Do you ever finish a book and need more? Like want more answers? I so thoroughly enjoyed Empress of All Seasons, but by the end really felt like I needed more closure. Keep reading this book review for all my complex thoughts.
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.
I have such complex feelings about Empress of All Seasons. While reading, I was entirely immersed. I adore the concept of these different seasonal rooms meets this competition to be Empress! What a unique world building concept plus who doesn’t love deadly competitions? This multiple POV story follows this concept of monstrous girls – hello shape shifting beauties – and a whole host of other supernatural abilities. Seriously. The world building is one of my favorite elements of this story. And I just want to see so much more of it – which brings me to my first complexity.
Begin Complex Thoughts
There were so many beautiful world building seeds that I need more of this series. And it doesn’t seem like there is any more coming?? Based on the ending, I expected to log on to Goodreads and see that there were sequels planned, but nope. I don’t know if this is ever going to happen, but for my sake please because I’d rate this higher knowing there would be more! But back to the review, another element I wasn’t too on board with was the love triangle. One of the sides was very insta-love while the other was made clear, to the readers, that it wasn’t going to happen. So while it’s certainly something set up from the premise, it’s something I didn’t enjoy watching unfold.
But if I kind of just forget about the love triangle, what drew me, and kept me interested in Empress of All Seasons is the journey of Mari. How she has to come to terms with her past, what she was raised to do, and her own future. While my heart instantly went out to Taro – and the ways both Mari and Taro sometimes have too merciful hearts – there were also some character choices which felt very sudden. Empress of All Seasons examines the ways bodies are also instruments, modes of desires, and weapons. In a world of hardship and cruelty, how can love and hope blossom?
There were all these wonderful and exciting threads, and side characters, at the end, I just wish there was the hope for more so they could be given the space they deserve! This has been one of the strangest reviews to write for me. But I guess it all just boils down to my feelings that there is still so much I want to know. So many pieces of the world and the characters. So much more of Mari’s journey I want to see. It shouldn’t be over now and instead of it making me yearn, it makes me sad to think it’s over?
If you love the idea of a competition to be Empress plus some fabulous world building and a great heroine, Empress of All Seasons is a go. Even though I’m disappointed there isn’t any more, I would still highly recommend this unique and inventive story. It’s the testament to a good story, underneath it all, that I would still wholeheartedly recommend!
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)