The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence is the first book in the new series by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong. The premise is that during the convergence, the power of the Chinese Zodiac was brought back into the world, but Maxwell—our villain who wants to control all the Zodiac power—lost control when some people tried to stop him. Some of the power was unleashed into the world and found its own hosts, who had no idea what happened to them.
Each sign of the Zodiac has particular powers and they enter a person who is of that sign. This makes for a range of ages in the characters, which is interesting. Maxwell and Jasmine—the leader of the group fighting against Maxwell—both share the Dragon power due to a fluke during the convergence. Our main character is Steven Lee, a Chinese American teenager who becomes the Tiger. During the course of the book, he learns to master his power, appreciate his heritage, and embrace his role as a leader.
It’s a fairly straightforward action adventure as Maxwell tries to gather all of the signs of the Zodiac together so he can control them, and Jasmine and her group try to fight against him and prevent that from happening. The Zodiac powers present pretty much like superpowers that tie in with the sign in some way. The Rooster has sonic powers with her crowing, the Snake can hypnotize, the Rabbit can teleport away from danger, etc. The signs on Maxwell’s side were prepared and trained to take on the powers, but Jasmine’s group all got their powers without any preparation and they’re struggling to both master their powers and come together as a group.
As the epilogues show, this book just scratches the surface of the world. There’s a complex web to explore as future books come out.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
There’s a lot of comic book style violence—somewhat exaggerated and bruising more than harmful. There’s a lot of collateral damage done to the world around them (although not to innocent bystanders) as superstrength throws superendurance into walls. The art is almost all action shots of the many fights among the different signs of the Zodiac.
Maxwell pretty much utterly destroyed a city that was inconvenient to him. It happened before the book opens, but the spectre of it haunts many of the characters.
The new signs are of varying ages (young teen and up), but they all end up leaving their families to join Jasmine and the others for training. In some cases, their parents hardly notice. In others, the parents are painfully aware that there is nothing for the child there and let them go with hope for a future life. In another case, a formerly supportive mother freaks out about her daughter’s new power and pretty much disowns her. Then there’s Liam who just wants a change of scenery, but he’s the exception. Most of them don’t have supportive families they can go back to. Jasmine’s mother was killed by Maxwell, so her loss of family feels very personal in this conflict.
However, to really embrace his power, Steven has to reach into his past. His grandfather, who mostly raised him while his parents were busy, dies early in the book but appears in Steven’s mind frequently. Steven had been on a field trip to Hong Kong where he was supposed to learn about his heritage, but he wasn’t very interested in it at first. As he learns how to be the Tiger, he also learns how to be connected to his culture, his ancestors, and his new adopted family of other Zodiac signs.
Stereotypes and Diversity
There is a mix of cultures as the Zodiac signs come from all over the world. There’s also a nice variety of female characters and not one of them is the girlfriend trope. (In fact, there is no romance, aside from some possibilities slightly hinted at. My son would approve.)
Liam is from Ireland. He’s a brawler, getting into fist fights in the pub on a regular basis. It’s nothing personal and he’s very congenial. He just likes to punch people. A lot.
Duane is the smart one. They literally say that every group needs one smart one, and that’s who Duane is. He gets teased a bit for this, although the others stick up for him. But I was bugged by the idea that “the smart one” is a character type and that the other signs therefore pretty much can’t be smart because that role is filled. Not that they’re stupid, but they don’t value knowledge like Duane does.
Carlos is a lot like Duane—tech savvy, very smart and well educated—although he’s not a sign, so he’s not The Smart One. He is, however, a nerd and that means Jasmine is allowed and maybe even required to be mean to him. This is a joke, I know, but it still bugged me.
The Snake has hypnotic powers and can make people do things. While this is a bit disturbing, she points out that she isn’t actually changing who they are as a person. Maxwell, on the other hand, uses his Dragon power to reconfigure Monkey’s brain. Monkey goes from being a goofy rebel to being the perfect obedient follower. This bothers pretty much everyone on Maxwell’s team, and this is when they start questioning whether they’re on the right side. When Maxwell does this to Monkey, he feels dirty and he befouls the area where he did it, which had been his meditation sanctuary. But Maxwell is willing to do awful things for what he sees as the greater good.
It’s a fun and action-filled book, and the world is interesting enough that I’m curious how things will play out in future books. Although the book is over 450 pages long, the text isn’t dense and there’s a lot of art—it’s great for precocious readers who like superhero type stories and for reluctant readers. I’d recommend it for independent readers maybe 10 and up.
Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore, art by Andie Tong
Published in 2015 by Disney Press
First in the Zodiac Legacy series, followed by The Zodiac Legacy: The Dragon’s Return
Read the hard cover provided by the publisher