“Survive the rooms. Conquer the Seasons. Win the prince.”
I’m so thrilled to be joining a blog tour for the very first time! I had the pleasure of reading an eARC of Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean. Thanks to Rafael of The Royal Polarbear Reads and Carmel of Bookable Reads for hosting. I’m also grateful to the author and HMH Books for Young Readers for trusting us with this. Without further ado, let’s move on to the book!
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. (Goodreads)
“Things are rarely as they appear.”
This book is full of interesting characters and colorful Asian mythology. I was truly captivated by it. I have always been fascinated with Japanese literature and mythology, and this one was such a treat. I loved the games and the challenges and riddles. But at the heart of the story is an empowering message for people of all class, gender or race.
If you think you are getting a kind of “The Bachelor” YA Fantasy version, think again. The book discussed a lot of serious themes: gender roles, the place of women in society, misogyny, and class/race discrimination.
“Not everyone is all good or all bad. It is a mistake to think so.”
Ah. One of my favorite quotes in the book! A truth in life as well. It goes to say that the author was able to create real, relatable and more importantly complex characters that are not entirely good and not entirely bad. They all have struggles and demons of their own, but the goodness in their hearts is what makes them lovable.
“Lately, I’ve found myself bothered by things in cages.”
We have unhappy characters wanting to escape their lives, trapped in a set of rules and cultural expectations set by their ancestors even before they were born. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking journey towards emancipation.
Needless to say, the book was unputdownable. I was so invested with the characters (both major and minor ones) that I even dreamed of them when I rest my eyes to sleep. I normally don’t like love triangles and insta-love but this one was tolerable, and even cute.
“She should have known better than to spar with her mother. She is one opponent you’ll never beat.”
I also loved Mari’s relationship with her mother—aren’t all mothers like that? They are loved and feared at the same time. A lot of Mari’s personality, strengths and weaknesses are due to her mother. We may hate her or love her but in the end hers was the courage that Mari held on to and fought for.
“This is true freedom, to love oneself enough not to care what others think.”
Some of my favorite things from the story is that it has almost a Game of Thrones kind of politics. The story wraps up in a powerful finale full of twists and surprises. In the end it is more a battle for power rather than love. Not that love is not in the equation, but it’s all about loving and accepting yourself and not needing marriage or a partner to make you whole.
“Those foolish women forget: our bodies are not ornaments; they are instruments.”
Lastly, perhaps the best thing that pleasantly surprised me is the feminist theme all throughout the book. It’s not very easy to find a true strong female character and we all know we need more of them out there. I’d like to say a big thank you to the author Emiko Jean for showing us the importance of individuality, self love and equality through the beauty of her words and imagination.
“You should want to be better for yourself, not for someone else.”
Overall rating: 4/5⭐️
About the Author
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.
Title: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean
Publication: November 6th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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