Brimming with rich Japanese myths and legends, Emiko Jean cuts through a fantastical landscape as she breathes life to yokai and humans alike in her new book dubbed Empress of All Seasons. This book is flourishing with meandering tales of deities, supernatural creatures, and royals as they find truths in the pursuit of their individual causes.
In a world where yokai are not treated as equal, the palace holds a competition in search of the new empress of Honuku. We follow Mari, a yokai with the ability to transform into a powerful beast, as she enters the quest to become the empress, marry the emperor, and fulfill her duties to her clan. She has prepared for this all her life and everything is in its rightful place except that yokai are forbidden to compete.
I was so onboard on this new Asian representation plus it is a fantasy novel so my interest was piqued. In retrospect, I was so immersed in so many Japanese-inspired stories during my childhood courtesy of anime’ and manga that reading this felt so utterly familiar. I am a fan of anything Japanese and this reading experience is surely a treat. Emiko Jean did great in writing a vivid setting and the layers of the story were laid out nicely. I can really say that this had strong elements of a good fantasy in the bag!
Empress of All Seasons, despite being a fantasy novel, tackled so many important issues that are true to the current world we are in. The concept of self-image has been challenged and this book surely upholds self-worth and independence. As could be read in my review of The Astonishing Color of After, Asian culture often pins children to champion the family legacy more than their own desires. This book trudged along those lines, too, which makes it more relatable for me. Oppression and ostracism are also themes carefully folded in the book and the quest to true freedom and individuality its beacon. I also loved that this had notes of feminism which I care for so much.
“I see you. I see all that you are. I see all that you are not.
And that is enough. You are enough.”
If there was an ask, the pacing could have been better. The first 60% of the book was moving at a steady pace and felt an interlude to the impending climax. Tipping the balance, the ending burned so quickly that the exhilaration extinguished in a rush leaving lesser satisfaction. I wanted more action scenes during the competition especially when the entrants are forbidden to harm each other. I can truly understand that this might be the author’s cause to prevent readers from comparing it to The Hunger Games but as it is, it held the book back a bit. I also did not care much about Mari and Taro’s romance. That was a case of instalove I wanted out from any book.Notwithstanding, there were characters I truly rooted for. Akira, for one, was so endearing and his resolve really mattered in the book. And who would also think that I ached for Sei, the Hook Girl? I know that she only had a supporting role but her sorrow and longing truly captured my heart. Although this book had a solid ending, I guess there was an allusion there could be succeeding books and I would be interested to know more about these characters.
“We’ve learned the truth about the world, and now we must speak it.
Silence is the cousin of invisibility. I want to be seen.”
Overall, Empress of All Seasons is quite the great ride. This book will let you experience the shedding of seasons – a summer of abundant lores and adventure; an autumn of chilling wicked-plots; a winter of bone-freezing deaths; and a spring with a celebration of love, friendship, and freedom!
I was provided an eARC by HMH Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Ideas and opinions in this review are all mine and are not influenced by neither publisher nor author. I would also like to thank The Royal Polar Bear Reads and Carmel of Bookablereads for hosting this blog tour.
- FORMAT: E-Arc from Netgalley
- PUBLISHER: HMH Books for Young Readers
- ISBN-10: – – – –
- ISBN-13: 9780544530942
- RATING: 4.00 stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
Name: Emiko, Emi, Emmers Bemmers Boo Boo (only my mother calls me this)
Occupation: Writer and reader, most days reader before writer
Location: Vancouver, WA
Family: Yes. One husband. Two children – b/g twins!
Previous Occupations: Bug tamer, teacher, florist, candlestick maker and vagabond. My friends and I once (poorly) fixed up an old van. We drove it across the country. The bumper fell off and we lost the brakes in the Redwoods.
Qualifications: None. But I strongly believe in “fake it till you make it” and asking for forgiveness rather than permission.
Favorite foods: ALL OF THEM. Though I do have a special place in my heart for girl scout cookies, frosted animal cookies and anything with pasta.
Favorite time of year: Fall. I also love Christmastime (even though I’m Jewish).
Favorite music: Depends on mood and activity. For writing: Mumford and Sons, The Strumbellas, The Head and the Heart, Queen, Bowie, Pink Floyd … For general work (building this website, creating graphic etc.): Anything hip-hop, specifically Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Dyme Def, Atmosphere, Matisyahu …
Favorite authors: Too many to count.
Last concert: Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Favorite television shows: Antiques Roadshow, Call the Midwife, anything BBC, anything real housewives (no judgement please)
Least favorite things: The word “moist” – I dare you to find it in one of my novels.
Unusual talents/facts: I am fantastic at finding four leaf clovers. I can also make three loops with my tongue. I’ve also won my fair share of Texas Hold’em tournaments.
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