Member Reviews

Urban academic fantasy pulls me in right away and is right up my alley, and this did not disappoint. Pull in the Chinese zodiac, vampires and shapeshifters, and you've got a killer premise. This was a lot of fun and has a beautiful cover that I wish I had on my shelf!

Thank you to NetGalley for this eARC copy gifted in exchange for my honest review.

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I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed Fourth Wing!

So... There isn't a nice way to say this, but I regret requesting this arc. At least this was a buddy read with Mai so I had someone to commiserate with.

As someone who has read a ton of books, nowadays I don't expect my reads to be life-changing or anything. Hell, I can even get down with something that's cliche and tropey if the characters are interesting or the worldbuilding is top notch.

Zodiac Rising is none of the above.

It's like Twilight meets magical school, but make it Chinese American. The writing is boring. The story is boring. The characters are boring. At least the worldbuilding was somewhat passable.

I guess this book is great if you have limited experience with BIPOC authored YA urban fantasy. But if you're looking for something fun or exciting with memorable characters, better look elsewhere.

I feel like this book really tried with its mixture of Chinese and Western lore, but in the end, it read so bland. Vampires? Werewolves? Magic? Fae??? Nothing made sense at all, other than the fact that the novel hit all the right story beats in a very formulaic way, so at least that part made logical sense.

Why are these 160+ year old supernaturals going to a private high school with teenage human Descendants? Why aren't they running multinational corporations, or sitting on boards, or, idk, pulling a Carlisle Cullen and raking in money by playing the stock market?

Instead, they're going to regular classes all day to learn... Advanced Mandarin? Even though they've been alive for 160+ years and were born in China. JFC. Make it make sense!!!! They aren't even going to grad school. This shit blows my mind. And all of this is only in the first 20% of the novel.

I thought I'd at least like Evangeline because she's a girlboss, but I draw the line at being mean to the help and others who literally didn't deserve it. Talk about girlboss, gatekeep, gaslight. Yuck.

One of the MCs, Alice, had the personality of a wet sock, even though people kept saying she was "interesting." It was probably supposed to be foreshadowing, but after reading until the end, I still found her boring.

As an OG lover of Twilight (Millenials, rise up!), I actually got so sick and tired of all the Twilight references (high school, playing baseball, vampire piggyback rides, Alice being so Bella coded that I can't even [oh no, she's clumsy~~]).

There was another huge reveal that was literally recycled from one of the author's previous books. It felt cheap, tbh. Like the author ran out of ideas and decided to do the same thing again. Hell, the entire novel felt like an amalgamation of all the popular YA fantasy tropes and cliches from the past 20 years.

The existence of fae in this novel felt very shoehorned. Like the author had to add in a popular trope to rope in more readers. It didn't make sense because the vibes in this novel were very Asian American and then suddenly, fae!

I think the one overarching theme I hated was that everything was solved so easily. Oh no, the main characters are being attacked? The bad guys are knocked out in an instant. They're being chased by their rivals? No one actually gets captured.

The prison break was boring. The heist was boring. The Six of Crows gang could easily outwit these supernaturals. Two characters almost start a fight with each other in the middle of said prison break. Two characters make out in the middle of said heist. Like, can we not? Are we not in life or death situations with extreme time constraints??

I only finished this because it was an arc. I stopped caring early on in the story. By the end, I wanted Marcus Niu and co. to take over the Descendants. Give me a villainous world domination story that might or might not include using Alice as a broodmare.

I'm getting too old for this shit.

Actually, there was one thing I liked. When a character was described as "Slenderman," that shit sent me.

Thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this arc.

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🥃 Take a shot every time someone mentions the midsummer's sprout 🥃

What is it about Asian fantasy that keeps disappointing me?

This is labeled YA, and while that is partially to blame, the crux of this novel centers around Descendants, all of whom are immortal. As such, I expected them to be mature. They are not. They still attend school like the high schoolers they pretend to be, and though born in China in the 1800s, still take classes such as Advanced Mandarin. The math isn't mathing. (Even stupider, there is a class named So You're a Descendant, So What? I'm not making this up.)

Chinese mythology is rife with its own stories and creatures, and this book chooses to become Cassandra Clare Lite with the immature high schoolers continuously butting heads with the fae. I hated the heist. I hated the characters. I hated the twist. I hated the lack of resolution.

