Before anything else, I would like to thank Rafael and Carmel for letting me participate in this tour. You guys are the best! ❤
Title: Empress of All Seasons
Author: Emiko Jean
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: November 06, 2018
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
As part of the tour, I received a digital ARC of this book. However, this, by no means, affect my review. My opinions and feelings are completely my own.
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.
A tale of a girl grasping the meaning of beauty and learning to measure her worth by her own standards, Empress Of All Seasons is everything I imagined a Japanese own voices book would be. It is so rich in Japanese folklore and mythology and as a fan of the Japanese culture and anything Japanese, in all honesty, reading the book has been a gratifying experience.
With Jean’s vivid description, the world is a well-developed one. Although, the book focuses more on the characters, in my opinion. There are A LOT of yōkai that were introduced and while reading, I wished I were watching an anime version of this just so I would know how they actually looked. I mean that NOT in a bad way but I just had difficulty imagining the creatures with just words to rely on (that is not a fault of the author but mine LOL).
Another thing I really enjoyed were the characters. I do not mean only the main characters but EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER. I really appreciated that Jean gave us a glimpse of what kind of character all of them were. This made me admire most of them and understand their motives. One of my favorites was Hanako, a character that appeared later in the story. She was likeable, interesting, and seemed very fun to hang out with! (Although I bet Akira would disagree, LOL.)
Duty and home, the whole before the self.
Of course I cannot talk about likeable characters without mentioning our female main protagonist, Mari. Mari is such a softie and I just want to wrap her in a thousand hugs. She is very strong in every sense of the word, especially emotionally. She is very compassionate and very protective of the people she loves. Despite her past and her constant search for belongingness in her clan and later, in her newfound friends and love interest, she has grown to be just and I really admired her strength throughout the story. She is also a VERY SELFLESS character. I do not think she has a single selfish bone in her, to be honest.
There are, of course, characters who are not well-developed and I wish I could have seen more of their growth in the later parts of the story but they were not given the chance. Nevertheless, I truly liked all of them, villains and heroes alike.
A life lived in chains is no life at all.
The competition is a big part of the story. The book is split into three parts and the competition happened during the second part. I liked that Jean introduced the main characters to us first or I would have liked the story less if we were thrust into the competition from the very start. It has been one of the factors, if not THE GREATEST factor, to Mari’s growth as a character. All throughout her life, she had been sort of programmed to put her clan first and could not have room for friends or outsiders she could love and care for. Being a part of the competition and meeting several characters in her journey, she had come to care for her newfound friends and had also come to realize her worth by her own standards and not by other people’s.
This book is also one of those that make you question what is morally right and morally wrong. Humans and yōkai were not created equally and this has posed a lot of problems throughout the years. In the current time, yōkai have becomes slaves to the humans, by the Emperor. You can just guess the disaster that was to come with Mari joining the competition and meeting Taro, the future Emperor. There is no “good” side and “bad” side since both sides are fighting for what they think is right. I, for one, am a sucker for these kinds of books that make me question my morals.
She is better off free. To serve or not to serve; everyone should have the choice.
There are some things I wished could have happened differently, of course, but I understand Emiko Jean’s possible reason behind what she did. I do not want to give out some spoilers but if you have read the book, I think you know what I am talking about. God, I am such a hopeless romantic.
Anyway, overall, I really liked this book. I wish somebody would make an animated film out of it because I REALLY NEED TO SEE IT. Please, and thank you.
RECOMMEND FOR: YA fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike. If you are not a fantasy reader, this is one of the good places to start. 😉
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Before you go, here is a Spotify playlist I made inspired by the characters Mari, Taro, and Akira. Enjoy listening!
ORDER EMPRESS OF ALL SEASONS HERE:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | Book Depository | Wordery
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
Rafael of The Royal Polar Bear Reads
Carmel of Bookablereads
Jonathan of Wander with Jon
Nikki of Take Me Away
Vivian of Vanilla Angel Pages
Jen of Jen D Bibliophile
Jenny of Levicorpvs Blog
Hanamae of The Wraith Reads
Cristina of Girl in the Pages
Shaine of Wanderer in Neverland
Akisha of akithroughbooks
Ela of The Ultimate Fangirl
Princess of Princess and Pages
Leilanee of ofsparksandmagick
Salwa of Salwa’s Reading Solace
Dexter of Dexterous_Totalus
Avery of B for Bookslut
Kat from Novels and Waffles
Lily of Sprinkles of Dreams
Joel of Descendant of Poseidon Reads
Imogene of Amidst the Pages
Leslie of Bibliophilekid
Myrth of Cliste Bella
Justine of Bookish Wisps
Athena of The Night Faerie
Ramnele of Bookdragonism
Erika of The Nocturnal Fey
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.
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.