The Last Gate of the Emperor Review

Been a while since we had a proper Fiction Friday. How about we change that?

I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things, especially with reading. Between my job, real-life issues, and uncertainty all around, it’s been hard. I know I keep saying that, but I’m working hard to rectify that entirely.

So with this, I figured I’d start on a good note. Middle-Grade sci-fi, POC lead, fun, quirky, and engaging plot, and most of all, an interesting tale on how this book came to be.

So let’s dive in with Last Gate of the Emperor, by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makkonnen.

You can purchase a copy here. I always promote every book I review, good or bad, cause we authors have to stick together.

Anywho, let’s get into our story.

A Secret Prince

The story follows Yared Heywat, an otherwise normal schoolkid on a distant planet of Addis Prime. His biggest obsession: HKO, an augmented reality game based on a legend that brings kids all over the galactic region to play for prizes, fame, and most of all, adventure. Until an ancient empire known as the Werari attacked with one purpose, to find Yared and keep his secret from coming out, even though Yared himself has no idea either. Between him, the Ibis, and his mechanical feline, Besa, Yared’s about to uncover a legend no video game could offer.

The story starts off in a classroom setting, where Yared, bored out of his mind, can’t wait to get to the next HKO quest. His rival, the Ibis, becomes an unlikely ally during the chaos that follows. I like their dynamic and their growing relationship. Throughout the story, the two grow untrustworthy, especially being rivals. Yared’s quick ideas always fall flat at times, only adding to their already struggling relationship.

Yared and Besa had such a fun relationship together. I was worried the book would only have a few small scenes together, but Besa played a fairly big role. Yared and the Ibis started off extremely rocky, only to warm up by the end. I felt the villain, who appears towards the end, should have had a more prominent presence in the book instead of only being alluded to.

Makonnen at the 51st Annual Meridian Ball in October 2019, pulled from Wikipedia

Speaking of alluding to things, you might have noticed that one of the authors is Prince Joel Makonnen. He’s a legitimate prince to the House of Solomon in Ethiopia. Much in the same way Yared found out about his destiny, he found out he was a prince like some kind of fairy-tale. I have family supposedly tied to Italian royalty myself, but I’m not a prince by any means, and neither is the rest of my family.

The story almost felt like an autobiography, except with sci-fi and an AR video game.

Speaking of video games, the HKO aspect only pops up in a few areas of the book, yet the blurb made it seem bigger than the actual result. The first third of the book focused on it, and after that, it didn’t come into play until the climax. The story would have benefited from a huge game side-plot. It was disappointing to see so little on that sub-plot.

Aside from that, the story itself was fantastic and engaging. If you’re looking for a stellar sci-fi tale with an African-leaning cast and plenty of fun, this is for you. I hope we see more of Yared, the Ibis, and Besa again soon.


That’s all for today. Take care, and have a safe adventure.

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