Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

by Julie C. Dao


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The Wrath and the Dawn meets Snow White and the Huntsman in this dark and mystical East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress.

"A richly developed fantasy world . . . Julie C. Dao is a talent to watch."—Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Young Elites

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 forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and  exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute. 

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns possesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance. Fans of Heartless, Stealing Snow, and Red Queen will devour this stunning debut.

Praise for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

A Junior Library Guild Selection

"A richly developed fantasy world coupled with an ambitious anti-heroine of complex agency, this story shines and surprises at every turn. Julie C. Dao is a talent to watch."—Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Young Elites

★ "A masterful reimagining of the early life of Snow White’s Evil Queen."—Booklist, starred review

★ "Lushly written . . . tantalizing reading."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Rich in detail and full of gore and blood, this dark novel will satisfy ‘Game of Thrones’ fans."—School Library Journal

“A stunning reimagining of the Evil Queen. Filled with treacherous courtesans, dark magic, terrible choices, and bloody hearts, Julie Dao’s exquisite take on this classic villain rises far above the average retelling.”—Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

Magnetic, seductive, and alluring, Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a lush, captivating read about desire and the lengths to which we will go to find our true destiny.”—S. Jae-Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524738310
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/11/2018
Series: Rise of the Empress Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 80,639
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Julie C. Dao ( is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "Forest of a Thousand Lanterns"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Julie C. Dao.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress Series #1) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lush. Dark. Powerful. Full of stunning writing and complex characters, this book is everything I hoped it would be and so much more. You. Need. This.
brittanysbookrambles More than 1 year ago
After waiting for this book for what felt like an eternity, I finally read it and holy crap—I'm in love. I mean, it's about The Evil Queen's rise to power BUT it's also set in a fantasy Chinese-inspired world. If that doesn't have you rushing to add it to your TBR, I don't know what will. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is the tale of how the Evil Queen (a.k.a. Xifeng) gets her throne. It feels as if the Evil Queen herself has been dying to get her story told, and she finally is able to accomplish this with the help of Julie C. Dao. Xifeng is an incredible character. Is she evil? Yes. Is she still fabulous? So much so, that I have heart eyes for days. While her morals are questionable, her drive and her passion are ravishing. She doesn't let anything stand in her way, and I found that to be incredibly inspiring. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns well exceeded all of my expectations. It was dark, enchanting, and utterly alluring. This book will satisfy your need for villain stories, and will quickly have you begging Julie Dao for more. Full review on Brittany's Book Rambles!
ruthsic 9 months ago
Fores of a Thousand Lanterns is a beautifully written story about an ambitious girl who gets in too deep when she plays with dark forces. Ever since she was a kid, Xifeng was told by her guardian and aunt, Guma, that she was destined to be the Empress, and so was raised accordingly. The harsh treatment and abusive childhood made her want to finally be in a position she isn't powerless anymore, and Xifeng finally sets out to meet her destiny when she has had enough. Her path to the throne is lined with her clever manipulations, her subtle subterfuge, as well as the magic running in her veins that helps keep her beauty. Xifeng's story is that of a villian, sure, but also a relatable one. For her, she is the master of her own story, and to meet her destiny, she will take whatever steps are necessary. She grows close to the old Empress (whose second husband is the current Empress) as a means of protection from the concubine who seeks to bully her; eventually, though, she has to struggle between the daughterly feelings she has towards the Empress and her ambition. Also, Xifeng is convinced that there is a 'Fool' who is supposed to obstruct her path, leading her to paranoia over this unknown entity that will be her doom. XIfeng's tale is a tragic one, sure, and a lot of it is about how she was brought up, but the story only justifies, not excuses her actions - she still choses to do those terrible things, because she wants glory and power over a happy but simple life. Her deeds are to reach a place where she isn't under the power of someone else, and the surest way for that is for her to be Empress. The magic in this world is not a prominent part, but it does drive the plot. While Xifeng has power in her veins, she seeks to get a power independent from that of a god or a king. The characters and their relationships was one thing that was well done in the book, though it does suffer from the tragic trope of 'women being jealous of other women for no good reason'. The pace is probably where this book suffers, too; it feels long-drawn and not that impactful when it came to certain events. On the whole, though, I loved the author's take on the Evil Queen legend, bringing in subtle allusions to the original story while also keeping the Asian setting. Additionally, it has a wonderful narrator who brings the story alive.
