This was a nicely structured fantasy novel with the kind of plucky heroine I enjoy. Jani and her younger sister, Zosa, are living grimly in a port town called Durc. They made the trip to Durc after their mother died so that Zosa could pursue a singing career but four years later, Zosa is no closer to becoming a singer than she was when they arrived and Jani is working at a tannery to try to earn their passage back home (a task that looks like it will never be finished).
However, their luck seems about to change when the mysterious and magical Hotel Magnifique comes to town. This hotel moves from city to city, taking a different form on the outside in each location, but the wonders within do not change. The very wealthy pay a huge price to stay in the hotel for a limited time and enjoy the benefits of its magic. However, the hotel also hires workers from the locations it goes to, so Jani takes Zosa to audition for a spot as a singer while she hopes to work as a maid or cook.
As Jani and Zosa take on their new roles inside the hotel, Jani discovers some disturbing issues beneath the hotel’s glittering facade–including that the contracts she and Zosa have signed are unbreakable, and Zosa is in danger. Jani must figure out how to survive, save her sister, and find a way to free everyone trapped by the hotel’s Maitre, who wields powerful magic. Luckily, Jani has an ally in the doorman, Bel, and a lot of smarts but that may not be enough.
Taylor does a great job of building a world that is both similar and different to the one we know and creating characters you care about. This is a debut novel and so I’m excited to see what Emily Taylor does next.