❋ ❋ ❋
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean is a uniquely creative new standalone YA fantasy. While it wasn't quite a favorite, it still has things to love about it. The concept of the novel drew me to it right away - I mean, it's a fantasy novel inspired by Japanese culture, mythology, and folklore after all. Right from the opening chapter I knew the author's vividly descriptive writing style would completely suck me into world of Honoku. Now that I've finished reading the novel, I can officially say that Jean's world-building is absolutely phenomenal and is the overall standout of the book. The setting and descriptions are so well written that I felt like I was actually there seeing everything first hand, especially when it came to the season rooms. As blown away as I was by the world-building, the characters and character development left something to be desired. I never really connected with any of the perspective characters. They were all intriguing, but none of them really stood out. All have the potential to be great, but they fall a little flat. Also there are times when the pacing isn't balanced - there are sections that moved much too slow and then others where too much was going on to keep up with.
Overall, Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean is a good standalone YA fantasy novel. It has moments of real greatness when it comes to world-building, but then there are other places like character development that could do with some work to really polish it off into a truly unforgettable story. If you're interested in Japanese culture, folklore, and mythology or even Princess Mononoke, I do recommend giving Emiko Jean's newest richly atmospheric release a try.
I read this ARC from October 27 - 28, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads. Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean will be released on November 6th, 2018.