I read a lot of mixed reviews for this book, and most focused on one aspect: the main character. Do note that I did not call her the protagonist. There’s a reason for it. I get why Xifeng is such a polarizing character to discuss, but for once, I didn’t hate the antiheroine for putting the “anti-” in antiheroine. Xifeng does questionable things, and that made this is very interesting book to read…
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East Asain imagining of the Evil Queen legend. Xifeng is our dark Evil Queen on the rise. She begins the book with humble–and dark magic-filled–beginnings. She runs away from her abusive aunt with the love of her life, Wei, to pursue the destiny her aunt foretold of Xifeng for years: becoming the Empress of Feng Lu.
YA books have plenty of villains and antiheros, but rarely are these character types the protagonist for the book. Xifeng is a rarity, though this rarity was not apparent at first. Though the book is billed as an Evil Queen origin story, Xifeng doesn’t seem so “evil” at first. Then she does something you can’t turn back from. I came for this book for an Evil Queen story, and got what I wished for. A somewhat sympathic, but ultimately awful human being for a main character. Kudos to the author for fulling embracing what this story needed to be, instead of spending too much time making us like Xifeng.
This book is about Xifeng, and is incredibly character centric, so much of the other parts of the book pale in comparison. There are great side characters, both friends and enemies of Xifeng alike.
The weakest part of the book is definitely the romance. I didn’t like Wei even when Xifeng had her heart set on him, and not on her destiny. Though the Emperor is a sketchy person himself, he is a better match for Xifeng than Wei ever was. The Emperor and Xifeng are power hungry individuals with dark secrets. They deserve to be together, and then taken down together.
The threads built for the Snow White story were the most exciting. I kept wondering and guessing who Snow White would be, then realized my guessing was for nothing because Snow White (White Jade in this story) doesn’t appear until late in the story.
This also leaves me guessing a lot at the sequel. Will this continue to be from Xifeng’s POV? Will we hear from White Jade at all? I hope we keep Xifeng as narrator…it would be an excellent change of pace to read the classic Snow White tale from POV of the villain, especially since we all know the villain is defeated. Or will Xifeng prosper over all in this series? By going from Xifeng’s perspective, the author certainly has some interesting plot lines and changes to explore in future books. I have high hopes for these potential twists, and eagerly await this sequel.