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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress) Hardcover – October 10, 2017
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A Junior Library Guild Selection
"A richly developed fantasy world coupled with an ambitious anti-heroine of complex agency, this story shines and surprises at every turn. Julie C. Dao is a talent to watch."—Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Young Elites
★ "A masterful reimagining of the early life of Snow White’s Evil Queen. Subverting the all-too-white world of fairy tales, this novel will trap readers in a lush, dangerously dark, and often beautiful world from which they will want no escape. Xifeng is . . . richly drawn, complicated, and, at times, vulnerable; her relentless pursuit of power a welcome contrast to princesses of the past who seldom had the confidence or strength to determine their own destinies."—Booklist, starred review
★ "Lushly written . . . The demons [Xifeng] faces are both literal and metaphorical, external and internal, and her tug-of-war with the forces driving her down a dark path makes for tantalizing reading. A fascinating examination of destiny, responsibility, and how choices shape a person."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Rich in detail and full of gore and blood, this dark novel will satisfy ‘Game of Thrones’ fans."—School Library Journal
“A stunning reimagining of the Evil Queen. Filled with treacherous courtesans, dark magic, terrible choices, and bloody hearts, Julie Dao’s exquisite take on this classic villain rises far above the average retelling.”—Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval
"Dark, lush, and intense, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns draws you into a world filled with mystery and intrigue, led by a heroine determined to grasp her destiny. A stunning debut!"—Cindy Pon, author of WANT and Serpentine
“An enchanting debut with a powerful and ambitious lead. Vivid and seductive, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is one of the best debuts of the year.”—Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of Labyrinth Lost
"Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is dark and seductive; beware, this tale will draw you deeper into the forest than you want to go. Disturbingly good."—Stacey Lee, award-winning author of Outrun the Moon
“Magnetic, seductive, and alluring, Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a lush, captivating read about desire and the lengths to which we will go to find our true destiny.”—S. Jae-Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong
"Beautiful, lush, and stunningly intricate, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is this year's must-read fantasy!"—Sandhya Menon, New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi
"Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a stunning debut, a sort of inside-out fairy tale where beauty is a weapon, ambition is armor, and the empire is the battlefield. Xifeng doesn't ask for what she wants—she takes it. This book is dangerous; you should read it."—Jodi Meadows, New York Times bestselling coauthor of My Lady Jane
"Searing and intense, Dao's debut is an outstanding character exploration of fairytales' most enduring and enigmatic characters: the Evil Queen. Equal parts lush and devastating, this is a tale that will grab you by the throat."—Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen
"Julie C. Dao's Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is delicious, addicting, and breathtaking; a book you fall into from the first page to the last. Her rich world is thick with wonder, intrigue, and delightful darkness. Readers will root for Xifeng no matter the choices she must make; we want her to win."—Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles and the Tiny Pretty Things series
"Readers will appreciate the sweeping fantasy saga lifted from East Asian dynasties and endearing characters that are beautifully rendered."—Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will be drawn into the lush, fully realized world of Feng Lu and be intrigued by the sinister forces that awaken within and around Xifeng."—BCCB
About the Author
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.
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This novel is unlike anything I've ever read before and is certainly one of my favorite books I've read this year.
I adore a complex and unreliable main character, and Xifeng beautifully embodies those characteristics. Dao did such a wonderful job of showing Xifeng's backstory, motivations, and human characteristics as well as the darkness lurking inside her. Xifeng might not always be a likable character, but she is an unfailingly fascinating one. Being inside her mind was such a darkly captivating experience, and I am just itching to find out what happens next in her story.
The world-building in this novel is quite frankly stunning. From the richly imagined legends and mythology to the lush setting, the world of a FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS is entirely immersive and an absolute joy to read about.
The plot of the story itself is very character-driven. This is truly a story of Xifeng's transformation from a naive and driven girl to a darkly powerful young woman. While there are several jaw-dropping and intense moments in the story, it isn't as action-packed as many YA fantasy novels. Instead we get focus more on the political maneuverings and character/world development. While that does mean the plot moves more slowly, Dao's writing is so decadent and provocative, I was absolutely addicted to it.
There are some beautiful and heart-pounding romance scenes in this novel. These make for some lovely scenes in the story, without overpowering the overall plot. They are a part of Xifeng's character arc, but they are not the main motivation behind it, and I really appreciated that. Though Xifeng's motivations were far from pure, it was wonderful to see a female protagonist pursuing her dreams and ambitions and prioritizing those above romance.
I was truly blown away by this story and by Xifeng herself. I would highly recommend this to any reader. This is such a unique story, and it truly stands out amongst the many YA fantasy novels I've read this year. I will most eagerly be anticipating the next book in the series.
Xifeng is the perfect antiheroine and watching her descent into villainy was simply delightful. I loved rooting for her to do ever-more evil deeds as part of her quest to become Empress. I can't wait to see how she continues her march towards world domination in the next book.
Dao's writing is lush, setting the dark mood for the book perfectly. I felt like I could practically see the world and all of its magic, while remaining absolutely engaged with the characters.
My one quibble is that I didn't much care for the fast-forward of time that happened at the end of the book. Still, it definitely ended on an exciting note that makes me desperate for more of Xifeng.
Julie has created a rich fantasy, almost fairy-tale, world based in East Asian culture, with characters that pop out of the pages. Xifeng is an interesting protagonist, because, without giving too much away, she’s not your average heroine. Indeed, throughout the whole book, her motives are torn between self-interest and doing what’s right. As the story goes on, one side gradually dominates the other. But needless to say, she’s not always very likable, and it’s to Julie’s credit that you feel any sympathy for her, or root for her in any way.
There are twists to the story, and characters you need to keep an eye on. Things are not always as they seem. This is the first of a multi-novel series, so the book ends on a cliff-hanger, with loose ends that need to be resolved. And that’s probably as much as I can say without spoiling it for you!
I don’t usually read YA Fantasy [Side bar: Xifeng is 18 at the start of the novel, which is a little old for a YA protagonist. Yet the voice and style of the novel is definitely YA, which goes to show, age isn’t everything for YA.], but I looked forward to this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a couple of s-words, and some gruesome images, so on the whole, I’d rate it a PG-15. But it’s elegantly written, and well deserving of your attention. I could see this being picked up by Studio Ghibli, so if you like their movies (think “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”), you’ll particularly enjoy this book. An easy 5 stars.