Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Book: Empress of All Seasons
Author: Emiko Jean
Series: N/A, standalone

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.

This book blended together both traditional Japanese culture and feminism all into one, which made for a surprising and neat read.

Mari is a yokai with the ability to shift between human and demon. Her clan is composed completely of women, and their jobs as yokai are to trick men into marrying them, only to steal their fortunes and run away. Specifically, they do this by posing as beautiful women and play on men's views of women as objects and prizes to be won. Essentially, appearing non-threatening in a society that deems women to be exactly that.

What I loved was the whole feminist take Mari had, and playing to men's assumptions about women. For her, she wasn't particularly pretty, and thus wasn't as skilled at luring men, so instead she was a fierce and skilled warrior. Many people didn't expect it of her, but she really knew how to kick butt.

The Season Rooms was also a neat idea. I liked how you literally could just go from room to room to experience whichever season you wanted. And best yet, you could experience both the wonders of each season, or the horrors.

The ending to me felt a bit abrupt; I feel like there should have been a bit more expansion on what happened. I also didn't really see some of the characters' fates, which was both startling and new. But other than that, it was still a good book, especially since you really got to learn a lot about Japanese culture without it seemingly like it was forced.

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