Title: Forest Of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of The Empress #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Retellings, Romance
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication date: October 10th, 2017
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.
“You have two faces. Two beings live within you, struggling for control. One has a heart that thrives in darkness and feeds on the pain of weaker souls. The other longs to stretch a hand to the light, to live and love as others do.”
OH MY GOD, THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I had a feeling I was going to like this book since it’s a retelling and I’m a very big fan of that genre, but honestly, I didn’t know I was going to love it and devour it as fast as I did. But turns out, it has become one of my favourites of this year so far, and I can’t wait to see what path the story’s going to take.
I feel I’ve been talking about this book quite much this year, because it was in my top 10 most anticipated releases of this year, so I can’t thank the publisher enough for giving me an ARC of this book. There were a lot of good reviews on the internet by then, so I went with very high hopes, and it still managed to surprised me even more, so extra kudos to that.
“Fate finds you alluring,” Guma said, tapping the lotus, ” but do not be fooled. It is you who are its slave. Let no one stand in your way. If they face you, your beauty will entrap them. If they turn away, you will stab them in the back.”
Let’s begin by saying I’m a very big fan of villains, and it always fastinates me to see the creation of one, because in the original fairytales or Disney movies, you didn’t get to see it that often, so I’m always on the hunt for a story like that. And I must say this was a damn good one, where you see Xifeng’s development, and little hints of how she could end up being an amazing villain.
Yes, Xifeng has become one of my favourite characters so far. She’s incredibly intelligent, and she knew how to use her beauty and knowledge to her advantadge and to get what she wanted. She came from a very abusive family, and I think most of the evil she had inside her came from that. But nonetheless, it was still very interesting to know about her, because she had a lot to give, and the series has just began.
I love the diversity of the story, and how most of if not all of the characters were POC. Despite being a first book in a series you could really grasp that fairytale-eske vibe, and the world building was quite expanded, which surprised me a bit. You learnt the myths and legends of that world, and the different stories that circulated the world, along with people from different regions, which was super interesting.
“I am the moon and darkness around it. I am the wind and the rain and the ceaseless sea. I am time itself, and yours is running out.”
I must say the story had a very slow pacing, so if that’s something you don’t like maybe this book might not be for you, because it took a while for the action to come, and some parts were mostly descriptive. And because we’re talking of a retelling of the creation of a villain, that slowness was justified, I think. I didn’t paticulary mind, because it didn’t seemed like I was bored or it was too slow, but I still wanted to point that out in case you do.
I would say it was more focused on the characters and their development and transformations. The second part of the book took place in the palace, and it was quite interesting seeing the different faces people gave to the princess, and how unreliable they were. There was a bit of a romance in the story as well, but I wouldn’t say it was a very important part of it, though the way it impacted our main character was.
Overall, I adored and devoured each single part of this book. The writing was gorgeous and beautifully done, and I kept wanting to read it. I would totally recommend it if you’re looking for a diverse retelling, or simply if you love a good villain.
I recieved an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t change my opinion whatsoever. All thoughts are my own.
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