November 19, 2021

Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen

Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Format: Hardcover + Audiobook (library)
Publisher: Scholastic

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Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen is a perfect book for young fans of sci-fi adventure. If you loved Mr. Mbalia's humor in the Tristan Strong series, then I suspect you'll be a big fan of Yared's story. I think the book will appeal to younger gamers as well, given Yared's enthusiasm over HKO and his in-game rivalry with the Ibis. 

As much as it's required, Yared couldn't be bothered with school. His passion is the augmented reality game Hunt for Kaleb's Obelisk, or HKO. His dream is to win the Championship prize and beat his rival while doing so. His only real friend is his mechanical feline companion, Besa. When he breaks his uncle's cardinal rule and uses his real name online, he sets off a chain of events far beyond anything he could have ever expected. 

I loved the dynamic between Yared and the Ibis. Their relationship starts out as in-game rivals, but necessity quickly convinces them together. It's very easy to misjudge someone for their in-game persona - the scene where they bond while fixing Besa was one of my favorites. As a note, there is no romance aspect to their relationship. Yared and the Ibis are more like siblings than anything. 

I was amused by Yared's attitude and sass. If I talked like that to adults when I was Yared's age, I would have been grounded for weeks. Somehow, it seems to work for Yared so more power to him. The "audio transcript file" interactions between Yared and the auditor were especially funny.

Prince Araya Mengesha's performance as narrator was energetic and humorous. He did a great job with bringing Yared's personality to life, and adding depth to the story. I was surprised that this was his first narration, and I'll be keeping an eye out for anything they might work on in the future.

About the Authors

KWAME MBALIA is a husband, father, writer, a New York Times bestselling author, and a former pharmaceutical metrologist in that order. He is the author of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, a Coretta Scott King Honor book. He lives with his family in North Carolina. Visit him online at

Kwame Mbalia Author Photo by Bryan Jones Photograhy

PRINCE JOEL MAKONNEN is the great-grandson of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, the last emperor of Ethiopia. He is an attorney and the co-founder of Old World/New World, a media and entertainment company focused on telling powerful African stories that inspire global audiences through film, TV and books. He lives with his wife, Ariana, in Los Angeles.

Prince Joel Makonnen Author Photo by Talaya Waller

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