JLAustin More than 1 year ago
I adored this story, though I wish I would have realized it was an evil queen from Snow White origin story. I would have been rooting for her wickedness, not for her to do better. Regardless, it was a fantastic read and I enjoyed it so much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recommend for readers who like anti-hero stories
booksatdawn More than 1 year ago
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao is the first book in East Asian inspired fantasy retelling of the Evil Queen. It follows Xifeng as she goes from being a poor village girl to the Empress' lady in waiting and has her sights set on being the next Empress. With dark magic flowing through her veins, she must combat between the good and evil inside her. But is it too much for her to handle? HOLY MOLY BOOKWORMS. If you haven't read this one yet, then I don't know what you are waiting for. This was hands down one of my favorite reads of 2017! I loved pretty much everything about it. I can barely contain my excitement as I write this. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was lustrous and visually appealing to my imagination. Dao takes you on a magical adventure filled with beauty, power, love, and deceit. The way her writing ebbed and flowed made it enjoyable to read and easy to follow. It was laced with vivid descriptions, beautiful atmospheric scenery, and swoon-worthy dialogues. My favorite character was hands down Xifeng. It's been a while since I last read an anti-hero type character like her. I was rooting for her to do the right thing, but also secretly enjoying her evil side. You could tell it was always a battle inside her when it came to unleashing her dark magic. She was equal bits kind and cruel, beautiful and hideous, good and evil. Her character growth was astounding. The plot was also very fast moving as well. You would think a journey from being a poor village girl to the imperial palace to becoming a handmaiden, and trying to take the throne all in one book would be too much to handle, but Dao does so without taking away from character development and world building. I thought everything was done so precisely. I know there is so much more to come in the sequel, especially after that ending, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. If you haven't picked up Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, then I highly recommend you do so. You won't be disappointed.
LittleFoxAndReads More than 1 year ago
This book…wow. The writing is GORGEOUS and the story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It would be classified as a YA retelling of Snow White with the origin story of the evil queen but this book is so original and so unlike the classic and other YA fantasy books that I’d say it deserves its own sub-genre. Reading this book felt like going through every range of emotion in a minute- Dizzying. Horrifying. Elating. Forest of A thousand lanterns is a re-imagining of the Evil queen’s story set in an imperial, Chinese-inspired world. If you’re even thinking about comparing it to other YA retellings, don’t bother. This book goes THERE. Just when you think things are getting too bloody, you have someone cutting out and eating hearts; just when you think it’s too dark, it gets darker. Xifeng is an anti-heroine in its truest form. She will go places you’d never have imagined. Dark, horrifying, and brutal places. Just when you think she couldn’t possibly do any worse, she does much much worse. She’s a complex character that you’ll be rooting for under all circumstances. This book starts off with Xifeng as a peasant girl living a miserable life with her aunt whom she has a toxic relationship with. Her aunt is a witch and brought Xifeng up drilling into her that her destiny is to be an empress. And Xifeng is ambitious; so ambitious that she sets off on a long, heart-breaking, and testing journey just to fulfill it. On this journey, she’ll sacrifice a lot and she’ll endure too much, but she goes through it with gritted teeth. Xifeng truly terrified me one too many times and she goes to unspeakable distances to get what she needs but I just can’t help admiring her. A character doesn’t have to be likable to win me over and boy did Xifeng win me over. I loved watching her gain agency and it drove me crazy watching her teeter so close to the dark side but I adore this character. Every time she does the unthinkable I find myself cringing and despairing but cheering at the same time. Xifeng has the good and the bad at war within her and I enjoyed witnessing that. I love that she’s vain and wicked and selfish but also loyal and caring. I love that she’d stop at nothing to get what she wants. This book was truly a mind-churning journey but it payed off in the end (understatement of the year). That brutal, horrifying ending had me sad and slack-jawed and slow-clapping The first half was admittedly hard for me to get through because it was slow-going and a bit uneventful, but the second half is truly mind-blowing and more than made up for it with all the palace intrigue, politics, seduction, and evilness. An absolute must-read. Push through till the end even if you’re having doubts, it’s worth it. Note: I received this ARC as part of Miss Print’s ARC Adoption Program. So, special thanks to Emma! TRIGGER WARNINGS: • Violence and gore. • Whipping and beatings
Ashdaisy More than 1 year ago
This turned out to be a treat! It is very slow to start, I would say it picked up around the 30% mark or so, so you have to stick with it. It’s worth it. Xifeng is a great antiheroine. Sometimes I found myself liking her and rationalizing with her in spite of myself. There really isn’t a whole lot of YA antihero stories out there, so I’m glad I read this. All of the side characters are great. I really loved Jun, I don’t know what it is about him but he was just perfect to me. I’m excited to see where this story goes in the sequel, I really have no idea what to expect
