March 11, 2022

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching (Tristan Strong #3) by Kwame Mbalia

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching (Tristan Strong #3) by Kwame Mbalia
Rating: 5 Stars
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Format: Audiobook (library)
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (Rick Riordan Presents)

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Tristan Strong Keeps Punching by Kwame Mbalia is the exciting, action-packed conclusion to the Tristan Strong trilogy. Will our fearless Anansem and his friends be able to defeat the villainous King Cotton before it's too late?

One of the highlights of middle-grade books for me has always been the ability to watch your favorite characters grow up and mature. The characters in Tristan Strong are very well developed; it's been a pleasure to witness their journey over the course of the series. I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a nonbinary character in this book (Memphis is introduced in Ch. 9 of the audiobook/likely Ch. 8 in print or ebook). My only previous exposure to nonbinary characters was in Yoon Ha Lee's Thousand Worlds series, and it makes me so happy to see another one in a mainstream middle-grade book. 

Another highlight of this series for me is how well Kwame Mbalia blends and balances the humor and serious moments in his books. The humor left me cackling at times, especially when Gum Baby says things like "bee-log" and "pre-coffinary measures". I think Gum Baby is involved in at least 80% of the humorous moments in the book if not more. Despite the humor and often lighthearted tone, the author didn't shy away from touching on subjects like racism, slavery, and the effects of trauma (even generational trauma). If you're looking for a middle-grade book that would work well for a book club (or even just a discussion between parents and kids), then Tristan Strong Keeps Punching and the rest of the Tristan Strong series should be at the top of your list. 

Amir Abdullah’s narration of the books is still fantastic. I love the Gum Baby voice he does - I can’t stop laughing every time Gum Baby makes an appearance. If you have the chance to listen to the audiobook, I highly recommend it - the Gum Baby voice alone makes it worth it (but the other character voices are awesome too).  

Overall, this was a fantastic conclusion to the Tristan Strong trilogy! Those who are fans of humorous middle-grade fantasy (featuring diverse mythology) will surely enjoy this series. If you enjoyed the Tristan Strong books, I highly recommend you check out the other Rick Riordan Presents books as well. I’m eager to read whatever Kwame Mbalia may write in the future (and I certainly wouldn’t say no to more Gum Baby content, especially if it's like the short story that was featured in The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities).  

About the Book
After reuniting with Ayanna, who is now in his world, Tristan travels up the Mississippi in pursuit of his archenemy, King Cotton. Along the way they encounter new haints who are dead set on preventing their progress north to Tristan's hometown of Chicago. It's going to take many Alkean friends, including the gods themselves, the black flames of the afokena gloves, and all of Tristan's inner strength to deliver justice once and for all.

Shocking twists, glorious triumphs, and a cast of unforgettable characters make this series conclusion as satisfying as it is entertaining.

About the Author

Kwame Mbalia is a husband, father, New York Times bestselling author, and former pharmaceutical metrologist, in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY, and the sequel, TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD (October 6, 2020), are published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he survives on dad jokes and Cheez-Its.

Kwame Mbalia Author Photo Credit: Bryan Jones Photography

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