Title Empress of All Seasons
Author Emiko Jean
Description from 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.
This book sounded so amazing. I love a good competition story. And, I had just read Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa so I was in a very Japanese-inspired mood. Needless to say, I was very excited to read this one.
I love, love, love the color of the cover. So pretty, so spring. Since Spring is the last season room the competitors face, the cover is very appropriate. I also like that Mari’s weapon of choice is featured on the front.
If you read by Read Along posts, you know that my favorite character wavered throughout the story. I liked different people at different times but overall, I think my favorite was Mari. I really loved how she changed throughout the story (almost mimicking the seasonal change).
Something I Wasn’t Crazy About
The romance — It kinda falls off in my opinion. I definitely wouldn’t pitch this as a romance story as it takes as real backseat toward the end.
I really enjoyed the message in this book. It was about the rise of a leader that the people needed. I thought the social issues represented by the humans and yokai were really well done and they were metaphoric of many social issues we see today. I also liked the idea of female empowerment that stemmed from Mari’s home. I wish the ending had been a bit longer. I found that the story wrapped up a little too quickly, but, overall, I thought this was a great story.
Recommendations for Further Reading
- Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa – this is another story about demons, yokai, and other Japanese inspired supernatural creatures. Empress of All Seasons is a standalone novel while Shadow of the Fox is the beginning of a trilogy.
- To Best the Boys by Mary Weber – this is another competition based story. Although To Best the Boys is about a girl competing against all boys, Empress of All Seasons’s all female competition also shows a similar societal oppression of the female gender.
- Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan – although this story isn’t necessarily about a competition, both main characters are competing in a way to show that they are suited to rule their respective countries. If you liked Empress of All Seasons, you should definitely give Tiger Queen a try.