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.
TW: Family abuse and mild gore
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was a book I was pretty excited for and I’m happy to say that it mostly did not disappoint. From the beginning it was captivating, making me want to turn the pages faster than I could read them because I had to know how it ended. Like some fantasy books, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns has a pronunciation guide which I found very helpful and nice. There were times when I’d forget who a character was (which happens to me often) and I could flip back and see who they were related too and how to pronounce their name.
By the time I got the book I forgot what it was about, just that it was a retelling of Snow White. I thought the main character was Snow White up against the Evil Queen, like the Disney movie. But Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is different, it tells the story through a new perspective and kind of in reverse (it’s hard to explain without too many spoilers). The main character Xifeng is a girl on a mission, she doesn’t let ANYTHING stop her, she’s not afraid to give into darkness and to get dirty for her wishes. I almost feel as if Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is more in the NA category because of it and that Xifeng’s desires (you’d get it if you read the book xD) but it can still be read as a YA book (this is just more of MY OPINION, if you don’t agree then cool).
And the darkness, my friends, is what I did not expect.
I say I like dark fantasy books, I do because they’re different, but sometimes I have moods where I just really dislike darkness. And that’s why I personally give it a 3 but gave it a 4 because I realize the story is good and the world amazing. But this book is brutal, there’s guts and gore and blood and lots of death. It’s not something that I expected from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns at all, even if it is a Snow White retelling (and lets be honest, a lot of the original fantasy stories were incredible dark and most likely bloody). However, this is a personal opinion, I realize that.
Other than my general dislike for the darker plots behind Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I did enjoy the book. The world felt real, the details were like a movie in my mind. Although it’s a retelling it’s original because it’s an East Asian inspired fantasy book (as my book summary says) that’s not something a lot of retellings have (that I have read). And that is what sets Forest of a Thousand Lanterns apart from other books in its genre. The world, the stories behind everything like the Dragon Lord and the Serpent god, the magic of the story, everything is unique.
However, about halfway through I began to lose interest, mostly because I have a lot of homework this year. I almost didn’t want to finish it because I kept putting it aside. But I’m glad I did, I can’t wait for the next book.
Overall I did enjoy Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I liked the world and story but I didn’t expect it to be so dark and bloody. But it was good.
3/5 for personal opinions 🙂