Forest of A Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Retelling
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Philomel Books
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.
First Sentence: The procession stretched down the cobblestone road, a serpent made of men in red and gold, the Emperor’s colors.
Nothing pains me more than to say that I didn’t enjoy reading Forest of A Thousand Lanterns.
At first glance, Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is the perfect book for me. Anybody that knows me well knows that I love reading fairytale retellings and also love reading books inspired by Asian folktales. Add in the dark element about Forest of A Thousand Lanterns being a Evil Queen retelling and I had to get my hands on Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, so what went so wrong then that I had to give Forest of A Thousand Lanterns a two star rating?
And then she left that house behind forever, holding the memory of Guma’s terrified expression like a flame in her black heart. (ARC 38)
Forest of A Thousand Lanterns was way too long. I felt like a huge portion of the book was filled with Xifeng reflecting about her inner self – which I understand was to develop the whole darkness part of Xifeng’s personality – but a lot of it could have been easily cut out as I just skimmed those parts out of boredom. It also doesn’t help that I’m not much of a character driven reader and a huge part of Forest of A Thousand Lanterns focused on Xifeng’s character development. After finishing Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, I realized that nothing much has happened in the 363 pages I’ve just read – just a lot of character development.
It would have helped if the writing in Forest of A Thousand Lanterns was engaging, but the writing in Forest of A Thousand Lanterns felt flat to me and wasn’t engaging at all. It didn’t make me want to read on – in fact, it made me want to put down the book at any moment, but I kept pushing on despite the voice in my mind constantly telling me to DNF the book already. To show you a picture how bad things were, I wasn’t even interested in reading about the Asian folktales Julie Dao incorporated into the book, something I was extremely looking forward to reading.
I am destined for another, she wanted to tell him, and he is the reason I can’t give you my whole heart. (ARC 251)
Why didn’t you DNF Forest of A Thousand Lanterns when you’ve been ruthlessly DNFing books lately Kelly? you may wonder. Well, I was really looking forward to reading the palace scenes in Forest of A Thousand Lanterns as those are the scenes where I expect the most intrigue, the most betrayal, and the most drama to happen. I was looking forward to seeing how Xifeng will outsmart the others aiming for power and claim the throne for herself. However, the palace politics scenes in Forest of A Thousand Lanterns were extremely disappointing, especially when you’ve watched multiple television dramas set in sovereign Asia in the palace and experienced all the treachery and power struggle that goes on behind closed doors. (If you guys haven’t watched Empress Ki, watch it NOW guys! It’ll be the best drama you’ve ever watched.) Compared to those, Forest of A Thousand Lanterns is extremely lacking and horribly dull.
There’s also an element I’m extremely curious about that has remained unanswered. Since I’m not planning on reading the second book in the series, I doubt I’ll ever be getting an answer, but I’ll live with it.
Overall, Forest of A Thousand Lanterns was a huge terrible disappointment for me, especially when it was one of my most anticipated 2017 reads. If you’re not really a character driven reader like I am, I recommend you skip this one.