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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

(Rise of the Empress #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  8,321 ratings  ·  2,145 reviews
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 for
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Philomel Books
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Helen Liu Yes. Wei (Xifeng's childhood lover) is in love with Xifeng. But, in order to fulfill her destiny in becoming Empress of Feng Lu, she goes to the Imper…moreYes. Wei (Xifeng's childhood lover) is in love with Xifeng. But, in order to fulfill her destiny in becoming Empress of Feng Lu, she goes to the Imperial Palace, where she creates a spark with the emporor.

You should really read this book. It's excellent. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series (I think it should be 'Rise of the Phoenix') coming out in October 2018. Seems like a long time to wait....but DEFINITELY worth the wait!) :)(less)
Helen Liu It's more of a third-person narrative, coming from Xifeng's view.…moreIt's more of a third-person narrative, coming from Xifeng's view.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Emily May
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult, 2017
“Beware, Xifeng, of magic that comes too easily. There is a price for everything, as she learned and you, too, will learn. Some magic requires blood. Other magic requires a piece of your own self and eats away at your soul.”

4 1/2 stars. In short: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East Asia-inspired fantasy in which a young woman chooses ruthless ambition and power over the love of a hot guy. Halle-freaking-lujah.

I should probably say this is not for readers who must like the protagonist in
Marie Lu
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adore an anti-heroine story, and Julie C. Dao achieves this with flying colors in a lush, richly developed fantasy world of myth, monarchy, and magic. Xifeng is an unusual and wonderfully complex protagonist of ambitious agency--I couldn't stop reading about her journey! Go pre-order this beauty immediately. ...more
Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: retellings, fantasy
This was SO good and I'm just really angry that it took me so long to read it (or listen to it actually). I loved how it twisted a lot of the typical elements of fantasy but also added the richness of the culture it was thoroughly steeped in. A great retelling overall that I HIGHLY recommend!

*I read this as part of Penguin Teen's Fall Into Fantasy readathon where this was my featured buddy read.*
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
October 2017 Fairyloot Box. We got two books. I added a link to all of the stuff in close up under the picture =)


I thought it was alright.

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐾🐺
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a dark and gruesome, !!!East Asian!!! fantasy about Xifeng, a beautiful peasant girl who has always been told that she is destined for greatness.

Xifeng is raised by her abusive aunt/Guma who longs to fulfill Xifeng's destiny, the cards have predicted. They show Xifeng's future full of power and as Empress, but with great power comes great sacrifice and difficult obstacles to pass. Sick of her aunt's abuse, Xifeng ceases the opportunity to run away with her lover
this is a tricky one to rate because theres something about the story that makes it sooo boring, but quite interesting at the same time. its difficult to describe, but no matter how monotonous i thought this was, i still kept reading. many would describe this as a good thing, but i wanted the writing/story be better in the first place.

most of the boredom came from the MC. she is extremely self-centred and only cares about her looks. i understand this is a retelling of the evil queen and vanity i
Elle (ellexamines)
“I was a born a woman into this world,” she said, echoing the concubine’s words. “And I will play the game, but I won’t lose.”

I’m not mad, I’m just… a little disappointed.

okay okay okay actually let me level here: I LOVE Xifeng. love her so much Julie C. Dao knew what she was DOING with that character.
“But in weakness, you find your strength. You leave pieces of yourself in everyone you love. Is that not the greatest power, to endure in that way?”
“I don’t know,” Xifeng sai
♛ may
Full review posted

I don’t think this book is TERRIBLE, I just think that the synopsis DECEIVED me and I’ve faced too much betrayal from my loved ones books to continue being a victim to such treachery I’m lying, I clearly never learn since I keep reading kasie west books

Pros *this gonna be short oops
- Asian setting!!!!!!!!
- its pretty gruesome, so if you’re into that it might appeal to you I guess :|
- um…girl power but done like sneakily so youre not sure if the characters are evil-villainou
Rosaline (Rosaline's Rolls & Scrolls)
This review can now be found on Rosaline's Rolls & Scrolls.

