EMPRESS OF ALL SEASONS, by Emiko Jean, HMH Books for Young Readers, Nov. 6, 2018, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
Empress of All Seasons, by Emiko Jean, is one of the hardest books I’ve read in a long time, and that’s not a bad thing.
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. — Synopsis provided by HMH Books for Young Readers
Truth be told, I read Empress of All Seasons in 2018. I read it way before the publication date but it got lost in the clutter as I worked toward closing out my mom’s estate. That does not mean I forgot it, though.
Empress of All Seasons sticks with you — Mari’s unrelenting mother, the brutal nature of the competition, the complexity of each room, and Mari’s sheer will all take hold.
And then there is Emiko Jean’s writing; sophisticated and rich bringing to the fore foreign words and ideas that push you beyond the expected.
I said at the beginning that Empress of All Seasons is a challenging read. There were times when I had to put it down — even though I did not want to — in order to digest what I had just consumed. This is the mark of an excellent writer. Kudos to Emiko for following her heart instead of a formula.
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