This has been a read I have been waiting for and I was lucky to get it through trade! I also participated in a chat on Twitter about this book and Julie is such a sweet person!
Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of an Empress
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Another anticipated read vanquished! I devoured this book, in all honesty, because I had been wanting to read it for so long. This book follows Xifeng, who is a country girl in China destined to become Empress. How, exactly, it is not mentioned but she leaves her village with her one true love and sets course for the Imperial City. Along the way, they meet diplomats who are able to escort them into the city. Through a series of good fortunes, Xifeng enters court at the palace and is thrown into a whirlwind of deceit, drama, and truth.
Xifeng has to be one of my favorite female characters of the year. She comes from poverty and not being very sure of herself because of the oppression she has felt from her aunt. There are some scenes of abuse in this book so I will definitely give a trigger warning for that. But, she overcomes it and grows into her role at court very easily, even gaining the favor of the current Empress. She is torn between liking the Empress and what she does to protect her, to the reality that the Empress will have to die in order for her to take her rightful place on the throne. It has been foretold through cards that she would become Empress and it seems like everything works out just as planned for Xifeng. I would have to say that while she does go through some struggles, she becomes stronger because of these struggles and she is able to develop into the character she is destined to be. By the end of the book, the first chapter Xifeng is unrecognizable, as she has changed so much and gained power. I love the character development of her and it is one of the most pleasingly drastic I have seen. I also have to say that I enjoyed the Chinese traditions that were mentioned in this book and I can’t wait to hear more in book 2!
I will say that the main plot brought the book together with the side plots that were developed. I was surprised when all was revealed towards the end of the book and that kept me guessing for the rest, because I didn’t know what was going to happen! The larger backstory is something that was so interesting and only added to the interest of the story.
I would suggest this book to those who are fans of retellings (as this is one) as well as those who enjoy diverse reads and want to be astounded!
Happy reading! ~ Taylor