Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1)
Author/s: Julie C. Dao
Publication Date: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Philomel Books
Number of Pages: 363
“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.”
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a compelling story that revolved around love, beauty, destiny, and darkness.
Tell you what, I am not familiar with the origin of the Evil Queen, I don’t even have any idea what her story is. Anyway, that’s the reason why I decided to join a blog tour for A Forest of Thousand Lanterns hosted by a co-Filipina, besides the fact that the novel has such a promising blurb.
The pacing. I honestly find it slow at the beginning up until the middle part, it was rather uneventful, but it went good enough afterwards.
For the world-building, hands down, Julie! Very well done. I loved the fables, the lore and legends, myths that were involved, stories that were told. Everything. The setting made me feel like I am familiar with its culture and tradition. Julie made it easy for her reader to be pulled in the world she created.
The novel also gave a voice to women and girls. Julie made it certain that the reader will have it figured out that women can make choices of their own, fight for themselves, be strong enough and lift herself up. Empress Lihua, Guma, Lady Sun, especially Xifeng, are strong in many different ways. As for Xifeng, I’m kind of in a love/hate relationship with her character. I disliked her arrogance and vanity, but I liked her determination and bravery. She struggled with the inner turmoil between her good and evil side, and I pity her for that. Her internal conflicts were written very well. I admire her for being courageous enough to do everything just to reach the top. And though knowing that this is a retelling of the Evil Queen, I somehow hoped for a different ending. I wanted something changed. But despite the fact that the antiheroine had been selfish, I want more stories like this. Girls who know what they want and won’t stop at anything to get it, women who put themselves first.
The plot. Obviously, this was a character-driven novel, and everything became exciting when Xifeng happened to take an action to pursue her said destiny. I’ll admit the heart-eating parts kind of creeped me out, but I find it brutally satisfying and it reminded me of Regina from Once Upon a Time series. (Though she collects the blood, not eat them.) Twists and turns were present, but I did predict some, and some almost literally blew my mind.
Overall, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I must say, is the kind of debut novel & retelling, that one wouldn’t want to miss. 4/5 stars for this beauty!
I liked Julie C. Dao’s writing style and I hope to read more of her novel.
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.