I was wary about starting Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor. I had a feeling it would be all enchantment upfront but wouldn’t deliver on the magic that was promised. Especially after being marketed to fans of The Night Circus and Caraval, my expectations were not high per se, but I was ready for something to inspire me. Unfortunately, Hotel Magnifique was a story I’ve read a hundred times.
After losing their mother, Jani and Zosa leave Aligney to start a new life in Durc. However, after years of carving out a frail existence in the city, Jani is still desperate to save enough money and return home. When Jani discovers Hotel Magnifique is appearing in town to hire new staff, she believes it will be a way to earn money quickly and have the experience of a lifetime. The sisters are enamored by the magic fueling the mythical hotel, but the allure of the place wears off quickly. The contracts they signed have repercussions, including one that will keep them trapped and tortured at the hands of the sinister maître d’hôtel.
Hotel Magnifique follows the same formula found over and over again in the young adult genre. An unassuming girl falls into a magical world and is the only one who can save everyone from the big bad. Like the many protagonists before her, Jani blunders her way through the unknown world and catches the attention of the incredibly dashing doorman, named Bel in this case. He is of course frustrated by her mere presence, yet finds a way to spend time with her. I’m not here to hate on this specific formula because I enjoy many stories that share this similar plot. My issue is that there is no inspiring spark to light up this story. Tropes can be very powerful storytelling techniques, but a story should have a stickiness, an idea, or an element that the book can own as its unique mark on the genre.
What’s worse is that Jani also falls into the “I’m not special” trope, but of course, she IS special and becomes incredibly fulfilled upon learning she is different. I don’t mind a chosen one mentality, but the issue once again is how Hotel Magnifique goes about it. Jani is special just because. There is no explanation as to why or how she is this way. She doesn’t go through character growth, nor does she establish deep connections with the people helping her. There is no satisfying backstory to enrich our understanding of her ability, or the world for that matter. Everything in this book feels superficial and it frustrates me. There is no substance to Jani, the magic, or the events unfolding around her which lessens the story’s impact. How can anything leave an impression if nothing in the story feels important?
The story itself is odd. The pacing is insanely quick, and we blow through the hotel’s wonders and staff without a second glance. Each feels like running past a shop window and just glancing into an interesting scene without much examination. Again, there’s no substance, so we don’t discover the world as much as it’s shoved in our face. There were a lot of these weird moments where things were overexplained to make it seem important but it never actually had a purpose. Unfired Chekhov’s guns litter the landscape. Jani will see something, like a random book, and then try to explain why it’s important through random childhood memories. None of these memories hold any meaning, so it comes off as strange, extraneous information.
I am sad to say there is nothing remarkable about Hotel Magnifique’s story, characters, or magic. Unlike the ever-changing layout of the magical hotel, the book follows a strict blueprint and was too afraid to stray into more interesting and unknown territory. Honestly, this book feels like it was written in the early 2000s, and my standards demand a lot more from the YA genre nowadays.
Rating: Hotel Magnifique – 3.5/10