Book Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

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Aren’t fairy tale retellings just one of the best things ever?

I love them. Even when I’m not a fan of the original fairy tale itself.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is one such fairy tale that I’ve never really enjoyed and the Evil Queen isn’t a villain I particularly cared about. But hey, it was an East Asian inspired origin story of a villain who doesn’t have an obvious reason for her evil. So I decided to give it a go and, man, I’m glad I did.

Forest of A Thousand Lanterns follows Xifeng, a beautiful village girl who had been informed by her Guma that she was destined for greatness and the throne. Following her destiny would lead her down the path of darkness as the only way to increase her power is to eat the hearts of the recently deceased.

This book focuses on some dark themes but it’s written so beautifully.  You explore dreams and magic, the world of magical beasts and folklore and it’s so fascinating. The main character and her country are clearly inspired by Chinese folklore but there are characters from a Japanese -inspired country as well as others briefly mentioned. Though these other cultures inform the world, at no point do you feel that you need to know more about these cultures than you do and it actually makes you want to go out and read more into them.

Though if this had been more about Japanese culture then I might have known more…oops.

It’s a really well written story that you can’t put down. Xifeng isn’t a likable character, not really, but you’re not pissed into putting the book down either. There’s a fine balance between judging her for her actions and understanding what’s pushing her to make them. The good thing is that you don’t particularly feel sorry for her either. She’s not someone you want to see become good as you can’t see how that would be possible.

The second book is set to follow Snow White – Jade in this world’s story – and that’ll be a sequel I’m interested in seeing.

I really loved this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of reading it.

5/5 Stars

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