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 Dreaming (Tokyo Ever After, #2) by Emiko Jean
Also by this author: Empress of All Seasons, Tokyo Ever After
Series: Tokyo Ever After #2
Also in this series: Tokyo Ever After
Published by Flatiron Books on May 31, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Royalty
Pages: 336 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley, Publisher
When Japanese-American Izumi Tanaka learned her father was the Crown Prince of Japan, she became a princess overnight. Now, she’s overcome conniving cousins, salacious press, and an imperial scandal to finally find a place she belongs. She has a perfect bodyguard turned boyfriend. Her stinky dog, Tamagotchi, is living with her in Tokyo. Her parents have even rekindled their college romance and are engaged. A royal wedding is on the horizon! Izumi’s life is a Tokyo dream come true.
Her parents’ engagement hits a brick wall. The Imperial Household Council refuses to approve the marriage citing concerns about Izumi and her mother’s lack of pedigree. And on top of it all, her bodyguard turned boyfriend makes a shocking decision about their relationship. At the threat of everything falling apart, Izumi vows to do whatever it takes to help win over the council. Which means upping her newly acquired princess game.
But at what cost? Izumi will do anything to help her parents achieve their happily ever after, but what if playing the perfect princess means sacrificing her own? Will she find a way to forge her own path and follow her heart?
If you’ve been reading my reviews over the years, you know that one of my absolute favorite series in the whole wide world is The Princess Diaries, and that I am a sucker for the normal-girl-finds-out-she’s royalty trope. Naturally, Izumi’s story of finding out she’s the illegitimate daughter of Japan in the Tokyo Ever After series is right up my alley! I actually found that I enjoyed the second book in this series quite a bit more than the first, because as a reader I adored getting to see how Izumi has adjusted to royal life and what her life is like day-to-day after the initial shock of uprooting her civilian life to join the monarchy in book one. I really couldn’t get enough of this one!
Tokyo Dreaming follows Izumi after settling into living in Japan full-time. She’s navigating her identity as a princess, especially what that means in regards to her relationships and her post-high school plans. This installment honestly sees Izumi and co. mature a lot, which I found satisfying as one of my main complaints about Tokyo Ever After was that Izumi seemed to read as a younger YA protagonist and there were some stereotypes that other characters were cast in that I was personally a bit disappointed in. In fact, this whole novel is really about Izumi coming of age and maturing by putting others’ needs in front of her own, and understanding that while it’s important to have your own values there’s also merit in some of the traditions and practices of a more collectivist culture mindset too (which, as she points out, Japan is). I also like that Izumi started feeling more comfortable in her role as a royal, rather than rejecting it all for being too stuffy, opulent, etc. More exploration between Izumi’s relationship with her princess cousins, her empress grandmother, and her chamberlain help to flesh out her character and build a stronger narrative around her sense of duty developing alongside her individual personality.
Now, this may be a mild spoiler (so be warned!) but there is a love triangle in this book. Like many sophomore YA novels in a series, the love triangle situation actually pushes the character to grow (the qualities you admire/need in a partner may change as you yourself do, and that is OK!) While not the main focus of the plot (that’s more centered on her parents’ courtship) Izumi’s decision between two suitors does run parallel between the other growth she does in the novel with herself and her family, and I honestly was disappointed in her ultimate decision, which is what keeps this book in the 4 star territory for me. I think often in YA novels choosing the “rebellious/less perfect/more conflict ridden” love interest is often a sign of maturing/finding yourself, etc, however I disagree and think there can be maturity and independence in choosing a partner who fits better into your world (basically, I think choosing the contrary love interest in the name of “being your true self” is overdone).
Love triangle aside, there were so many things about this book I enjoyed! Some highlights include getting more insight into “The Shining Twins” personalities, learning how to navigate the Japanese college application process alongside Izumi, Izumi visiting Tokyo Disney (!!!), fabulous dresses at royal functions, and learning more about the fraught relationship between the royals and the tabloids. I would love to see this become a longer series in the vein of The Princess Diaries, however it did wrap up neatly and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a duology.
Overall: If you like the commoner to royalty trope, you’ll love this sweet series! With much more character development and an inside look at the Japanese monarchy, I enjoyed Tokyo Dreaming even more than its predecessor!