For Ages
8 to 12

Winnie Zeng Vanquishes a King is a part of the Winnie Zeng collection.

With chaos on the rise, one girl stands in the face of all evil . . . and we're not talking about homework! The action-packed sequel to the epic fantasy series inspired by Chinese mythology.

"A hilarious tussle between homework, family, and heroism." —Kwame Mbalia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

As shamans, Winnie Zeng and her archnemesis, David Zuo, have accepted their roles in guarding the world from evil spirits. But with Halloween around the corner, the balance between realms grows fragile—and so yet another shaman is assigned to help Winnie and David protect the town of Groton, Michigan.

The catch? The new shaman is just the worst. Not only is she way too perfect—she also has an ego to match, and thinks she’s the best thing that’s happened to Groton since Winnie’s red bean brownies. Plus, she's confident she can save the world all on her own.

With evil spirits growing in number, Winnie and David find themselves in quite a pickle. While the newest shaman isn’t convinced there’s a storm brewing, this town is going to need all three of them on the same team . . . or there might not be a town left to defend.

An Excerpt fromWinnie Zeng Vanquishes a King

Chapter One

My name is Winnie Zeng, and if there’s one piece of advice you should take from me, it’s to never go to middle school, ever. Avoid it for as long as you can. Run away from home if you need to. Also, if you ever receive a pamphlet from something called the Shaman Task Force, sprint as fast as you can in the opposite direction, before a bunch of spirits start attacking your town and you’re roped into never-­ending patrol duty.

Okay, that was a lot. Let’s back up a little.

See, up until the day I entered sixth grade, my daily life was pretty normal and boring. Going to school every day. Watching (and rewatching, and rewatching . . .) Sailor Moon. Bugging my fourteen-­year-­old sister, Lisa. Practicing the piano (or, rather, concocting schemes to trick my family into thinking I was practicing piano). Doing my best to one-­up my archnemesis, a kid named David Zuo. You know, real average stuff. And it was great.

Then I got to sixth grade, and everything changed. Most kids hit puberty when they get to middle school, which is one of the many reasons why middle school drools. But instead of getting a growth spurt, I developed shaman ­powers.

Yeah, you read that right. Shaman powers.

Basically, that means I developed the ability to see spirits that have crossed over from the spirit realm into the human world. Apparently, these powers have been passed down in my family for generations. Some families pass down valuable heirlooms, or property, or wealth, but in the Zeng family, we get unwanted powers instead. Yay.

Not only that, but because I had these shaman powers, I got roped into joining the Shaman Task Force. Being a task-­force member means serving as a peacekeeper between the shaman and human worlds. It’s a big responsibility to handle on top of my already-­important middle school tasks. Hey, if I’m not going to annoy the heck out of my older sister, then who will?

Because it’s so important that no evil spirits cause chaos in the human world, I can’t mess up.

“Winnie, you messed up.”

“Wh-­what?” Startled, I stopped in the middle of what I was currently doing—­beating eggs together to mix into flour.

The silvery, ghostly figure of my grandmother’s spirit hovered over my shoulder, frowning down at the cookbook on the kitchen counter, which was open to the recipe for sugar cookies. It was one of the easiest types of cookies to make, and after an extremely hectic few weeks, all I wanted was to make something very simple. And nonmagical.

“You added only half the amount of flour you were supposed to,” chided Lao Lao. My grandmother was a shaman before me, but she died before I was born, so I never got to know her when she was alive. Up until several weeks ago, I didn’t have an inkling that I would ever get to meet Lao Lao in any form.

Then I discovered my grandmother’s magical cookbook and unleashed her spirit. After a whole lot of confusion, she became an overspirit—­my overspirit. Shamans are pretty much useless without our overspirits to guide us. Well, not completely useless, but we are much more powerful when we have our overspirits by our sides. The catch is that Lao Lao is anchored to my pet rabbit, Jade, which means I have to haul around a rabbit everywhere if I want my overspirit’s guidance. That made for one very hectic afternoon at Chinese school, in which the principal lost her head over me bringing a “rat” to class (long story).

With Lao Lao’s aid, I’m able to use magic to protect the human world from spirits, or so it’s supposed to go. By accessing my grandmother’s magic—­a process called ­combining—­I managed to vanquish the rogue spirit of Hou Yi back during the Mid-­Autumn Festival. Supposedly with more training, I’ll develop my powers to the level of being able to do this regularly. But so far having my grandmother as my overspirit really means that I get lectured 24-­7.

I glanced down at the recipe and groaned when I realized my grandmother was right. “Well, at least it’s an easy fix.” I scooped out another cup of flour and added it to the mixing bowl.

“You need more attention to detail, Winnie,” my grandmother scolded. “What if a rogue spirit were right under your nose, and you didn’t even notice?”

