Cool that Zachary actually is from a Chinese minority group.

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An Enjoyable Derivative of Percy Jackson

After reading Iron Widow I was nervous to read Zachary Ying. But thankfully this book was much more enjoyable. It’s very derivative of PJ (down to some plot points) but had enough of its own identity to make it memorable. If you are a Rick Riordan Fan… give this a shot.

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Voice acting concerns, but an absolutely wonderful book!

Please don’t let the title put you off!! This is the start of an INCREDIBLE middle grade series I can’t wait to read more of. I believe a good way to keep relating with people is to keep feeding your inner child and that helping them can help you, and this book is one that my inner 12 year old tore through in DAYS. Literally 2 days to finish listening.

The only reason I mention concerns with the voice acting is because the author herself has expressed concerns themselves on Twitter as the performer is not of Chinese descent even though Xiran requested someone able to handle the phrases in the book, and upon the first time Xiran listened to the book they could tell the pronunciations were not correct. Xiran helpfully provides a pronunciation guide they recorded on their website, and I tried checking the performance against what was recorded, but my American English ears are not sensitive enough to pick up on finer details. But I feel awareness is the only way to make sure companies like Audible follow through on authors’ wishes - especially non-white authors writing in their own languages - on the ways they would like to hear it performed. Audible and other companies should follow through a lot more even with white authors that call on accents - an English actor with a Scottish accent is different from a Scottish actor - or fantasy/original terms in their books.

TLDR; Read the dang book and learn something about China, and Audible communicate with your dang authors!

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The 2010's are back and I'm here for it

i was hesitant when I heard the "a mix of PJO and Yu-gi-oh" description since it's been several years since the last time I've read a Rick Riordan book (I'm now a boring 20-something with a job), but Xiran proves that the genre truly is timeless.

I absolutely adored the way the modern struggles of a young Chinese-American Muslim were used as a parallel against the, admittedly, much more dramatic story of the first emperor of China. It was incredibly clever both as a story-device and as a way to help the reader connect to Zachary's very real, very "mundane" struggles.

Despite being from the perspective of someone foreign to Chinese Myth, the book does not at any point pull its punches or hold your hand in a condescending way when it comes to introducing and exploring the very rich culture and mythology its universe is set in. The book is unashamedly Chinese, and that's a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology.

If you related to Percy Jackson as a kid, you'll probably relate to Zachary Ying too, albeit in his own special way.

I'm only giving a relatively lower performance score because the mandarin pronunciations are wrong (the voice-actor is Japanese, rather than Chinese). That's not in any way the actor's fault and does not significantly prevents one from enjoying the book, but it's definitely something to keep in mind. I chose to get this version anyway because I couldn't help my excitement.

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Great Book!!

Xiran doesn't disappoint! They are one of my favorite authors so even though this is a middle grade book ( not my usual read) I couldn't skip this one... and I'm glad I didn't. This was such a fun adventure. Filled with history, magic, myth, social commentary, identity, belonging and a good amount of gray morality addressed in a child's book. Excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Chinese myths, history or just a fun story in the vein of Percy Jackson.

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Another winner by Xiran Jay Zhao!!

Definitely different vibe than Iron Widow but undeniably gripping and hilarious.
Wildly fun concept with the AR headset possession.
Lovely to encounter all the Chinese myths and history plugged in throughout.
If you loved Percy Jackson then this is a definite “must read.”

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