Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Review
Updated: Jan 21
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 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.
For this review, I'm going to do something a little different. I'm not going to do a pros and cons list, I'm just going to give my final thoughts on the novel. Warning some spoilers ahead.
So I love fantasy, I love fairy tales, and I'm a huge unashamed Disney fangirl. So when I hear that this book was going to be a retelling of the Evil Queen, I was super excited. I loved how Once Upon a Time had done it, I was so ready for a new take.
This book is beautifully written. I kept pace with it, though halfway through reading it, I did switch to audiobook due to my work schedule. I kept wondering how they were going to bring in the "Snow White" character. I can see that Xifeng was the Evil Queen that I knew from childhood.
That being said. I couldn't stand any of the characters, well I liked Shiro and Hideki, but you barely saw them. Reading this book, I felt no sympathy for Xifeng, she was arrogant and naive. She was naive, because she continued to allow herself to be manipulated by her aunt, and she was arrogant because her aunt told her she was destined for greatness. That's it, she didn't earn her arrogance by doing something amazing. She meets the Tengaru Queen who flat out tells her that her "Destiny" is a choice, and she chooses to be an evil person. She wasn't slighted, there's no vengeance, there's no feeling that she's doing the right thing, there's only her wanting power and doing whatever it takes to get it.
Then there's all the female hate, I don't think there's a single female character that didn't treat the other females like they're subhuman. All that jealously and bitterness. That despite knowing it's not necessary to go along and be nasty to anyone with a uterus. Which also ties into everyone's looks. This just didn't apply to the women either, the men were judged by their appearance too. It was too much to constantly see a new character and the first thing they focused on is "Well they're Beautiful/Handsome or ugly"
Don't get me wrong, I get it. I get why there's a beauty obsession, I get why there's girl hate, but I don't have to like it and I won't. I won't ignore my displeasure with it, because there's a "reason" for it.
Now, the main reason I'm doing the review this way is that despite hating the characters, it was a really good book. I gave it four stars on my Goodreads, I do recommend it to many others because I know that my issues with this book are my issues and others might not feel as strongly as I do about it and I try to be as fair objective, and honest as possible when reviewing.
So Forest a of Thousand Lanterns is a really good book with garbage characters and I'm probably going to read the sequel so I can get my paragon characters to wipe the bad taste these renegade characters left in my mouth.
Rating Style: Amazing Great Good Meh Bad Horrible Garbage
Overall Rating: Good