Book: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao
Published October 2017 by Philomel Books|363 Pages
Where I Got It: I own the hardcover
Series: Rise Of The Empress #1
Genre: YA Fantasy/YA Re-telling
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 absolutely loved this book! It took me forever to get through (partly because I wasn’t in the mood, and partly because I was trying to get through some other books).
I love this re-telling of The Evil Queen, and while this story is Xifeng’s journey to becoming the evil queen, it’s still worth reading. It makes me want to read the next book so, so much. Regina Mills from Once Upon A Time is an amazing Evil Queen, but Xifeng comes pretty close. It’s basically Snow White before Snow White, if that makes any sense. It’s basically a prequel to the Snow White story that we all know (at least from Disney, but this is not the happy Disney version. Please don’t expect a happy, Disney version of the Evil Queen, because this is not that book.
If you need to like characters, especially the main character, this book probably isn’t for you. It was so hard to like Xifeng at times, but I did find myself understanding where she came from, and why she did what she did. She does get jealous of other women, and she wasn’t very confident, especially at the beginning of the book. She changes so much over the course of the book, but it felt really natural and not forced at all.
I feel like her journey isn’t going to end well, but this is one story that I feel pretty invested in, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes, even if the ending isn’t a happy one.
I thought the world was amazing and really detailed. I had such a clear picture of what was going on, and I loved how vivid everything was. My copy of the book was an annotated one from PageHabit, and those extra details really made the book for me. It was interesting to see what inspired her, and where certain things in the book came from.
Also, this is not a light and fluffy story. It is dark and twisted and sometimes gory. I mean, she eats hearts to gain power and make herself stronger. She will do anything to become Empress, and I thought the use of a prophecy was interesting. As weird as it may be, I did like seeing how far she was willing to go to get what she wants and what she was willing to do so she could fulfill the destiny that was foretold.
I’m not sure if this was something the author intended, but I couldn’t help but think about prophecy and destiny and how cutthroat some people are, and how they’ll use prophecy to get whatever they want. Also, some of the characters are pretty catty (and petty), and Xifeng was willing to take them down because they were standing in her way. I’m sure there’s some sort of real world parallel you could draw. I won’t, because my brain doesn’t want to work right (and I myself in not confident in my ability to draw a meaningful comparison) but it did feel very real. Girls and women are pitted against each other as well, and you can definitely see why they act the way they do.
5 stars. Overall, I loved this book. The setting is amazing and vivid, and I just loved the world and the mythology and the characters.