{Review/Giveaway} FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    THE PROCESSION STRETCHED DOWN THE cobblestone road, a serpent made of men in red and gold, the Emperor's colors. They marched forward, ignoring the slack-jawed townspeople gaming at the banner they carried: a dragon with a forest curled within its talon, the emblem of the royal house. A palanquin draped in scarlet silk appeared, resting on the shoulders of four men. People craned their necks to see the occupant, but caught only a tantalizing glimpse through the swaying curtain: blood-red lips, golden blossoms in shining hair, and robes that cost more than any of them would see in a lifetime.

(Page 1, US ARC edition)

"She would bloom where she was planted and let her roots close around the throats of her enemies."

Last year, one of my most-anticipated books of 2017 was FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao. I was excited to find out that a book with that much excitement didn't disappoint! If you're looking for a darker fantasy, one with a character likelier to become a villain than a hero, look no further. Even better? You won't have to wait a year to get your hands on the second book like I did! KINGDOM OF THE BLAZING PHOENIX releases on November 6, 2018.

Even cooler? If you pre-order right now and submit your receipt here, you'll receive a signed bookplate, enamel pin(!!!), quote sticker and bookmark. I've already pre-ordered my copy and can't wait to dive in!

Xifeng has been told repeatedly by her Guma that it is her destiny to become Empress of Feng Lu....but only if she sacrifices everything to get there. Xifeng loves Wei, who she has known most of her life. He wants to marry her, but she's unable to fully give him her heart. Her simple yet happy future with him must be sacrificed if she wants to be Empress. Can she accept an ordinary life where nobody knows her name when there is the possibility to be so much more?

I was captivated by Xifeng's journey in very much the same way I was by Adelina in the Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu. Trying to figure out if someone is going to be a hero or a villain as they wrestle with their dual nature is a fascinating character study. You root for them. You fear for them. You want them to do the right thing so they are safe. You can't put the book down because you NEED to know how the story ends and what fate they choose.

The imagery in FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS is beautiful; I love books where the writing takes my breath aware and immerses me even further into the story. Good writing brings a world to life, and as a writer, I'm constantly looking out for books that make my heart tremble with the beauty of its words.

I was also fascinated by the way this novel had a very light sprinkling of Snow White, even as it remained a wholly original work. I'm hoping to see more of that come to life in the companion novel and see this same world from the other side. Thankfully, it's only a duology, so the wait to find out Xifeng's ultimate fate won't be drawn out forever. But I'm also hoping that it's not completely a retelling, because I do want redemption for Xifeng, maybe in the vein of the recently released GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS by Melissa Bashardoust. Villain or hero, I'm eager to return to Feng Lu later this year and watch Xifeng meet her ultimate reckoning.


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG15 ( kissing; sexual innuendo; frank talk of concubines )
Language: --
Violence: PG13 ( Xifeng eats hearts; men are slaughtered before her; many character deaths )
Other: --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I really like this cover; it's striking. It's so delicate, and yet so sinister. The balance is perfect, and reflects Xifeng's inner turmoil so well!

I only wish the finished copy had been embossed, because then it would be extra stunning!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Julie C. Dao
Release Date: September 10, 2017
Publisher: Philomel Books / Penguin Random House
Received: For Review


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. 


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