Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor is a YA fantasy that showcases the story of Jani, a spirited young lady, determined to make a better life for her sister Zosa and herself from their life of patched clothes and struggling to make enough to ensure they won’t get kicked out from their rented residence. So, when a shiny advertisement in the papers says the esteemed and magical Hotel Magnifique is hiring, Jani pounces on the chance to ensure both her and her sister make the cut and get into a life of glamour. Of course, many things happen after that, so their adventure doesn’t go that smoothly.
It has been a long time since I’ve read a YA novel that wasn’t a reread, so perhaps the break from YA fiction turned out to be helpful and reading this felt suitably refreshing. There are, of course, still YA tropes present, but they felt endearing rather than a chore (as mentioned, perhaps an effect of the break).
The writing was easy to follow, with no purple prose or many similes cluttering the flow. Any descriptions of setting or fantastical scenes provide enough information for the reader to visualise them without being too overwhelming with endless descriptions or explanations. The magic system and locations reminded me of the Grishas from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology. Similar to the Grisha, the suminaires in Hotel Magnifique utilise magical items or artefacts. Instead of being amplifiers like in the Grishas case, the suminaires use magical items to channel their magic, so the items are mediums for them to use their magic in a controlled and rational manner (so they take the place of wands, basically).
What I liked best about Hotel Magnifique is how Jani is said to be powerful, but not in the ways I had expected. What I expected of her “power” would be standard YA fare, such as Jani possessing fantastic magical prowess, being the greatest magician of her time (or suminaire, as the book calls it), or being “the chosen one”. While Jani does possess strong magical powers, she’s not the best or most unique out of all the other magicians, who have had time to practice and hone their craft. As showcased in the book, Jani is powerful because of her determination, her resourcefulness, and her capability to adapt to new and varied situations.
Protagonists in YA fiction often have something or someone they want to protect, and that is usually their core motivation. It was a relief that Jani’s primary motivation – to save and protect her sister, doesn’t gradually diminish throughout the book. Some unfortunate YA protagonists’ romantic subplots take over and eclipse the main goal of the story, which ends up making their main goal feel false or stale. There is still romance, but it isn’t a “love at first sight” or oddly rapidly advancing affair. While romantic subplots can enhance a story and spice up the dynamics between characters, it felt nice to have a story where the romance was developing in the background and is implied to continue growing after the book ends. The romance is there and growing, but it’s not the focus, which leaves the spotlight on the fantastical settings and the tension between Jani and her surroundings.
Hotel Magnifique is compared to Caraval and The Night Circus, both of which I haven’t read but probably should. However, I can say that this book did remind me of Six of Crows and Sorcery of Thorns, which are both gripping and fun reads. I enjoyed it, and while I hope there are no more sequels or prequels to this novel, it would be interesting to see what the author may write next!
Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Netgalley, Pushkin Press and Emily J. Taylor for the chance to read and review this ARC!