I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
Also by this author: Empress of All Seasons
Series: Tokyo Ever After #1
Published by Flatiron Books on May 18, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Royalty, Young Adult
Pages: 336 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izumi discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.
In a whirlwind, Izumi travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.
Izumi soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairy tale, happily ever after?
I absolutely adore books that have the “modern royalty” premise, so when I found out that Tokyo Ever After had major Princess Diaries vibes, I knew I had to read it! Following Japanese America protagonist Izumi Tanaka, the story chronicles her adventures in finding out her estranged father is actually the crown prince of Japan. What follows is a whirlwind of Izumi going to visit her father and learning about her Japanese heritage and responsibilities of being the descendant of a future monarch, which is a far cry from her life in small town, rural California.
Tokyo Ever After was an undeniably fun, quick read. It temporarily satisfied my wanderlust with Izumi’s trip to Japan, and I loved getting to learn snippets about the Japanese culture alongside Izumi. I really enjoyed when she had the chance to visit and experience Kyoto in addition to Tokyo, and I appreciated the Japanese history that was woven into Izumi’s lessons. I can’t speak to how accurate a portrayal the story was to what the actual Japanese monarchy is actually like, but I enjoyed that the narrative showed Izumi’s actual journey into the world of the monarchy rather than just finding out her dad is a prince and dealing with her hometown repercussions of the news.
Speaking of Izumi’s hometown, I loved her friend group and the hilarious (if a bit over the top) antics and dialogue of her friends. They also all had distinct personalities and even though they actually weren’t present for a huge amount of time (since Izumi is in Japan), they still added vibrancy and life to the story. Plus, it was wonderful to see Izumi have such a strong, female support system back home with her friends and her mom.
However, there were some elements of the story that weren’t my favorite. There is so much going on in Tokyo Ever After with Izumi’s personal journey of discovering her family history and how her life is massively changing that I personally feel there was more than enough content for that to be the basis of a well rounded story. The romance, which actually ended up being a significant part of the plot, didn’t feel necessary to me and the feelings personally developed way too rapidly for my taste. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t dive into too much detail, however I think the story would have been complete even with just a platonic relationship between Izumi and the love interest, or even if it was something that was just hinted at/beginning to blossom at the end of the book and perhaps explored in future sequels (I’m not 100% sure there are going to be more books, however on Goodreads it says this is “#1” which leads me to believe in the possibility that this may be the start of a series).
Izumi herself also fell a little short for me personality wise (which is totally fine and just a personal preference! But it is something I wanted to bring up). She felt like a younger YA protagonist rather than one who was about to graduate high school, and often times her actions and thought processes felt a bit immature. I was also a bit disappointed by the stereotypical “mean girl” trope that was used in regards to some of the characters.
Overall: Tokyo Ever After was a fun, quick read that will fill any reader with a love of fiction about royalty with satisfaction. Though some elements felt a little rushed or cliché, it was an immersive read that featured a fun, royal trope in a fresh setting. I’m excited to see what happens to Izumi in the next installment!