Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1) by Julie C. Dao

 
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. DaoForest of a Thousand Lanterns
(Rise of the Empress #1)
by Julie C. Dao
October 10, 2017
384 pages


Goodreads Summary:
The Wrath and the Dawn meets Snow White and the Huntsman in this dark and mystical 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.

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns possesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance. Fans of Heartless, Stealing Snow, and Red Queen will devour this stunning debut.


Review

Nothing can compare to the excitement I felt at receiving an early copy of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns! I loved the Asian-inspired tale infused with magic and darkness.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a retelling of an evil queen and how she came to powers. It has quite a dark undertone with graphically detailed scenes. I was caught off guard but I'm glad Julie didn't shy away from showing us the brutal reality of life at court. How when you've been outplayed and have nowhere to turn, the helplessness
could push you down a path of no return. They set the mood of the book. I also really enjoyed picking out pieces of the original Snow White from the story. I don't believe the fairy tale is a spoiler but since I haven't seen any direct mentions of it, I've hid it.

Xifeng's tale is every bit as beautiful and deadly as the cover. From a young age, she has been groomed by her aunt to be more. Her beauty was a tool she was to use to achieve greatness and the boy she loves was a means to an end. While Xifeng knows Guma is poison, she couldn't help but want to please her aunt. In part also to prove to herself and other that she is more. Her strong-willed nature set her down a lonely path. "The truest love and friendship rarely come to those in power." (p. 85). I want to say the forbidden magic in her made her commit all the cruel acts but really her choices were entirely her own. In a way it was empowering to see her be her own person.

We see many characters come into Xifeng's life but there were two people that were perhaps most meaningful. Wei was everything to Xifeng. Early into the book I knew they wouldn't have a happy ending but I held out hope. I was prepared for heartbreak but I was not ready for the act that would truly split them apart. They loved so fiercely my heart definitely ached for their ending.

Despite her goal, Xifeng came to care for Empress Lihua and vice versa. Court politics were always riddled with double meaning so I appreciated how much truth rang in words the pair exchanged. "Love does not always come with marriage... Marriage may strength a woman, but love weakens her. She has more to lose." "But in weakness, you find your strength... You leave pieces of yourself in the ones you love. Is that not the greatest power, to endure in that way?" (p. 292). If not for the Empress, Xifeng's initial life at court would have been much more difficult and dangerous.

A wonderfully woven tale of love and sacrifices Forest of a Thousand Lanterns leaves an impression on you. I can't wait to see what Julie has for us in the next Rise of the Empress book!
 
4.5 Cats
*I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinion are my own and not affected in any way. All quotes were taken from the finished copy I received. 

6 comments:

  1. I'm jealous that you got this. It sounds a little dark but good. I'll have to read it when I can handle heartbreak.

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    1. It's really dark and fantastic! Read it sooner rather than later Natalie!

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  2. YAAASSSS this book is sooo good! It's the retelling I've been waiting for! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it.

    Thanks for sharing,
    ~Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

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    1. Oh nice! So glad it's what you wanted! I super curious for the sequel :D

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  3. I really want to read this! Thanks for sharing your review. :)

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    Replies
    1. My pleasure LaLa <3 I hope you do pick it up soon!

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