RELEASED: November 8, 2018
PUBLISHER: Orion Publishing Group
GENRE: YA Fantasy
GOODREADS RATING: 3.83
TRIGGERS: body shaming, slavery, systematic oppression, rape, child abuse, parental abandonment, self-injury, childbirth, forced adoption, death, murder, exile, death by starvation, cyclones, poisoning, explosions, fire, animal attack, animal cruelty, animal death, and bullying. [taken from Rachel’s Goodreads-review]
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.
The thing that got me to pick up this book is very simple. Empress of All Seasons is a Japanese-inspired young adult fantasy, written by a Japanese author. I absolutely love own voice novels [and reviews for that matter] so I couldn’t resist! I do have to apologize though.. Because this is a ridiculously short review due to one thing and one thing alone: I procrastinated on writing it and.. well.. apparently I suck at writing reviews weeks after reading the book. Lesson learned, I swear.
Apart from the own voice-aspect, I absolutely loved the themes Emiko Jean incorporated in this story. Oppression, struggling with your identity and fighting to prove yourself and your worth are the top three subjects handled. All these things are very recognizable to most of us in one way or another, so that definitely added a bit more to my reading experience.
We are our own worst punishers.
The switching of POV’s between Mari, Akira and Taro not only creates a lot of insight in what’s going on but also speeds up the entire story. The fast pace is definitely one of two elements that kept me invested and lost in Empress of All Seasons. The second one being, without a doubt, the descriptive writing!
I see you. I see all that you are. I see all that you are not. And it is enough. You are enough.
There’s definitely a downfall to the fast pace though.. Because, to me, it felt as if it led to a lack of growth in Mari’s relationships with the other characters. I liked all the characters, but I missed seeing their connections / relationships / friendships grow and that’s such a pity! Especially since it’s one of those things I truly enjoy in any novel.
I am the only person who decides if I am beautiful or not, if I am worthy or unworthy.
Overall I did really enjoy reading this novel, but.. Like I said, it’s been a while since I read it and I have to admit it isn’t all that memorable. Guess that’s one benefit to leaving my review so late, huh? Now I can at least make that conclusion.. [You have no clue how guilty I feel about this generic, boring review, folks..]
How often do you come across a book you really like but end up thinking of as “just a book” after a while? Does it make you change your rating sometimes?
What are some own-voice books you absolutely adore?