Title: Empress of all Seasons
Author: Emiko Jean
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover – borrowed from local library
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.
I had a hard time finishing this book, not because the writing or story was bad, but because I kept getting so nervous for Mari and the situations, and fights she was in or facing, I just couldn’t read. I was torn between not wanting to know, and wanting to know what happens. This combined with lots of adulting, and it took me a long while to finish.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I found the struggles Mari faced different from other fantasy books I’ve read, and loved the Asian kind of flare to the setting. Mari is similar to “the one” trope, but she is sent to win against the seasons and marry the prince for another reason.
I will say, while the ending wasn’t exactly abrupt, when I read it I felt like the ride I was on came to a sudden slow down and stop. Where everything has worked the way it has, and here is an overview of how the future goes. There is even a hint of other stories to be told.