Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Published by Philomel Books
Published on October 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress--and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?
Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
“I have my own soul and my own destiny, and I’m tired of belonging to someone else.”
It’s been almost exactly a year since the last time I wrote a book review. And there’s no other book I’d rather make my return to book blogging with than Forest of A Thousand Lanterns. Julie C. Dao’s debut was a pleasant surprise. I was a little intimidated by the cast of characters that was presented at the beginning of the book (but also grateful for the pronunciation guide) because there are SO. MANY. CHARACTERS. However, I was quickly absorbed into the lush, East Asian world and easily captivated by the characters—especially Xifeng, our ruthlessly ambitious anti-heroine.
I love a good villain story. Morally ambiguous characters make me swoon, and Xifeng is no exception. On the outside, Xifeng is beautiful and poised and graceful—a soft and rare bloom. But there is something dark and deadly unfurling inside of her. If she embraces it, she can claim the greatness that fate has bestowed her. Even when she made terrible choices, I rooted for Xifeng. She was determined to take her destiny into her own hands, no matter the cost, and that level of ambition is admirable. I enjoyed witnessing her journey because she was a character with a clear, defined goal, and her dedication to that goal remained unshaken. Time and again we see heroines choose love and loyalty over glory and greatness—Xifeng is not that girl.
“I want to mean something to a great deal of people. I’m tired of being no one. As Empress, I would have the right to choose for myself… I would sit on a throne. I would be feared and respected, not weak and powerless… My life would have a purpose and I would do anything for that.”
Dao’s writing is gorgeous and consuming, effortlessly immersing readers in East Asian culture with flawless world-building. From the clothes to the palace to the food, you’re right there experiencing it all alongside the characters. She effectively captures the emotions and complexities of each person in her vast ensemble, making readers care about and connect with even the most minor characters. And, overall, I found the plot to be continuously surprising. I was always unsure of what choice Xifeng would make next, what trick she had up her sleeve.
Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is perfect for fans of unique, not-your-average fairy-tale retellings and gritty, unconventional anti-heroines. If you’ve ever wondered how the Evil Queen claimed her throne, this book is for you.
“She was a monster, a bride of the darkness, and she rose to face her destiny as though it were the blood red sunrise of a new day.”
Latest posts by Teisha McRae (see all)
- Teisha’s Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1) by Julie C. Dao - October 9, 2017
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