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.
It’s an enthralling story however there was something lacking and I can’t figure out what or why. It just felt like there was something missing to this story. The introduction to this book was amazing and I thought I was going to rate this one 4 or 5 stars especially when this book intrigued me from the beginning. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the ending.
While I appreciated this book for the switching of gender roles (i.e. women competing to be the empress and to marry the prince), I just didn’t think it was compelling enough especially in the novel’s romance department. I think it had something to do with the timeline in this story. Both the romance and the development of these characters happened too quickly. It made it seem that the characters magically developed a new skill and/or had fallen in love (again, too quickly).
Additionally, the scenes in the season rooms were engrossing to read about. I thought the action- packed scenes were well written, but the battle scenes nearing the end of this novel felt rushed and then it ended too quickly. Overall, I wasn’t satisfied with the conclusion to this novel especially when this book’s a slow and plot driven novel. I think this book needed a little bit of work when it comes to the plot building, characterization, and (magical) world-building.
I think Emiko Jean is someone to look out for when it comes to YA fantasy stories. The writing was superb and the characters diverse, so I’m still going to pick up any book written by this author in the future.
***Huge thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own!
Thanks for reading!
Done with Protagonist is non-human or half-human!
By now, it’s obvious I’m going to read the third column.