September 28, 2017

The Coils of Destiny • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns book coverThe minute I heard about Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I knew it was going to be a must-read! This debut novel from Julie C. Dao combines the culture of Eastern Asia with the whimsy of a fairytale, and it is incredible. Centered around Xifeng, a rare beauty with a promising destiny, the story allows the reader to join Xifeng as she follows her path towards becoming the Empress of Feng Lu. In order to achieve her goal, Xifeng must go through heartbreak and horrors alike - and decide, in the end, whether or not her destiny is worth the sacrifices she's going to have to make.

I'm thrilled to be able to say that Forest of a Thousand Lanterns lived up to and, dare I say, surpassed the expectations I had. It was like reading a fairytale, complete with the whimsy, charm and darker undertones of the classic fairytales I read over and over as a child. But it was also an epic fantasy novel all on its own, complete with political intrigue, complicated relationships and impossible magic that reeled me right in from start to finish. In addition to a wonderful story, I also loved the settings, brought to life by the vivid details of locales, clothing, food and culture. 

The one thing I was slightly hesitant about was Xifeng herself. How would I fare with a character who might not necessarily always choose the course that I thought best, who might even stoop to doing *gasp* unlikeable, terrible things? Well, let me tell you, it was all too easy for me to root for Xifeng and her success despite the many things that I didn't necessarily approve of. She's an ambitious girl who chases her deepest desire and won't let anyone or anything get in her way, no matter what she has to do. I admired her just as much as I feared her! I can only conclude that she was deliberately written to be a character you could both feel for and be terrified of, and in that respect, Dao really toed the line successfully. 

In case you were wondering, I adored Forest of a Thousand Lanterns! I enjoyed Xifeng's story, her ambitious journey to get the results she desired. The writing is mesmerizing, the story immersive and it is, without a doubt, a well-constructed, well-told tale. I'm really pleased I enjoyed it as much as I expected to, and I truly look forward to reading the companion sequel (and anything Julie will be writing in the future!)

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao | Series: Rise of the Empress #1
Publisher: Philomel Books | Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Source: ARC received at BEA 2017 (Thanks!)


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