I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor, Jani and her sister Zosa are barely making ends meet in a small city. So when a newspaper advertises that the famous hotel, Hotel Magnifique, is hiring, Jani urges Zosa to apply as a singer. Both of them are delighted when they are whisked away, having heard about this place for years—it magically transports to a new location every night, and is one of the only places in the world where magic is not only safe to encounter, but is encouraged. But not everything here is as it seems, as Jani soon learns. From unbreakable contracts to memory spells, the man who runs the hotel becomes more nefarious the more Jani learns. And with her sister slipping away, she has to turn to the only possible ally she has, a bellhop with powerful magic of his own.
This had a pretty intriguing premise, and I was eager to dive in. However, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
I’ll start with the positives, though. The setting is pretty cool, first and foremost; the hotel feels vivid and alive, and a lot of the rooms are well-described. Also, the author does a good job of getting you to sympathize with Jani’s and Zosa’s initial reasoning for coming to the hotel, so when things rapidly go sour, you understand why they’re trapped. I also thought the pacing was pretty good in general.
However, I never felt like I connected that much with any of the characters. There isn’t much substance to even the protagonist, even though I did want to see her discover the truth and overcome the obstacles she faced. She doesn’t have a ton of personality, and her sister even less so. I think this is intensified by the fact that for a lot of the book, we just don’t see Zosa. She’s taken from Jani’s presence pretty early after arriving at the hotel, so we really only have a couple of chapters where we got to know anything about what she’s like. This made me way less invested in Jani’s quest to save her, because I hardly knew her. The stakes didn’t feel high to me.
The love interest Bel was okay, but he also suffered from under-developed characterization. I think there could have been a lot more done with him, as well as with other secondary characters like Hellas and Beatrice. The antagonists, while sinister, were also just… okay.
On another note, while I liked being in the hotel, I also had thought that there would be more emphasis on the fact that it can magically travel all over the world. I had wanted to see how Jani reacted to being in different lands she’d never seen, and how the new customers from those places affected the world inside the hotel. But there wasn’t much of that, and it kind of disappointed me. The world outside felt vague and distant, which was odd considering the premise of the story.
And also—this is a much less important detail—the author did a really odd thing with character descriptions that, once I noticed, I couldn’t not notice, and it started driving me slightly mad. Every time a new character appeared, whether they were just a background person, or a new important figure, the author always included their skin tone in their description. Often, that was the only description they were given. Nothing about what they wore—which might indicate what culture they were from—or any other physical aspect, and nothing about their behavior, was really mentioned. I understand that the author probably wanted to get across the fact that people from all races are equal in this magical world, and that’s fine, but ultimately, it fell way flat as a descriptive device.
In the end, Hotel Magnifique was fairly disappointing. Despite the lush and intriguing setting, everything else was lacking for me. It was a really cool idea, but not executed to the extent it could have been, and I think will be a book I’ll end up forgetting fairly quickly. I’m sure it will work for some, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.