Friday, January 5, 2018

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

Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Series: Rise of the Empress #1
Written by: Julie C. Dao
Published: October 10, 2017 by Philomel Books (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

This was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2017. I was so excited to read a evil queen from Cinderella retelling with an Asian inspired fantasy world. And while this book was definitely interesting, it didn’t quite live up to my hope for the book.

One thing I did love about this book was the world. This was a fantastic world full of magic and mystery. I love Asian-inspired fantasy worlds. It’s so lush and perfectly suited towards high fantasy. And the author did a great job of developing the world and describing it all. Her writing was gorgesous and lyrical and it immersed you in the world. Throughout the book you get to explore multiple kingdoms and each of them was totally interesting. It was also a book that had a show instead of tell style of world-building. It didn’t overwhelm you with detail, it just developed the world, an interesting and immersive world.

I also did like the characters, although it did take some time to connect with them. The main character is Xifeng, she’s definitely complex and interesting. She’s ambitious and a bit of a schemer which I really appreciated. But she’s far from perfect. In fact she’s very flawed and imperfect, which made her all the more likable. Plus as the book develops she falls deeper into madness which I really liked. Honestly, I liked her even more when she was going super dark. She was the main character but there were also some really dark and dubious secondary characters as well. Most of the characters, especially the female characters had a lot of depth to them.

However, I didn’t love the plot of this book. I’m a plot-driven reader and because of that I very much want a strong plot in the books I read. And it’s not that this book didn’t have a plot, or an interesting story to it, it just wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. It’s definitely a Cinderella/Evil Queen origin story which I often enjoy. This was a totally interesting one too. It was really creative. I did enjoy the way that the book and unfolded and when things got good, it was real good.

However it really took a very long time before it got to the book stuff. In fact, that was my biggest problem with this book. This book was so slowly paced. I had seen reviews that said that it gets better and I would say yes, it does. If you can keep going it will be worth it in the end but be forewarned, this is not a fast-paced plot-driven read. There was a lot in this book that I enjoyed but the pacing just really frustrated me.

On the whole, this was an interesting high fantasy retelling of Cinderella. The world was beautiful and immersive, and the characters were interesting. But the plot was a bit basic and the pacing was incredibly slow. I am interested to see where the series goes because I think it had a bit of First Book Syndrome.

I give Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of retellings or you want a fantasy world with a lush world and are willing to put the time in then read this book.

Have you read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I really liked this book. I loved that it was so different from the other YA I've read recently, but I can see what you mean about the plot.

  2. Oh man this is one of the many books from Fairyloot I still have to read. It does sound amazing, though!