Empress of All Seasons

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Title: Empress of All Seasons
Author: Emiko Jean
Published November 6th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN 0544530942 (ISBN13: 9780544530942) 
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5


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.

Source: Goodreads

Freedom. That is what I want. A life without obligation, without expectation.

Recently I've been drawn to a lot of Asian fantasy YA books, one of the major thing that I'm really amazed is the introduction. Each of them has their own origins, what they have all started to believe in and how they have all come up to rule an empire. It was a very different setting to me and I really loved it. Empress of All Seasons is one of those books that automatically grips you at the beginning. You get to see and feel how the gods and goddesses created nature, mankind and yokai. From the start that sparked a lot of interest on me. To be able to feel the origin of the story is major point on my opinion.

"Through pain you will achieve greatness." Strike.
"Through suffering you will gain honor."
"Through sacrifice you will rise." Strike.

The Empress of All Seasons clearly defines what its supposed to be. A woman that can surpass all the calamities that every season can brought upon to mankind and yokai. It is a powerful and a heavy duty to be an Empress. But the protagonist, Mari clearly sets out the standings even before the competition starts. She wasn't described as a strikingly beautiful yokai maiden, but her fierceness and bravery made her uniquely stunning. Because this girl can strike anyone with her naginata and she  knows her true nature from the start. She doesn't want to be one of a typical Animal Wife that steals fortune of a man and just run away, Mari knows she is more than that.

There's more to this book, told from three POV's, Akira, Mari and Taro, I'm able to see their character development.  Although I found Taro and Akira's character development seems a bit rush, Mari was exceptional. Throughout the book, you get to see how this woman sets out to make her decisions to choose between love and duty. Her own battle is one of the integral parts of this book. Reaching the plot twist could've been better but I still liked it. The decisions that has been made sets out how original and powerful the book was written.

A weapon tempts violence, courts bloodshed. Once you've beckoned death, you cannot unbeckon it.

Empress of All Seasons has its own dash of feminism and love. I liked how the characters discovered their own nature to change and fight for freedom and equality. Emiko Jean made the setting and plot captivating.


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.