Length: 384 pages
Release date: 6 November 2018
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.
Wasn’t that the way it always was, though? To succeed, someone else must fail. To win, someone else must lose.
I had such high hopes for this book. The cover was beautiful, the hype was intense, and the synopsis promised a cutthroat battle royale. The Hunger Games, but with magic. In the end I’m just disappointed. I don’t hate this book; I simply can’t bring myself to care about it at all.
All the cool bits we were promised turned out to be little more than a gimmick to mask a silly pseudo-empowering love story. The writing is amateurish, the plot is contrived, and everyone talks like a cliché come to life. Attempts are made to give certain characters some depth, but it’s too little, too late. If you enjoyed books like Ash Princess or Everless you might find Empress of All Seasons similarly agreeable, but it’s a pass for me.
The ending half redeems what would otherwise have been a one-star book. It still makes no sense how conveniently everything works out for Mari, but at least it deviated from my formulaic expectations. I also respect Emiko Jean for wrapping up this mess in one novel rather than dragging it out to what would undeniably have been a melodramatic and increasingly boring trilogy.
If you’re looking for a Japanese-inspired high fantasy filled with court intrigue, badass women and a compelling heir to the throne, you’re in luck. There’s a duology just for you, and it’s called Flame in the Mist.
*Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*