Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Summary: 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.
My Thoughts: Dao’s Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns is an immersive and fantastical debut, which follows Xifeng on a journey to fulfill her destiny! With beautiful writing and rich world-building, this is a fantastic fairy-tale retelling both wholly unique and magical!
From the very beginning, you are transported to the rich and magical land of Feng Lu. Xifeng longs to be somewhere else far away from the village she’s lived in her whole life with her Guma, who’s been abusive towards her as she pushes Xifeng towards her fore-told destiny to make her way to the royal palace and become the next empress.
However the journey is not easy, with Xifeng harboring a darkness within her that she doesn’t fully understand. This leads her to betrayal among other evil deeds to complete her task, no matter the cost.
Seeing Xifeng’s inner darkness develop throughout the novel was so well done. Its fluid in a sense that it came and went as she found herself connecting or meeting different people. However no matter what occurred, it was clear the darkness within her was very strong and continued to grow as the story progressed.
There’s also intrigue, love, themes of family, destiny, and shades between good and evil! Dao really brought together all these complex themes and weaved them together all so wonderfully. You can really grasp and sense of each of these throughout the story.
My favorite character of Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns, was definitely Xifeng! I loved her character!! From the very beginning, you can tell she is already grappling with the darkness within herself. Because of it, she finds herself conflicted with pursuing her destiny or forging her own path. Though her actions and intentions to become empress are wicked and dark, you can definitely understand why as you learn more about her and what happened for her to become the person she is destined to be. She was just so well-developed and complex and I loved following her journey.
I also really loved how the romance/ complex relationship that further developed between her and Wei. Now that she is free of Guma to fulfill her destiny, she is unsure whether he can still be a part of her life. While Wei continues to convince her, she can be free to choose her own path, he begins to be unsure himself whether Xifeng is trully free from Guma. However, this novel does not focus on romance, but mainly on Xifeng as she connects more with the darkness within herself and complete her journey!
There were also tons of twists I did not see coming that I loved because they were just so unexpected, but really brought the story full circle as it developed.
The mythology and world building was great. You could really sense it through the writing from the descriptions of the setting, to the details in the weather and atmosphere of the story, which really transported me as I continued to read.
Throughout the story you can also sense the magic weaved throughout the world’s history and setting. Through the writing you can grasp the rich history weaved throughout from the legends to the magic that spread throughout the land.
Even through the writing, you get to know the characters so well, for instance Wei, Xifeng’s childhood love/friend, Guma, the palace royals, among other characters Xifeng meets along the way. They were all so wonderfully developed.
My only minor issues, were I felt there could have been a little more background to some aspects of the world, some expansion on certain plot points, and little faster pacing towards the middle. For instance, there was mention of various locations mentioned across Feng Lu and I would have loved more description or development to them. As for plot, there were points where I felt could have been expanded on just a bit more and maybe given more development.
Overall I really enjoyed Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns and cannot wait to see where Xifeng’s journey takes her in the sequel!!
Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns weaves in Chinese mythology with a re-imagining of the Evil Queen. Dao’s tale is an immersive, magical, dark, and character-driven debut which is wholly original and will transport you from the very first page!