Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East Asian inspired retelling of The Evil Queen and Snow White and The Huntsman. Julie C. Dao did an amazing job of creating an entirely different world, while still following the storyline of the Evil Queen. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is about a girl named Xifeng (she-fung). Xifeng is beautiful, and it is written in the stars that she will be Empress of Feng Lu, but at what cost? Xifeng has been raised by her Aunt Guma in a poor, forgotten village, being prepared to fulfill her destiny. Xifeng struggles with a darkness inside of her, a darkness that tells her to eat the hearts of her enemies to maintain her beauty, and to give up her lover Wei (way) in order to achieve greatness. Xifeng leaves her small village with Wei to go to the Imperial City in pursuit of her destiny. Once in the city Xifeng gets a job as a maid working for the women in the Emperor’s harem, soon she starts to realize that in order for her to achieve greatness, she has to succumb to the darkness and leave Wei.
This was one of the best books I've read in awhile. I absolutely love the way Julie C. Dao describes the scenery and her characters. She gave such good descriptions of the Imperial Palace, and the women in the Emperor’s harem, that you could almost imagine what it would be like. Xifeng’s struggle between good and evil was fascinating. Xifeng has been manipulated by the Snake God and her Aunt her entire life. She has known nothing but a constant focus on fulfilling her destiny. In the beginning of the book, Xifeng leans more towards the goodness in her, and uses her love for Wei to guide her. Once she gets to the Imperial City, she realizes that even though she loves Wei and he loves her, she wants to fulfill her destiny more than she wants to stay with him. Xifeng craves greatness and power, she wants those who have wronged her to feel her wrath, and she wants everyone to fear her.
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. This book is about Jade, Xifengs stepdaughter, and the Emperor's daughter.
Princess Jade has grown up in a monastery hidden away from her stepmother Empress Xifeng. Xifeng calls Jade to the palace under the false pretense of wanting her to see her ailing father. Once Jade leaves the monastery, she realizes that Empress Xifeng’s ruthless way of ruling has put her kingdom in a state of poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want to be Empress, she realizes she must step up and save her Kingdom from Xifeng. On her journey to take back the throne, Jade embarks on a quest to find and unite the Dragon Lords relics with the help of two friends to summon the Dragon Lords army to defeat Xifeng. Along the way, the Serpent God tries to thwart Jade's plans, will he win her over like he did Xifeng, or is Jade strong enough to resist the darkness?
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix was definitely my favorite out of the two books, I really loved Xifeng’s story, but I connected better with Jade’s character. Jade is a loving and kind person who only wants to be a monk, but steps up when she realizes that her Kingdom needs her. On her journey there are many tasks that she must do in order to find the Dragon Lords relics, which she has to bring together in order to summon the Dragon Lords. The tasks that she has to do are something out of a fairy tale, they all test her strengths and weaknesses. Jade’s friends Wren and Koichi are loyal and courageous, they follow and protect Jade throughout her journey, keeping her focused and inspired. Wren is a strong,brave young woman who is determined to break gender norms, and become a soldier. Along the journey Wren proves how great of a warrior she is, fighting men and monsters alike. Because Jade is the Snow White of this story, she has to have a love interest to kiss her and bring her back after eating a poison apple. That love interest is Koichi, a handsome dwarf who is equally as brave and ferocious as Wren. Koichi and Jade form a special connection on the journey that leads to love. I really love how Julie C. Dao rearranged the characters in her version of Snow White. I thought it was really cool that a dwarf played Jade's love interest, I always felt like the dwarfs weren't appreciated enough in Snow Whites story. Overall I would totally recommended this book to anyone that likes Snow White’s story, I would give this book a 10/10.