I was enjoying the vampire resurgence in fiction as of late, but these vampires are so vapid, shallow, and stupid, I didn't know what to make of them. Instead of drinking blood like "normal" vampires (I give a little leeway to Twilight, because it was actually entertaining), we have incredibly laughable means of consumption, e.g. blood coffee and blood baos. (Speaking of Twilight, the multiple references to it were unnecessary and unwarranted.)

The one plus? It's not a colonizer romance.

P.S. The werewolf/wet dog comparisons will never not be funny to me.

P.P.S. I didn't think I'd read something I'd hate more than The God and the Gumiho so soon, but here we are.

📚 Buddy read with Zana

📱 Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Books for Young Readers

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I'm bummed to say this because I was looking forward to this one, but I'm DNFing at 18%. I might come back to it one day but right now I just can't deal with the immortal entities in high school. I don't think the writing is bad, and there's set up for a good plot, so I think lots of teens will enjoy this one.

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I really enjoyed this book. I was waiting a while to jump into it. It was a slow read in the beginning but it made it worth the wait. Highly recommend. 10/10

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Big thank you NetGalley and to the publisher for the chance to review this book pre-release. Zodiac Rising was a super fun read, and kept me entertained. I will say that I wish there was a bit more explanation as to why all of the characters were centuries old, but were in school and acted fairly teenager-ish. I ignored that part as much as possible but I would have loved a reason, as that really stuck out at me. I would however still recommend this to those who love a classic teen fantasy! 3.75 Stars

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Such a fantastic concept, but an ultimately disappointing execution. I was left with many questions - such as why are these hundreds-of-years-old characters attending school? However, the writing style is fantastic, and I soon found myself swept away. My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in advance.

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Omg when I tell you this book had everything I love in a fantasy book. It had found family, magic, werewolves, vampires and even faes. I had the best time reading this, I love a book with a good heist and this one was so much fun, I absolutely loved the world building and the character development of everyone. I CANT wait for the next book because what was that ending? Im still mad at THAT person, iykyk, needless to say I really enjoyed this book. Thank you so much to netgalley and to the publisher for sending Zodiac Rising my way!!

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I had high hopes for Zodiac Rising. I love Asian-inspired fantasy and urban fantasy. I love an ensemble cast and multi-POV. I even loved How We Fell Apart, an earlier novel written by Katie Zhao. Despite all of that, I was disappointed by Zodiac Rising.

Zodiac Rising is the start of a series, so it is possible that these questions will be addressed. Even so, I want to put them out there and get some reassurance that I am not the only confused reader.

The main characters, with the exception of Alice, are all hundreds of years old. They were alive during the Opium War and yet they still go to school. Why? What more is there to learn? I understand that they're trapped in teenage bodies, but nothing is stopping them from straying from typical teenage activities. What's the point in putting up a front if they don't interact with other people?

Also, it is mentioned that Alice is enrolled in Mandarin 101, but she manages to overhear and understand a conversation in Mandarin. If she's still a beginner, how is this possible? Maybe this is a consistency error or maybe her powers need more clarification. Either way, I couldn't get this out of my head.

It took me weeks to finish this, not because of a lack of time, but because I only got more frustrated as I read. I have yet to decide whether I want to continue with this series. The sequel is expected to be released in 2025, so maybe I'll have settled on what I want to do by then.

Bottom line: I am still so conflicted when it comes to Zodiac Rising.

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tl;dr
A super packed novel filled with an intriguing ensemble cast, tons of world mythology, and so many plot twists.

Thoughts
A lot of heist stories are secretly about grief. This one is, instead, overtly about grief, along with identity and living in the diaspora. It's an absolute panoply of the supernatural: Chinese mythology sits at the center, but we've also got vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, the fae, and... more??? It all clicks in better than one would expect, as the varied supernatural elements mirror the world our leads live in. It's a mix of culture and history, and the characters all struggle to find their place in it. It's probably the most relatable part of the story. The less relatable part for me is all the messy romance drama. I'm aware this is a me problem. I've never done well with high drama romances, but if that's your thing, I think you'll be delighted. We've got hot exes, a love triangle, and secrets galore, all set on a dark academia background. Add in extra plot twists, betrayal, and prophecies for a fast-paced story that covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

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I was so excited for this book and desperately wanted to love it. An urban fantasy about descendants of the Chinese Zodiac (powerful warriors in their day) stealing important artefacts from the Fae? Sounds incredible!

