BWW Review: FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao
"She would bloom where she was planted and let her roots close around the throats of her enemies."
~FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS
FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS has been one of my most-anticipated books of 2017. I'm happy to tell you that Julie C. Dao's debut novel doesn'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.
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 sequel next year -- and 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 next year and watch Xifeng meet her ultimate reckoning.