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
Thanks to NetGalley and Philomel Books for the opportunity to read and review Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. Xifeng lives with and under the control of her Aunt Guma in a poverty-stricken kingdom where the king forces young women to be his concubines. Guma uses magic that makes others suspicious and cautious. She’s reading cards for Xifeng’s future and the cards state that Xifeng is going to be Empress someday. Xifeng and her boyfriend Wei leave the village for their freedom and their futures. They each discover something new about themselves and each other. This debut novel contains unique elements. The protagonist also seems to be the antagonist and as the story unfolds the theme seems to change. I’m fascinated with Xifeng and her reasoning with all of her actions as well as the beautiful relationship she has with Wei. An impressive, entertaining first novel by Julie C. Dao! 5 stars! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars I was 100000% on board with this story as soon as I saw that it was an evil queen reimagining. I really liked Xifeng. She’s determined and calculating and I enjoyed being in her head while she strategized. There were a few other characters who were intriguing, but I couldn’t be bothered to get involved with them as I fully expected everyone to die. Plot wise, it took a bit of time to really get started. I wasn’t fully captivated until more than halfway through it and I only continued because I saw several other reviews saying it got better. The imagery was gorgeous and I was definitely interested in the world building. Overall, it was a fantastic reimagining and I loved how the story unfolded. I was expecting a bit more from the ending, but somehow it was still satisfying. I am quite eager to see what happens next. **Huge thanks to Philomel for providing the arc free of charge**
Fantastic_Book More than 1 year ago
First off, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. I honestly don’t recall reading a story through the eyes of an anti-heroine. But gosh darn it, I enjoyed every page of this book. Dao’s writing is impressive and captivating. I couldn’t put this book down if I wanted to! Xifeng’s journey was dark and twisted and I LOVED it! I never thought I would be rooting for someone to partake in nefarious activities to achieve power. Dao did not disappoint in crafting this beautifully vivid world with complex characters, fascinating, culture, and flawless plot. That ending couldn’t have been more perfect. I didn’t want the story to end and after I turned the last page, I just wanted more of this richly imagined book that is PERFECTION. This book for sure is in my top 10 books of 2017.
YAandWine More than 1 year ago
With its richly imagined world and wonderfully diabolic antihero, FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS is a haunting debut that readers won't soon forget. This novel is unlike anything I've ever read before and is certainly one of my favorite books I've read this year. I adore a complex and unreliable main character, and Xifeng beautifully embodies those characteristics. Dao did such a wonderful job of showing Xifeng's backstory, motivations, and human characteristics as well as the darkness lurking inside her. Xifeng might not always be a likable character, but she is an unfailingly fascinating one. Being inside her mind was such a darkly captivating experience, and I am just itching to find out what happens next in her story. The world-building in this novel is quite frankly stunning. From the richly imagined legends and mythology to the lush setting, the world of a FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS is entirely immersive and an absolute joy to read about. The plot of the story itself is very character-driven. This is truly a story of Xifeng's transformation from a naive and driven girl to a darkly powerful young woman. While there are several jaw-dropping and intense moments in the story, it isn't as action-packed as many YA fantasy novels. Instead we get focus more on the political maneuverings and character/world development. While that does mean the plot moves more slowly, Dao's writing is so decadent and provocative, I was absolutely addicted to it. There are some beautiful and heart-pounding romance scenes in this novel. These make for some lovely scenes in the story, without overpowering the overall plot. They are a part of Xifeng's character arc, but they are not the main motivation behind it, and I really appreciated that. Though Xifeng's motivations were far from pure, it was wonderful to see a female protagonist pursuing her dreams and ambitions and prioritizing those above romance. I was truly blown away by this story and by Xifeng herself. I would highly recommend this to any reader. This is such a unique story, and it truly stands out amongst the many YA fantasy novels I've read this year. I will most eagerly be anticipating the next book in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ALL THE STARS!!! This swept me away from the first chapter and I'm so sad this dark dream is over! The writing is vibrant, poetic, yet just as direct as its protagonist. Xifeng is unapologetically ambitious and I just wanted this story to last forever. She is the Slytherin princess I never knew I needed! Her rise from lowly peasant to life in the palace reads like a magical, disturbing Jane Austen / royal court drama and I was completely addicted to her bold game of chance and fate. I can't recommend this enough--it's probably the best dark fairy tale I've ever read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really really liked FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS. I stayed up until about 3AM finishing it! If you like YA fantasy, I think you'll enjoy it—especially if you like rooting for the villain! It's a great reimagining of the Evil Queen from Snow White.