Previously on Rosaline's Rant Reviews:

I like my fantasy books dangerous and gritty. With strong, capable, and witty characters who capture my heart, shred it to pieces, and put it back together again. I want to see character growth, I want to see cunning, I want to see power play. And most of all I want fantasy!

Yes, OMG, yes!


This is what I have been waiting for! Destiny, power play, and dirty politics. Characters who are not afrai
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I feel weird saying I relate to the main character because she's clearly the villain but I. FUCKING. RELATE.
Dec 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This book was powerful, intense, dark and amazing. I loved the Asian setting and the themes that ran through it. I loved our antiheroine, Xifeng. This queen was ruthless and beautiful and I was here for it.

The plot. This was an Eastern-Asian retelling of the Evil Queen from Snow White. And I loved it. It was so dark and enchanting – much like our protagonist herself – and I read so intensely. Totally worth rereading. One of the best fairytale retellings I’v
Wren (fablesandwren)
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.

How could I not fall under the spell of this book? HOLY BATMAN I cannot express how beautifully dark this book is. This book is a typical-folklore fairy: beautiful and hypnotizing and just brings you in with your words... but it’s super creepy and probably going to kill you.

Xifeng is a victim of abuse. Her aunt took her in once her
Sara (sarawithoutanH)
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
What I Liked
• I enjoyed that the story followed the making of a villain rather than the making of a hero.
• Overall, I liked Xifeng as the main character. Her focus was less on romance and more on her end goals.

What I Disliked
• I didn't really love the writing. There were times that it was very nice and other times that I just didn't vibe with it. The quality wasn't consistent.
• The pacing of the story. The beginning felt too long and the end felt too rushed.
• I really did not like Wei and I
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"She was a monster, a bride of the darkness, and she rose to face her destiny as though it were the blood red sunrise of a new day."

Ok ok I finally have time to write a review. I'd like to start off with a big loud pterodactyl screech that might convey how unique and amazing this book was. I am thoroughly impressed. The entire plot was so well thought out and the characters were beautifully written (even if some of them were brutal as hell... yeah I'm looking at you Xifeng). Basically, I lov
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
This was definitely slow to start, but I'm already absolutely dying to read the second book. I was invested in this book because I knew the main character was supposed to be ruthless, and I was not misled in any way. If you're looking for an origin story that's dark and twisty, this one is fantastic.
She was special, with every bite, every stream of blood spurting from her ravenous mouth. She was a monster, a bride of the darkness, and she rose to face her destiny as though it were the blood-red sunrise of a new day.
This book is so gloriously BRUTAL. One word of warning, this book is certainly not for faint hearted, if you want a glint of hopefullness and happiness then go away because this book is certainly not for you. Forest of thousand lanterns follow the story of 18 year old
Natalie Monroe
"Let no one stand in your way. If they face you, your beauty will entrap them. If they turn away, you will stab them in the back."

Chalk up 'Snow White retelling from the POV of the wicked queen, set in imperial China' to the list of things I never knew I needed. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is so vindictive and brilliant and and blade-edged in its message.

"She touched her face. 'This is how a woman plays the game. It makes men weak and forget they make the rules. She becomes the player
"In weakness, you find your strength. It takes no small amount of courage to open yourself up"

Spoiler Free Review!

Holy shit this was amazing! I have no idea what to think when I went into this... but not THAT! Firstly it's partly a re-telling that has set up the second book perfectly, then we have an anti-heroine (which I didn't even know about!), it's dark and twisted but so gripping. The progression of the book moved at a gradual pace, nothing seemed to be rushed. Not only this the writing was
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

“I believe our lives have already been decided, and it is our purpose to make the choices that lead us to that fate.”

🌟 I have taken the decision to read and not read this book multiple times. I am a big fan of Dark Fantasy but most of my friends said that it was mediocre/ Meh. I finally decided to give it a chance since book 2 is out now.

🌟 The book started very good. It also had a prophecy whi
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Five-starring in advance because Julie is fabulous, her writing is fabulous, and diasporic authors have EVERY RIGHT to pen Asian-inspired fantasy without being cut down or degraded for it.
Kate (GirlReading)
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a fantasy as much as I enjoyed this. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was dark, gritty, unique and unpredictable. I thought the way the narrative of the Evil Queen was woven into the story was so incredibly clever and Xifeng was one of the most intriguing and complex protagonists (antagonist?!) I’ve encountered in a while. The wait until the next book in this series is going to be a painful one but I have no doubt it will be worth it.
✨    jami   ✨
Sep 21, 2018 marked it as dnf
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
dnf @ 30%

I'm really not getting into this. The writing style or characters just aren't drawing me in at all and I'm at page 150 and feel like nothing has happened. I decided to read the last page too see what was happening and nothing really intrigued me to want to read this. Plus feels a waste of time to read a book I know I probably won't rate very high. I don't think this book is bad it's just not working for me
CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
*rubs temples* I really wish I liked this because I was really looking forward to this, but, I'm sorry friends, I was not a fan (and at most, 'it was ok').

- First, I found the worldbuilding... weird. Indeed, it is Asian-inspired, but I felt liked what made it 'Asian-inspired' was superficial and inconsistent. I don't believe that the story should embody an essentialist notion of 'Chineseness'/'Asianness', but it should be consistent, immersive, and rich - which it was not.
- I couldn't get inve
lily ☁️
This was both boring and weirdly addictive? But it kept me from slumping (courtesy of We Are the Ants), so I’m giving it three stars.

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Joshee Kun (조수아)
I've been watching a K-drama called Empress Ki, so now, I can't help but imagine Xifeng as Ha Ji-won and Emperor Jun as Ji Chang-wook. <3 Hahaha, I'm such as helpless fanboy. xD



3.5 stars

Ahhh, this was a pretty solid debut novel, and a great start of a promising series! Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East Asian retelling of the Evil Queen's origin story before she became Snow White's stepmother, and it is everything I wanted it to be.

First of all, SHE DOESN'T BECOME EVIL BECAUSE OF A DUDE. I love my villains and I am a sucker for a good origin story, but my main pet peeve is when a female villain becomes evil because a guy wronged her. Sure, there's a guy in here,
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Non-spoiler book review here:

Written review:

I went into this book hoping for the origin story of a villain and I was not disappointed in the least.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns follows the story of Xifeng. A young woman who is told she is destined for power and leadership... the be the empress of the kingdom. According to the cards her abusive witch aunt reads, the journey is not going to be easy and will test her. Xifeng leaves her aunt behind with her
Cindy ✩☽♔
Feb 15, 2017 marked it as to-read
Cover Reveal: Good old Asian vibes

But re-reading the synopsis and seeing, "she must spurn the young man who loves her..."
Me: Wait, does she love him too? OMG am I gonna be heartbroken again by another tragic love story!? Ugh my heart is not ready!!!
 photo tumblr_inline_okpfg2ih8W1tcvb41_500_zpsgcryf8ug.gif
It just makes me so happy when I see Asian protagonists because I saw so few of them growing up. Now with books getting a little more and more diverse, I get to see them more often, and it is just so nice.
 photo giphy_zpscca5ixvd.gif
Maggie ☘
*3.5/5 stars*

“She would bloom where she was planted and let her roots close around the throats of her enemies.”

I was always intrigued by stories of villains or anti heroes in fantasy books. And I think it's something the YA genre needs more of, because it has so much potential to be different from many other generic - or too similar - books in the genre. Coming into this book, I didn't realize it would be so reminiscent of Snow White from the evil queen's point of view. It's not the same an
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Julie C. Dao is the author of several acclaimed novels for teens and children, including FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS and BROKEN WISH, published by Disney Books. A proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York, she now lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

Julie is represented by Tamar Rydzinski of Context Literary Agency.

Pronunciation: JOOL-lee DOW
Pronouns: She/H

Other books in the series

Rise of the Empress (2 books)
  • Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Rise of the Empress, #2)

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