And for parts, it really was. I adored the characters and learning more about the mysteries in their lives. However, the world building (and by extension, most of the plot) was ... Confusing. After finishing the book, I still don't understand why these immortal being who are hundreds of years old are at a school, attending lessons? And the people in charge of their whole society appear to be ... Also attending school? The twists towards the end of the book were brilliant, but didn't quite detract from my confusion.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy

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Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

"Zodiac Rising" by Katie Zhao is a fun urban fantasy YA book filled with well-loved troupes like magic boarding schools and heists. The books also contains elements of Chinese mythology and dark academia. All of these combined made for a very unique and engaging book, which I absolutely lobed. I especially liked the Chinese zodiac element (as a lover of Fruits Basket); that is what drew me in and kept me interested throughout the entire time I was reading.

The story unfolds in a secret Manhattan boarding school where the Descendants of the Chinese zodiac reside, their powers depleted after the theft of the zodiac fountainheads during the Second Opium War. Led by Julius, Chancellor of the High Council, the Descendants face looming threats from vengeful faeries and monstrous Wrathlings. The diverse cast of characters, including Evangeline Long, a vampire; Tristan She, a werewolf; Nicholas Hu, a shapeshifter; and Alice Jiang, a mortal with mind-reading abilities, forms an unlikely alliance to break the curse and reclaim the stolen artifacts.

What I enjoyed the most about the book (besides the Chinese zodiac element) was the diverse points of views with the different characters. There are multiple points of view that provide deep insights into each character's struggles and motivations, which enhances the book's complexity and suspense. Each character had a distinct voice, and I never found myself forgetting who was who or forgetting whose POV I was in in the middle of the chapter, which is something that usually happens when I’m reading a book with so many perspectives. I found myself quickly becoming attached to the different characters, and I sped through the book, hardly stopping until I was finished.

The plot itself is quite fast-paced; there was never a dull moment, yet Zhao was still able to get me invested in the characters and the story. If you are a lover of popular YA troupes (found family, love triangles, heists, etc), you will definitely enjoy this book as Zhao brought along a breath of fresh air with these troupes through the unique setting/plot of the book. I will say that there was almost an overwhelming amount of YA troupes that made the plot a bit predictable throughout. However, Zhao's clear writing style and well-established backdrop make for a compelling read. The illustrations also added an extra layer of visual appeal; I really loved the visuals in the book!

Overall, as the first installment in a series, "Zodiac Rising" sets the stage for an epic adventure; despite its predictability in parts, the story remains highly enjoyable and entertaining. The book ends with a cliffhanger, which has led me to be desperate for more.

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Guys, this book is so freaking amazing! From the moment I cracked open the pages, I was transported into a world of magic, mystery, and Chinese mythology that had me totally hooked.

The premise alone had me hooked—secret Manhattan boarding school, Descendants of the Chinese zodiac, hidden magic, and a curse? Sign me up! But it's the characters that truly stole the show. Evangeline, Nicholas, Alice, and Tristan each bring their own unique struggles and strengths to the table, and following their journey was an absolute thrill.

The whole crew assembled to break the curse is just so amazing: Evangeline, the vampire with a century of hunger behind her; Nicholas, the shapeshifter on a quest for justice and redemption; Alice, the mortal searching for her mysterious heritage; and Tristan, the werewolf desperate to control the beast within.

I absolutely loved the multiple points of view in this book. It gave me such a deeper understanding of each character and their personal journey. Plus, it added this whole extra layer of intrigue and suspense to the story that kept me turning the pages late into the night.

As a first book in a series, Zodiac Rising does an incredible job of setting the stage, introducing the main characters, and laying the groundwork for an epic adventure. And can we talk about the illustrations? They were seriously next level! Not only did they bring the story to life in a whole new way, but they also added this gorgeous visual element that I couldn't get enough of.

Of course, it wouldn't be a YA fantasy without some juicy drama, and Zodiac Rising delivers in spades. Love triangles, secrets, betrayal—you name it, this book has it all! And the pacing was spot-on, keeping me on the edge of my seat without ever feeling rushed.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who loves YA urban fantasy with a healthy dose of adventure and mystery.
And now, the agonizing wait for the sequel begins...

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this was so amazing! I loved the concept from the start and incorporating the chinese zodiac was absolutely amazing! I loved the characters, the plot, and the writing style!

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I absolutely loved this book! It was captivating from start to finish. It’s such an amazing blend of the paranormal, fantasy, mystery, and Chinese mythology. Reading the events from multiple characters point of view was so interesting and added another layer of depth to the story. I can’t wait to see what happens next!!
Thank you to Netgally, the publisher, and the author for letting me read it early!

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This is my first novel from this author and I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. Normally I don't always get sucked in when there are several points of view. However, something about the way the author differentiated all of the characters, kept me around easily. The pacing on this novel was really what kept me reading in just a couple of sittings. I was thoroughly entertained throughout and it was easy to root for the characters. I will be eager to get my hands on the sequel, but this was a lot of fun.

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Wow. Okay. So this took me a bit to get into. I think once the heist took place and we saw some action, that’s when the book really picked up for me. I do love a good heist. The betrayal at the end was also surprising. I didnt see it coming at all.

Ok spoilers!

I had a feeling Evangeline wasnt the prophecy, but didnt think of Alice until we entered the Faerie land. She had those dreams about the lost child and that was wild for sure. I wonder if Alice will still like Evangeline after Evangeline almost left Alice for the fountainheads. Also I couldnt believe Julius is still alive. That was for sure shocking. I cant believe he’s basically the villain, all for some money. I think the Collector also works with the Phoenix? That is my guess. We didnt see much of the Phoenix. I think she was in the second part? Not entirely sure.

I wonder what will happen in the next book!

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I’ve enjoyed previous books from Katie Zhao and enjoyed the overall feel of those books that I read. It had everything that I wanted and enjoyed from the genre and the dark elements to the story. The characters worked in this story and enjoyed the overall feel of everything. It had everything that I was looking for from Katie Zhao.

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This book is a captivating blend that appeals to readers of all kinds who have a penchant for paranormal fantasies. With vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and a mortal human with mind-reading abilities, intertwined with elements of Chinese mythology, history, astrology, and a dash of dark academia, it's a concoction that's simply irresistible.

The plot's echoes of "A Deadly Education," "Legendborn," and hints of "Gen V" intrigued me from the start. I've always been drawn to well-crafted dark academia thrillers with meticulously planned action scenes.

Having enjoyed Katie Zhao's previous works and her poignant writing style, I was eager to see how she would craft an action-packed, mind-bending fantasy with a diverse cast of characters.

Of course, there's the classic love triangle, secrets, betrayal, and plenty of twists to keep you guessing. The pacing is well-balanced, allowing readers to formulate their own theories about the unfolding mysteries without stumbling in the dark.

The plotline revolving around the aftermath of the Second Opium War in 1860, the destruction of the Wrathlings' Circle of Twelve, and the theft of the five zodiac fountainheads sets the stage for an intriguing story. Julius, Chancellor of the High Council of the Descendants, finds himself ensnared in a trap set by a vengeful faerie, lured by a stake—the only weapon that can end his life.

As we are introduced to the main characters, including Evangeline Long, a powerful vampire from the dragon house, and her ex-lover Tristan She, a werewolf with exceptional thieving skills, along with Nicholas Hu, her best friend and a tactical genius, and Alice Jiang, a mortal with surprising powers like mind reading, raised by her protective mother—the stage is set for an epic adventure.

Together, this unlikely band of allies must unite to defeat the looming threats facing the Descendants, even as they grapple with their own secrets and motivations.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this first installment, and the tantalizing cliffhanger left me eagerly anticipating the sequel.

A heartfelt thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s / Random House Books for Young Readers for providing me with this digital review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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Asian zodiac myths, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, fae, dark academia, and a heist...if there was a YA trope bingo, this book would hold a full card. That may turn some readers off or give them pause to wonder if this was a story written to tick of boxes of what is trending, but I was intrigued. The writing style is clear and made for quick reading. The story premise is interesting and not too convoluted and the characters fit well into the story. As a first book in a series, Zodiac Rising does a good job of introducing the main characters, establishing the backdrop, and seeding a plot. There are some aspects that are a bit predictable but still enjoyable and entertaining to read. The illustrations were a nice addition and I look forward to reading of the further exploits of this group and hopefully seeing more of the illustrations in the next installment of the series. I'd recommend this story to readers who like YA urban fantasy with a bit of an adventure or quest. (3.5 rounded up to4/5).
I received advanced digital access to this book thru NetGalley (for which I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher, Random House Children's, Random House Books for Young Readers) for an honest review. The opinion expressed here is my own.

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