Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1)
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genre: Fantasy, Retellings, Young Adult
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: October 10th 2017
* BLURB *
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.
* Buy Links *
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* REVIEW *
Disclaimer: This is part of the PH-based blog tour for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns that I have organized . Huge thanks to Penguin Random House International for providing a copy for review. This didn’t affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Don’t get fooled by the cover. Because behind the vibrant color and pretty cover, is a dark and twisted tale that will keep you under the spell.
With so much fuss and excitement surrounding Forest of a Thousand Lanterns pre-release, I was afraid that I might end up not liking it, being mainstream and all. To be very honest, I was a little skeptical when I picked this book. I’ve never really read a full-blown anti-heroine novel before. But I’ve always wanted to read a story told from the point-of-view of a villain. Like a real, cunning, and unforgiving villain.
And ya’ll! Julie C. Dao certainly didn’t disappoint with her Evil Queen reimagining! This is nothing like anything I have read in recent years.
Forest of A Thousand Lanterns tells the story of Xifeng (pronounced as SHE-fung), an eighteen-year-old beautiful lady from a poor town. She lives with her aunt, Guma, who reads her cards and tells her what the future has for her. Her stars say that she’s destined for something big, and that’s to be the Empress of Feng Lu. At first, Xifeng didn’t believe her aunt’s readings about her future. But she later decided to fulfill this destiny, at first for her aunt, but eventually for herself. This is where her story begins.
I want to mean something to a great deal of people. I am tired of being no one. As Empress, I would have the right to choose for myself. Guma could not command me, and Wei would not own me.
I love so many things about this book.
From the East Asian historical setting (I will talk a lot about this later), to the plot, and the characters. BUT I also hated some things about it, and in a good way. You know, this is an anti-heroine novel. So, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to loath Xifeng – an anti-heroine – at some points for her villainous and ruthless deeds. But at the same time, I love her in a lot of ways. Does that make any sense? I HATE HOW MUCH I LOVE HER.
I have no words for Julie C. Dao’s writing style. It was a bit slow for me at first, but after a few chapters, I can hardly put the book down. Reading this book will give you a great feeling of lush. Her words are super rich and very exquisite.
Isn’t’ it better to give up a fraction of your freedom to gain tenfold in happiness, even for a short time?
I personally love watching Sageuk Korean dramas – these are the k-dramas set in the historical period of South Korea. And I love reading mangas set in the historical Chinese and Japanese Imperial and feudal periods. I find East Asian historical periods highly fascinating, so when I found out that Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is in East Asian historical fantasy setting, the excitement just doubled.
I mean, East Asia? Historical period? Fantasy?
By this time, I already know that I will be blessed with an amazing world building. Julie C. Dao proved how right I am! The imperial setting and the Great Forest were exceptional. It was really like watching an East Asian historical movie or drama. Even the descriptions of clothes, the ornaments, and the accessories on people – these are all on point. The world-building is highly rich and luxurious.
Cast of characters were mentioned at the beginning of the book before the story, and there are plenty of them. However, some of these characters are nearly non-existent in the actual story. Like the 2nd, and 3rd princes. This is probably the only main drawback for me – the share of exposures of the characters.
While I love how focused the story is to Xifeng and her ways to achieve her goals, I think some characters also have a lot of potential to be included more in the picture. And I hope that it will happen in the next book. But overall, I love how diverse, and complex the characters are. I love how Xifeng made a great deal of development from a normal town girl, to a ruthless one she aimed to be.
Kang is a bit more predictable character, but he is very effective and important to the story. He actually reminds me of the popular Game of Thrones eunuch, Lord Varys, for some reasons. It might be only me though. Lol
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.
Truly dark one.
One of the things I love the most in Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is how Julie C. Dao made it possible to beautifully merge extravagance and gore in one picture. Yes, GORE. There are gory scenes in this book, and Julie C. Dao didn’t restrain for all its glory.
Overall, I made the right decision to start with this book upon getting into some anti-heroine reads. Is it worth it? Totally! I am so happy that I chose this book for the first ever blog tour that I’m hosting. It is such an honor. Truly. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK.
The ending of this first book is not really a cliffhanger. But it’s an ending that will still make you look forward for the next book. A lot. So, this is me right now.
* About The Author *
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.
* Giveaway *
Giveaway is open to PHILIPPINE residents ONLY.
Blog tour schedule
Erika is a freelance content writer and illustrator from the Philippines. Aside from her love of arts and reading, she loves taking photos, coffee, cats, and fairies. She’s into fantasy, historical fiction, and contemporary, and anything young adult genres.