Are you tired of reading countless stories of heroines choosing love over glory? Then look no further than Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. In this East Asian-inspired fantasy, our anti-heroine chooses ruthless ambition over the love of her handsome beloved.
Xifeng, a beautiful peasant girl, has always known she was destined for greatness, thanks to her cruel and abusive aunt, the witch Guma. Guma has read the cards and seen Xifeng’s majestic future, a future where she is Empress of Feng Lu. But in order to fulfill her destiny, sacrifices must be made. Once Xifeng gathers her courage and leaves her aunt with her beloved, Wei, she realizes that she went from being her aunt’s possession to his. To capture the power her heart desires, she spurns his love and learns to use sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. In Xifeng’s relentless pursuit of power, she finds a way to get close to the Emperor and embrace the evil blood magic that lives within her.
Xifeng faces demons both literal and metaphorical – demons that create a tantalizing struggle as they force her down a dark path. Xifeng is complicated, filled with jealousies, and, at times, vulnerable. A power-hungry god has sent her on this journey, and, as she makes endless choices, she is transformed. No longer is she a frightened peasant girl. A villain has risen – one who is obsessed with her own beauty (a beauty that she believes is her greatest weapon), is corrupted by a prophecy that promises greatness, and can navigate betrayals and politics with ease.
Julie C. Dao weaves a tale that is lush and detailed, and it works to subvert the world of fairy tales. The choices Xifeng makes and the patriarchal world she inhabits shape her into the legendary Evil Queen, and watching the dark journey is both heartbreaking and glorious.