Emily J. Taylor
Publisher: Razorbill Books (Penguin Teen)
Publication date: April 5th, 2022
Genres: YA Fantasy
Decadent and darkly enchanting, this lavish YA fantasy debut follows seventeen-year-old Jani as she uncovers the deeply disturbing secrets of the legendary Hotel Magnifique.
All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.
The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.
With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse than never returning home.
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4 / 5 stars)
Over the last year or so I've come to realize I have a fondness for fantasy novels that deal with performative magic in some way. So, it came as no surprise when I got my first glimpse at the synopsis for 'Hotel Magnifique' by Emily J. Taylor, that I felt immediately drawn to the story.
Swelling with enchantments, nothing is what it seems to be beyond the threshold of the hotel. Often, even the simplest of tasks are complex spells at work, but for those things deemed too unimportant to waste magic on.. there are employees to handle the details. Though, I hesitate to call anything that goes on behind the hotel's black lacquered door.. regular, they're as close as it comes.
Jani is our main character, a feisty.. devoted sister to young Zosa who is hired as a singer. While I appreciate her loyalty and desire to right wrongs, her inner monologues and dialogue border on annoying for me. Luckily, that's not even really a complaint, however.
Bel is probably the gem of the story in my eyes, though of course I often tend to connect better with a side character and this is no exception. Mysterious and playful from the beginning, the more we get to know him, the more likable he is. Likewise for Beatrice and Hellas, though sometimes interactions between the characters feel a little clunky.
The book does feature an interesting trinket-based magic system, which allows the author room to be creative and results in numerous different abilities, which I love. In addition to the threat posed by the antagonist, the hotel is constantly changing and traveling to a new location every day.. not only keeping the setting fresh and interesting, but also creating some more challenges along the way.
Though there are moments where the story feels a little choppy, I honestly think it's just because Taylor is keeping so many proverbial plates spinning at the same time. There's a lot going on at all times within the hotel, layers of mystery and I really enjoyed the journey the author took us on.
While there is plenty of beauty and whimsical magic at play, there's also plenty of darkness. Gruesome, cruel acts take place that actually kind of surprised me a little. So.. if you're squeamish, keep that in mind.
If you're a fan of Caraval, Where Dreams Descend, or Night Circus.. you'll probably enjoy this book as well.