Title: Hotel Magnifique
Author: Emily J. Taylor
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: April 5th, 2022 (Razorbill)
Synopsis: 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.
Jani works hard to support herself and her sister Zosa ever since their mother died, and they are barely scraping by until one day, when Hotel Magnifique comes to town. The legendary hotel filled with magical enchantments travels from place to place and though they cannot afford the cost of a guest’s stay, the sisters learn that they are also hiring and they interview to join the staff. Both of them somehow manage to be hired, but once inside, Jani finds out that dangerous secrets hide behind the opulence and glamorous enchantments. Not only that, but their contracts are unbreakable. Jani sets out to discover the secret behind the magic of the hotel and the contracts to find a way to free Zosa from the control of the cruel maitre d’hotel.
It was initially the cover of this book that caught my attention, but the comparison to Caraval ensured I’d pick it up. I loved that series and it was so nice to see some themes like it in this book, mostly in the world, and the vibe is also similar. The world building was excellent and I loved how the magical details of the hotel were described, the various rooms and enchantments, magicians and how they work with artefacts. For a standalone, there was a surprising amount of background information given and it really enhanced the story and made it an immersive read.
Hotel Magnifique had a very interesting cast of characters. The maitre of the hotel was an appropriately intriguing and mysterious figure and make a fitting villain. Bel, the doorman of the hotel who Jani works with, was a character I would have liked to know more about, as well as Zosa, who, despite the very few appearances she makes, played a driving role in the plot. Jani on the other hand…well she was the best developed character of the lot, which makes sense since the entire story was from her POV, but I didn’t find her too likeable. Most of the time she was irritating and recklessly jumped into situations without thinking them through and it got to the point that I actually had to take breaks from reading this book because her character was just so frustrating. In the end, she wasn’t a character I could connect to or was even invested in.
The writing wasn’t the best in the first half of the book, but once the pace of the story picked up and there was more action and suspenseful scenes, the writing began to improve too. I particularly enjoyed the last handful of chapters as the climax was quite well written. While I did like the magical aspects, I felt like it wasn’t explained in enough depth, and there wasn’t a solid system built, leaving the details of it all rather vague.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable read though I felt like it had more potential – but for a debut novel, it was quite good. Fans of Caraval are sure to enjoy this book and I would definitely recommend it!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!