Oct 2, 2017

ARC Review--Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

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.

I received this ARC from a fellow blogger in a fair trade. My review is honest and I was not compensated for my opinions.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is Julie C. Dao’s YA debut! It’s an incredible origin story regarding the Evil Queen from Snow White, but in this one we get a whole new setting that’s far from the European tales we’re used to. This one takes place in Eastern Asia which really seems to fit with the story in some ways. Like all villain origin stories this one will make you see the Evil Queen in a new way, but maybe not quite in the way you’re expecting.

Xifeng has been raised by her aunt to be beautiful and seen. She’s basically been trained her whole life to one day be Empress, her aunt has foretold this with the cards, yet Xifeng wants nothing more than to get out from under her aunt’s thumb. The abuse she’s suffered over the years hasn’t been easy, though in a way, it has made Xifeng the strong, capable young woman that she’s become. Xifeng already has some rebel tendencies, for she has a secret lover, Wei, who asks her to run away with him. And finally she does. Though she soon finds herself on the very path her aunt wanted her on to begin with.

I quite enjoyed Julie’s take on the Evil Queen. Xifeng isn’t quite a Cath from Marissa Meyer’s Heartless, where you see goodness turned mad. Xifeng already has some selfish qualities to her, but nothing that you can truly notice right away. It’s more the progression of it all. True, at times I was sympathizing for her, especially during the cruel times with her aunt. But as the story goes on, you see her Evil Queen-ness coming to the fore. And yet, I still kinda rooted for her. Sure she’s evil, but alas, I kind of wanted to see how far she could get!

There’s definitely more to this story though. There’s this kind of darkness that lives inside Xifeng. She acknowledges it more than once, so it’s significant. You think this could just be her Evil Queen-ness coming about, but it’s so much more than that! And we do get to learn more about Xifeng’s past that is the precursor for her journey.

I’ll admit, I struggled with this one for a little bit in the beginning but once I overcame those first few chapters, things really got interesting. There were also these little “Easter Eggs” of the Snow White fairy tale that occasionally popped up. Things like apples and mirrors and other entities. It can be hard not to think of the Disney version of Snow White when reading and wondering what some of these little appearances might be, but just remember that there was a definite dark side to the original Snow White fairy tale and you will see in this one a dark side as well.

It’s hard to really say if there was romance in this one. In a way, I say not. Xifeng’s character didn’t seem to fit the role for one looking for romance. But there are romantic interludes, so there’s that. What’s hard to remember at times that Xifeng is the Evil Queen (to be). She’s a villain, so her finding love as a teenager seems unlikely anyway, at least that’s how I saw things.

The ending was decidedly good too. You pretty much know where things are going, but the execution was still done exceedingly well! I always love a fresh take on fairy tales or origin stories of certain characters. And that’s what we get with this one! Though when I checked Goodreads, it looks like there’s a sequel. Whether that one will be a direct sequel or a spinoff or maybe a different villain’s origin stories set within the same world has yet to be revealed! It’s hard sometimes to realize that information about the sequel won’t necessarily be ready with the first one!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a remarkable story of the girl who will soon grow to be the Evil Queen. Whether you find her to be good or evil at the start is for you to decide. Xifeng is an ambitious young woman, but ambitions can be deadly when you’re the Evil Queen! A must read for all fairy tale fans and fans of character origin stories!


Overall Rating 4.75/5 stars—yes that little hiccup of a start has me once again giving an awkward rating. While it was a bit of rough start, I truly ended up loving this one by the end and dying for more from Julie!!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns releases October 10, 2017

1 comment:

  1. This book looks amazing, it sounds like something I would really enjoy! Great review! :)



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