“You can’t compare baking cookies to capturing spirits,” I protested.

Lao Lao harrumphed, turning her nose up into the air. “I hope you work on your attitude, too, before we go to meet the Spirit Council tomorrow morning.”

The Spirit Council is the governing body of the Shaman Task Force. I’d never met the Spirit Council members before, but I’d heard all about them. After I successfully captured the spirit of Hou Yi and saved Groton, they’d summoned me to officially appoint me as a member of the Shaman Task Force. Though I’d never met the mysterious Spirit Council, my grandmother had told me enough about them that I knew they were a big deal—­and that it was a big deal to meet them. They seemed to oversee the operations of shamans in the human world, specifically the members of the Shaman Task Force, who keep evil spirits out of Earth.

“Did you hear me, Winnie? You’ll have to be on your best behavior to make a good impression on the Spirit Council.”

“I got it, Lao Lao,” I sighed. I was trying to relax by baking these cookies, and she was totally killing the mood.

“Hmph. You’re not taking this seriously enough. Why, when I met the council for the first time, I bought a new dress and . . .”

My grandmother kept rambling, but I tuned her out and finished baking the cookies. It was easy enough to pretend I was listening by throwing in a “you’re right” or an “absolutely” here and there. When the cookies were finished, I let them cool for a bit before biting into one.

“How is it?” Lao Lao asked, looking at the cookies somewhat wistfully. Now that she was a spirit, she couldn’t taste nonmagical human food. She’d been a renowned chef when she was alive, so I knew it had to be torturous watching me eat food all the time.

I smiled. “Absolutely delicious.”

The next morning, a little before ten, I dressed in my nicest pink sundress, black cardigan, and black flats.

“You look nice,” Lao Lao said approvingly from behind me as I stared at myself in the mirror.

“I look like I’m going to a piano recital,” I grumbled.

When I walked downstairs into the kitchen, my sister, Lisa, was sitting there eating her usual breakfast—­a bowl of sugary cereal. She glanced up and did a double take. “Whoa. What’s the occasion?” She was dressed in her typical gym attire, which meant Lululemon from head to foot.

“There’s no occasion,” I said as I grabbed a granola bar from the pantry. “I don’t look any different from usual.”

“Yes, you do. Usually you look like something the cat dragged in.”

“Thanks. Well, if you have to know, today I have a very important meeting with the all-­important Spirit Council to discuss how I’m going to use my superpowers to save the world from a bunch of evil spirits.”

“Fine. Don’t tell me what you’re doing, then.” Lisa rolled her eyes. “Where do you even come up with such ridiculous stuff to say?”

As I rummaged through the fridge, looking for the milk, Lao Lao hissed angrily, “Winnie, you can’t just reveal highly confidential information like that! It’s very important that humans don’t find out about the existence of shamans and spirits, good or bad. Otherwise they’ll panic and no doubt ruin everything by trying to keep the peace on their own.”

“Relax,” I muttered under my breath. “I only said that ’cause I knew Lisa wouldn’t even believe me.” My older sister was so oblivious to the supernatural disturbances in our town that she hadn’t even noticed when her then-­boyfriend Matt was possessed by an evil spirit.

My grandmother must have grown tired of lecturing me, because she just sighed and shook her head.

“Oh, tell Mama and Baba that I’m going to study at the Suntreader, if they ask,” I called over my shoulder to Lisa as I opened the front door.

It was a sunny morning in Groton, the perfect day to bike to the local bookstore, the Suntreader. After greeting the owner, Mr. Stevens, I made my way through the crowd of people browsing the bookshelves. I soon found myself standing in front of a magical elevator.

A new button had appeared above the one marked 88—­the button that would take me to the eight hundred and eighty-­eighth floor. Yup, you heard me right, the eight hundred and eighty-­eighth floor. Though, technically, no regular mortals could access this floor. Only supernatural beings and powerful humans who could see them—­a.k.a. shamans.

I certainly didn’t feel like a powerful shaman. My stomach swooped with nerves. What if the Spirit Council didn’t like me? Worse, what if they liked me too much and decided I’d be in charge of every spirit-­capturing task from now on? I couldn’t decide which would be worse.

“Oh, I didn’t mention this before, but I can’t go in with you. You have to go greet the Spirit Council on your own,” Lao Lao said gently.

“R-­really?” Oh boy. My stomach was tying itself into knots. Nervous didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. This was worse than that one time I had to perform at a piano recital and just completely forgot the opening notes seconds before I went up onstage.

Yet amid my nerves there was a certain amount of excitement as well. Once I met the Spirit Council, I’d be ­taking another huge step forward in my progress as a shaman. No matter what happened, my life was about to take a drastic turn—­yet again. “You sure you can’t come with me, Lao Lao?”

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