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Review: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

December 4, 2018
 Empress of All Seasons, Emiko Jean, InToriLex
Published By: HMH Books for Young Readers on November 6, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (371 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy/ Own Voices
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Publisher Request
Rating: FOUR STARS
Empress of All Seasons
~Amazon~ 
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.

VERDICT:


Content Warning: Graphic Violence, Slavery, Death 

REVIEW:

This action packed fantasy helped me crawl from the depths of an awful reading slump. Mari is a bad ass protagonist who is a skilled fighter, a yōkai and a caring friend. She sets out to compete to become Empress by facing seasonal rooms meant to break her in mind and body. Mari has to hide her identity from prince Taro and everyone in the competition because all yōkai in the city are forced into slavery. Akira is an outcast who is Mari's best friend and sets out to protect her in any way he can while she competes. This multifaceted world of yōkai, priest  and  humans was developed phenomenally, so I felt fully immersed in Honuku. 
I am a lean tiger in winter, come for me. I dare you.
Copyright Kill Bill, InToriLex

The characters were well developed and every time they were in danger I felt genuine concern (no one is magically never hurt). The powers yōkai had throughout the book were fascinating and included supernatural features I have never imagined before. For example there are yōkai that can turn into spiders, flying beasts and giant red fleshed demons. As Mari faces the contest to become Empress she has to count on her training and experiences in her village. While beauty is a tool for her village of Animal Wives, she is described as plain but trains to be a talented fighter by difficult means. 
Do not let fear decide your fate.
When character's take a break from trying to survive or defend themselves,  there is genuine romance well described. This book offers a hopeful message to young readers about learning to accept yourself to reach your full potential. The folklore, ninjas, settings and Palace of Illusions kept me engaged with the book the whole way through. I would recommend this for fans of fantasy who want to read about a culture inspired by East Asian folklore in a non-western setting. The diversity, message and writing is something everyone can enjoy. 

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy fantasy featuring diverse people, species and relationships
- want to read young adult romance with realism
- appreciate intricate world building and characters you will root for and despise

**I received this ARC from HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. **

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Empress of All Seasons, Emiko Jean
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.      TWITTER                     WEBSITE 

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