Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns
by Julie C. Dao
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 copy in exchange for an honest review from Penguin publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you Penguin!
Honestly, I’m a little bit breathless with awe as I write this review. I just finished the novel, and I am still reeling from how much I wanted Xifeng’s path to change, all the while knowing where it was headed.
That’s the beauty of the writing in this novel, I suppose. Despite knowing exactly where and how this story ends, I was desperately wishing for something different. I had grown that attached to Xifeng’s character.
She is a complex character. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel whereby the main character is an anti-heroine destined to be a villain in someone else’s story, but it has definitely set a very high bar for such stories. There were moments where I was repulsed by her actions, and moments where I was so sad for her, and moments where I was hoping against hope that she would make a different choice and choose love for herself. Her arc was handled so well, and I cannot wait to see how the familiar story grows from here.
The writing in the story was so vivid at times that when I started it, I had nightmares for a bit. I found myself having to take breaks and unable to read it before I slept, because it painted such stark pictures. At the same time, I was loathe to stop reading because the story just sucked me right in.
And the imagery! The culture and the influences were rife in the whole novel. It was like stepping into the ancient China I’ve only seen in the dramas and movies I used to catch on TV, like seeing the few old Chinese myths and legends I’ve heard of come alive on the words of this story. I am so fascinated by the lore in this story.
The Serpent God is a chilling shadowy character that I am a little terrified of, and his hold on Xifeng is going to lead to both their downfalls. On the other hand, I find myself questioning where the Dragon King is in all of this, and why he has not intervened yet when his own line has been all but extinguished.
I think this is one of the best written novels I’ve ever read, and I cannot wait to read more from the author and about these characters.