Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress #1
Edition: Paperback
Publication: October 10th 2017 by Philomel Books
Source: ARC provided by the publisher
Pages: 384
Genre: High-Fantasy, Retellings

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.

ISBN13: 9781524738297

Based on my reading experience, it's been tricky for me to delve into retellings with so much anticipation because it could be such a hit or a miss kind of read. Going in practically blind, the first half of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns* didn't grasp me. It was a bit slow because this the part where the build-ups happened and I felt like there are plenty of descriptions or scenes unfolding that are all unnecessary. But I took my time and kept reading.

This book is going to hit shelves October this year and I have a lot of things to say about it. First off is that I. FREAKING. LOVED. IT!!! It was absolutely epic! The second half of the book was just entirely opposite of the first because this part was where all THE things happened. I started reading it around five in the afternoon and I literally wasn't able to put it down until I devoured it around midnight! The pacing shifted and there were a lot of pillow-punching and screaming happened. It kept me on the edge because of all the scheming and revelations! It was brutal, intriguing and mind-blowing.

I know it's a MULAN gif but it's the closest I could find hihih
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns gave us a totally amazing retelling of the Evil Queen. Xifeng was abused by her Guma all her life but trained her to go after her great destiny: to be the Empress of Feng Lu. She's beautiful and she knows it's her weapon. She also knows something evil is inside her, conniving and wanting to control her. But the urge to go after what she was destined to is strong so she left Guma and went with the love of her life, Wei, to the Imperial Castle. Nothing stopped her in getting what she wanted. Her character was just so broken and greedy her need to be powerful exceeds her need to be saved. But despite the darkness lurking inside her waiting to be released, I adored her focus and her determination to lift herself up and become not only the fairest but the most powerful. There's no way you would be able to say that something else made her the villain because from the start, it was all her. She embraced it without seconds thoughts. The moments she was at war with herself were all lost battles because deep inside her, she knew what she wanted. Even Guma's confessions didn't stop her. It was a very dark story of a beautiful girl wanting the world kneeling in front of her.

The world building set in East Asia was phenomenal. This was one aspect I was so excited to learn about and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was everything I hoped it would be. Rich, delicious and absolutely a masterpiece.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is one heck of a debut novel I will forever remember. Bloody, lyrical and luscious, this well-delivered Evil Queen back story is the one you have all been waiting for! I can promise you that it is glorious!

*Let me know if you did cry because of the title.

Thank you so much, Penguin Random House International Sales, for sending me the ARC months in advance!

"Isn’t’ it better to give up a fraction of your freedom to gain tenfold in happiness, even for a short time?"


  1. I'm so glad you loved this one, Kate! Finally! A book that we can both agree on that's amazing and wonderfully written! Great review, as always. :D


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