Young Adult Reviews

Review: Empress Of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Review: Empress Of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Empress

Extract:

Frustration cut a bitter path across Taro’s chest. His lips tugged into a sneer. ‘So you hope to be an Empress? You wish for the prince to fall in love with you, and to wear pretty gowns, and to live in luxury for the rest of your life?’

Mari sighed. ‘It is disappointing how little you think of the opposite sex.’ 

Taro grunted. ‘I know the prince. He does not like to be considered some prize to be won.’ 

‘Women are regarded that way all the time,’ Mari said. ‘And just so you know, I have no desire to be Empress.’ 

(Empress Of All Seasons by Emiko Jean. P104.) 

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Synopsis:

Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – and marry the prince. Only one girl will get through. The rest die. The contest is held once every generation, and every girl is eligible to apply. Mari has trained for it all her life. The only problem is that as a yōkai she is not eligible to apply. The emperor is determined to see all yōkai destroyed.

Her path collides with that of Taro, the young prince who is determined to be something more than a prize. Taro spends his days making beautiful creatures from metal, and he questions his father’s hard line on yōkai. It seems that Mari and Taro are destined to be together.

At the same time, half- yōkai Akira joins up with the revolution as a way to watch over Mari.

A human, a yōkai and an outcast. The fate of the world rests in their hands.

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Review:

It was the world which drew me to this book. The idea of rooms themed to the seasons which are designed to kill. Sentimental portrays of the seasons abound, and we forget that the quickest and most silent killer in our world is exposure. This story describes the seasons in a way which makes them beautiful and deadly. 

At first, this seems like many YA novels. A savvy girl, a sensitive prince and a brooding boy in the shadows. Do not be fooled. The book shows these roles for the stereotypes they are. Mari, Taro and Akira’s character go so much deeper than their surfaces. Each has an agenda and their story places out against the changing face of an empire.

 This is feminism for people of all genders. It crushes the myths we have been told about love and relationships and the differences between men and women. 

The main story is interspersed with a story of the Gods, which echoes the shifting attitudes the main characters experience towards this theme. After finishing the novel, I went back over this sub-plot and took so much more in than I did the first time around.

I enjoyed another YA novel about yōkai last year and was pleased that Empress Of All Seasons explores that mythology in more detail. One of the best things about reading books from all cultures is learning about different myths and customs. Although shapeshifters exist in Western myths, it is interesting to see different interpretations of their nature. I hope to read more fantasy inspired by world cultures. 

A real page-turner and a setting which will haunt you long after you finish reading. I look forward to reading more from Emiko Jean.

 

Thanks to Gollancz for my gifted copy of Empress Of All Seasons. Opinions my own.

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