About the Book:
Title: Empress of All Seasons
Author: Emiko Jean
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384 pages
ISBN: 0544530942 (ISBN13: 9780544530942)
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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.
I received an advanced copy of this book from HMH Books and Netgalley. I would also like to thank Raf of The Royal Polar Bear Reads and Carmel of Bookablereads for hosting this blog tour. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Set in a Japanese-inspired fantasy world, Empire of All Seasons balanced old folklores and new imaginative elements to narrate a one of a kind story about supernatural creatures and humans.
First of all, I love how Asian culture and stories are prevalent in YA books today. I’ve never been more proud that our rich culture can now be read by a larger audience in different parts of the world.
I couldn’t help myself but remember and imagine the cartoons and anime that I watched during my childhood days while reading this novel. The story is told mostly through Mari’s POV. Plotwise, the concept sparks reader’s curiosity and interest. The author’s descriptive writing while introducing the mythologies as well as the background of the Feudal Era where the book was set awakens a person’s sensory experience. However, even though the parts where Mari had to survive the seasonal rooms kind of reminded me of the Hunger Games, these parts were actually less brutal and complex. I also like how the plot had multiple conflicts that slowly unraveled then burned when the right time came.
The only thing that I wasn’t a fan of was Mari and Taro’s ‘instalove’. For me, things happened fast between them with only little interactions to back up their relationship. Also, although the ending was satisfying enough, it felt a little bit rush.
The characters are intriguing, but Akira stood out the most in my opinion. Mari and Taro’s characters are interesting enough, but Akira’s charm and mysterious identity completely captivated me. He also faced a lot of challenges and changes throughout the story.
One of the best things that this book offered is how it broke stereotypes to pieces. It also talks about perceptions of beauty and family duties. It is quite obvious how Asians value beauty and their duty to their family. Being raised in an Asian family, particularly a Filipino family, I completely understood and relate to Mari’s struggle between doing what she truly loves and accomplishing her duty for her clan.
Overall, Empress of All Seasons is a YA Asian-inspired fantasy standalone rich in Japanese legends and myths. I recommend it to everyone who’s looking for a unique read to add to their list.
When Emiko is not writing, she is reading. Most of her friends are imaginary. Before she became a writer she was an entomologist (fancy name for bug catcher), a candle maker, a florist, and most recently a teacher. She lives in Washington with her husband and children (unruly twins). She loves the rain.
Name: Emiko, Emi, Emmers Bemmers Boo Boo (only my mother calls me this)
Occupation: Writer and reader, most days reader before writer
Location: Vancouver, WA
Family: Yes. One husband. Two children – b/g twins!
Previous Occupations: Bug tamer, teacher, florist, candlestick maker and vagabond. My friends and I once (poorly) fixed up an old van. We drove it across the country. The bumper fell off and we lost the brakes in the Redwoods.
Qualifications: None. But I strongly believe in “fake it till you make it” and asking for forgiveness rather than permission.
Favorite foods: ALL OF THEM. Though I do have a special place in my heart for girl scout cookies, frosted animal cookies and anything with pasta.
Favorite time of year: Fall. I also love Christmastime (even though I’m Jewish).
Favorite music: Depends on mood and activity. For writing: Mumford and Sons, The Strumbellas, The Head and the Heart, Queen, Bowie, Pink Floyd … For general work (building this website, creating graphic etc.): Anything hip-hop, specifically Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Dyme Def, Atmosphere, Matisyahu …
Favorite authors: Too many to count.
Last concert: Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Favorite television shows: Antiques Roadshow, Call the Midwife, anything BBC, anything real housewives (no judgement please)
Least favorite things: The word “moist” – I dare you to find it in one of my novels.
Unusual talents/facts: I am fantastic at finding four leaf clovers. I can also make three loops with my tongue. I’ve also won my fair share of Texas Hold’em tournaments.
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