EMPRESS OF ALL SEASONS
Characters & their development: 5
Personal enjoyment: 5
What I liked
-The Japanese take on a revolution story
-The constant feminism and reminder that you are enough
-The whole damn plot
What I was meh about
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.
Empress of All Seasons is a standalone fantasy novel that follows the perspectives of three characters. The Emperor’s son, Taro. An animal wife Yokai. And Akira, the son of nightmares and a half Yokai. We follow these characters as Mari enters a competition to become empress and marry Taro. But she is only doing it, to steal from him at her mother’s request. But with her friend Akira, following her, and a revolution brewing, Mari learns of her hearts desires and what secrets will cost her.
Personally, I was hooked from the first chapter of this novel. It started off much darker than the overall novel was, but it was a great lead up as we were thrust into the world quickly and without remorse.
Everything that seemed like a cliche was turned on its head in this novel, from the basic revolution plot to a love triangle, nothing was as I expected it to be which was a refreshing change and a lot of this came from the Japanese history twisted into this story. We see a story filled with Yokai, creatures created by the gods who were stronger than humans, and deeply misunderstood. They were all dynamic and one of the most interesting points as we saw well over ten unique types of Yokai, and got to see how they lived.
To me, this was a story very laced in the idea of feminism and self-worth. And I was here for that. Mari the main character, was brought up thinking she was not as beautiful as the other Animal Wives were unnaturally beautiful and elegant, but as the story progressed, she realised her own self-worth. An amazing comment made by a side character at the end was my favourite (this isn’t word for word, my brain isn’t that great)
“They don’t get to decide if you are beautiful”
“Then who does?” Mari asked
“You do. I suppose”
It was full of moments like the above where the main character learnt to love herself and to put worth in her own abilities.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is a war story, of humans vs yokai and it showed the brutality and consequences of war. Barely anyone survived, and it was painful to watch it. But seeing one character rise up at the end, and take their place in the world, leading it to something better was the best ending this book could have ever had.
Either way, this book is a new favourite of mine and I would totally recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy.