Publication date : November 6th, 2018
Publisher : HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre : Young Adult |Fantasy
Page Count: 384
Synopsis : In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems. Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.
Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast. Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy. (From Goodreads)
*I Received an arc of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*
CW: Death, child taken away at Birth, parental abuse, self harm imagery, passing mention of rape and victim blaming, gore, slavery, mention of suicide.
This book and I had quite the interesting journey! I started off really excited to read and even more so when I finally began reading it, then a little farther in the middle I felt hesitant about it, still enjoying it but not quite sure *how much* I was enjoying it then the last 50 or so pages blew it out of the water for me. So it’s safe to say this book was quite the emotional rollercoaster than I ended up enjoying quite a lot for multiple reasons.
The writing is solid and quite atmospheric, I felt fully immersed in the world just a few pages into Empress of All Seasons. It sounds like a fairytale from the premise and actually reads that way as well. The story is told in multiple point of views from Mari, Taro and Akira’s perspectives which was really well played since we got to see their dynamics from different angles and get to know them as more well rounded characters. Their voices were also pretty distinct and never subjected me to confusion as to whose eyes I was seeing things through. Every few chapters, we get Gods’ stories that we don’t really understand how they tie with the narrative until the very end.
Like I said, the premise sounds very fairytale like and extremely addicting but what I didn’t expect is for it to have as dark of a vibe as it did. I expected something more light but I lived for that, it fit the story better than the lightness I expected. Some of it is pretty violent and heartwrenching, especially when reading about the treatment of the yokai in the imperial city. They’re enslaved and forced to wear collars that dampen their powers. The plot is kind of slow moving but fascinating to follow with it’s fair share of action scenes, some of which I personally thought needed slightly more polishing but I enjoyed them overall.
The worldbuilding is extremely well done, everytime the narrative rose a question I found the answer soon after. I loved learning all about the Yokai as well the inner workings and machinations of this world, Empress of All Seasons also has a light politics focus which you know by now I’m a huge fan of so that was actually one of my favourite parts of the book. The concept of season rooms was what pulled me the most towards this book and although we saw plenty of them during competition I wish there were more descrptions of what the rooms actually looked like, I thought this was a missed opportunity to set a lush scenery.
Mari, one of our main characters, is Yokai and sent to the palace by her mother to become empress and steal the emperor’s wealth. Sounds easy, right? *sarcasm* She struggles with her Identity as a Yokai and the character growth that came from that was amazing to follow, we see her grow to love and fully embrace her identity as well as her people. We also see that result in her being more confident in her skills and herself in general which YES PLEASE.
Akira is a half-yokai boy but…I wasn’t the biggest fan of his. He sees himself as weak and he, as well, goes through a character growth which is great. The problem I had with him is that he’s in love with Mari and even after being rejected by her he still fixated on “winning her over” and that honest to God was so annoying. No is no, dude, move on with your life.
Taro is the soon to be emperor. He was such A SOFT BOI who’s yearning for freedom and just wanted to be left alone with his inventions which I really liked about him but was quickly annoyed when after one encounter with Mari WHILE HE’S LITERALLY TRYING TO RUN AWAY makes him go back inside the palace because he wants to see her again. *yawns* Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed by the boys. And I also didn’t care much for the romance so I loved the fact that it was very forgettable and didn’t take front and center in the book.
Empress of All Seasons is a solid fantasy that could have done with a sequel. Those last few chapters had so much information and so much potential to develop a whole new book and I was a little let down by how rushed it all was. That being said I still enjoyed this book for the standalone it was, I just wished there was more.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Empress of All Seasons? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.