Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Date published: October 10, 2017
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.
This book has completely crushed my entire SOUL my soul is DEAD I don’t know how I’m ever going to read another book again after this majesty HELP ME PLEASE save me from this soul crushing book hangover I’m surely having.
Okay, obviously I have some THOUGHTS about Julie C. Dao’s utterly FANTASTICAMAZINGFANTABULOUS 2017 debut, FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS. Here are some of them:
- Why in the name of *#(@)!(#)_)(@$$!!!! did I wait until 2019, a whole TWO YEARS after this book was published, to read this freaking book?
- Seriously, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??
- Would it be acceptable to write an entire review in caps?
- Because this book is EVERYTHING
- Even though it completely destroyed me and I am dead hi I’m a ghost now
- I can’t even form coherent thoughts about this book what am I am I even still a human??
So clearly I LOVED this book, and I am sorry that my thoughts are extremely gushy and not at all coherent in any way. So let’s try to take a look at some of the things I loved about this book and put them into real words:
The thing that stuck out for me the most about this story was the amazing, A++++ character development. Every single character (except maybe Wei) was nuanced and complex and well-rounded and fully explored and just…my heart wept for each and every one of them. Nobody had just one face (except maybe Wei, sorry, he just wasn’t that interesting), and Dao did a fantastic job of revealing their layers one by one as the story unfolded. The first twist about a character? I did NOT see that coming, and I usually see EVERYTHING coming in YA.
Xifeng’s descent into madness and power hungry-ness and utter darkness can only possibly be rivaled by Mara Dyer. My heart just broke and became crushed as Xifeng let go of every last piece of her old self and her humanity as she struggled in pursuit of the destiny that Guma foretold for her. I’ve never read a more well-written power-hungry character like Xifeng, and I was totally drawn into and consumed by her story and her obsession with fulfilling her destiny.
Everything about the building of the Feng Lu world was so vivid and sumptuous and lush and just…oh, it was perfect. I didn’t even get confused by the politics between the different continents/lands/territories like I usually do in fantasies because it was so well done. I loved the mythological aspects as well as the legends that were put into the book; Julie Dao obviously really thought about how to build this world and make it seem real for the reader.
This magic is wayyyyy darker than the magic in most fantasies I’ve read, and I LIVED for it. I mean…she eats the hearts of small animals, and also…no, no spoilers. I didn’t fully understand who the creature really was, but I expect it will clear itself up in book two. I also liked the use of the cards, which of course reminded me of tarot cards like I’ve been learning. The magic was just generally so creepy and mysterious and atmospheric and everything you could want in a fantasy.
Yes, so basically, I loved almost everything about this book, with the exception of Wei’s character, who I found boring and dull and definitely not worthy of Xifeng even though they were childhood sweethearts which is a precious, soft trope. This book is dark and kinda gorey and twisty and will suck out your soul and probably make you realize you’re secretly a sadist because you’ll still root for Xifeng even when she starts doing terrible things. I have been totally blown over by this book and cannot wait to go out and immediately buy KINGDOM OF THE BLAZING PHOENIX.