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.
I really wanted to love this, and I just… didn’t. Though I was very much enjoying it by the end.
It took me a good while to connect with the story, and the characters. Mari is pretty good though, and I love her obvious still with her weapon. Her relationship with my mum was a bit too complicated for how little time it got, but it does make sense and I felt for them both. I liked her and Akiro, even if he definitely never stood a chance, but I sort of wanted more of them on page together. We don’t actually get to see much of their friendship, more we are told about it.
I also feel like it felt like part of a series, or duology, until the very end. So I liked Taro for most of the book, and wanted more time to explore what happened with him. And I wanted more than the last chapter as a summary of their future – that felt a little like a let down. That said, I think that I’m possibly spoiled by authors trying to fill pages of a series, and this at least didn’t suffer from that – or at least not by the end.
The season rooms were also really cool, and I could have read a whole book just about those!
I think I just wanted more of the rich history of the clan, of the world, of the revolution, and so feel a little let down. I did like the take on yokai though, quite different to the other Japanese folklore book I read recently – Shadow of the Fox. I preferred that, but this is also an enjoyable read and I am definitely in favour of more folklore inspired books!
Buy Empress of All Seasons from Amazon UK (affiliate link)