Review #190 // The Emperor’s Riddle – Kat Zhang

The Emperor's Riddle

While visiting family in China, Mia’s aunt mysteriously disappears after seeing an old friend. Mia is convinced that foul play is involved, but neither her mother, nor her brother believes her. It’s up to Mia to solve the riddles her aunt was trying to solve in order to save her.

Why this book?: I was in the middle grade mood, and this one had been sitting on my shelves for a while.

Thanks to the author, Kat Zhang, for sending me this book.

I didn’t know much about this book before I dove into it. In fact, I really only recalled that it had something to do with an Emperor’s treasure, and that it was in China with some Chinese-American kids at the forefront. Sounded fun, especially with the title alluding to some riddles in the story. While the story was overall enjoyable, I have to say that I expected a little bit….more?

Look, I know it’s a middle grade novel, but I always get frustrated when books promise a mystery and then there’s barely anything. While this mystery is a little bit more developed than the ones that I normally read, I was still frustrated with how predictable the story was. The riddles made no sense at all, but the answers would conveniently show themselves to the kids, which I thought was not only unlikely, but just a cop-out of the actual “solving” part of the mystery.

I really did enjoy the characters though, as annoyed as I am. Mia was a smart, young girl, and I was impressed with how mature she was for her age. I didn’t see her maturity as weird or bad writing though, because she was written believably and masterfully. I also really liked Mia’s relationship with her brother, Jake, because I have a fairly similar one with my brother. We’ve never been close, but we do care for each other, and always come through when we need to. And I saw that relationship mirrored nearly perfectly with Mia and Jake.

Final Rating: ★★★☆☆


Mainly, while I loved this story and the characters, it was frustrating to see how conveniently answers were placed or how situations resolved themselves so easily. There wasn’t that much of a struggle, just confusion and worry for the kids.

Would I Recommend?

Other than my personal frustrations, totally! This might have been a bit of “it’s not you, it’s me” but at the same time, I do believe that a lot of the execution could have been better designed for the mystery portion of this book.

The Emperor's Riddle

Additional Information:

Published: May 2nd, 2017

Publisher: Aladdin

Page Count: 256

Genre: Middle Grade/Mystery/Contemporary

Synopsis: via Goodreads

Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.

Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

- Avery (2)

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