Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

4 stars

Reviewed by Bexie.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was pretty good. This intriguing story instantly captivated me. The story is about eighteen-year-old Xifeng (SHE-fung) who is destined to be Empress of all of Feng Lu. But will she be able to do so with all the people in her way to the palace and the Emperor's heart? Guma, the aunt who is also a witch; