Emily J. Taylor enchants the senses with her debut fantasy, Hotel Magnifique. The French, art deco inspired novel takes readers on a whimsical journey to a magical, teleporting hotel where crystal orange trees grow out of the marble floors and alchemists serve mixed potions at the bar.
It’s a Hard Knock Life
The story follows two orphan sisters, Jani and her little sister Zosa. They work at tannery, barely scraping by in the small port town of Durc. Jani longs to return to her homeland, but with no money to speak of, paying for passage across the sea is out of the question.
But, when the magical, traveling hotel, Hotel Magnifique, appears in their town and is looking to hire new employees, Jani and Zosa see a path to a new life. Zosa is hired as a entertainer, while Jani joins the maid staff. Instantly, their lives have been transformed by now working in the legendary hotel.
Yet, despite the magical shifting rooms, the whole building teleporting to new locations every night, and the whimsical indoor aviary and crystal orange trees, Jani discovers that Hotel Magnifique is more sinister than serene.
As a rabid fan of whimsical, sparkly, slightly dark stories like Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, and the k-drama Hotel De Luna, the premise of this book had me immediately hooked–A magical hotel full of dark secrets underneath the sparkles? Count me in!
And for the most part, Emily J. Taylor delivers splendidly. The prose is lush and glittery, reminiscent of Stephanie Garber and her Caraval series. I was almost sad that Hotel Magnifique had to be sinister in the end, as at first it seems like it would be the most incredible place to stay. I would love to stop at the bar and have an alchemist mix me drink of nightmares or sunshine, or have a room enchanted to suit my taste exactly.
But as they say, if it it’s too good to be true, it probably is. And with that, the plot clips along about as you would expect from hearing the premise of this tale. The story is not reinventing the wheel for the weird-hotel/circus-is-secretly-evil genre, but it’s still absolutely an enjoyable time.
Young adult MC acts like a young adult
Jani is actually a relatable main character. Her desire to go back to her hometown across the sea, and get her little sister into a better place, is relatable as an older sister myself. Her jealousy of her younger sister’s beauty and talents is even more so. It is hard to be the ugly duckling sibling, when the other is a blooming rose, with their praises being sung by every one.
Jani is also impulsive, selfish, and quick to get into trouble. For some, this may be irritating. If Jani acted with a bit more self-control, she would not have gotten into so much hot water. But remember friends, this is a young adult novel, in which protagonists are teenagers! Teenagers are emotional and make not the best decisions sometimes. She acts her age, and not like a 32 year-old like many YA protagonists do these days.
With that said, I think the story would have been more compelling from Bel’s perspective, the male love interest, as he already had a past history with Hotel Magnifique. I would have loved seeing him react to Jani coming to the hotel and how it felt to watch Jani unravel the dark secrets. It would be fun to be the person in the know for once, rather than an outsider. It could have built delicious tension as well, since Bel knows what Jani is sacrificing by signing a contract with the hotel.
A tale for readers that enjoy stories that sparkle with evil intent
Overall, this book was a delight and its niche world makes me long for more stories that capture a true sense of whimsy. Fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away will feel right at home in the whimsical, yet sinister setting. Come to Hotel Magnifique and enjoy your stay!
Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor was released on April 5th, 2022.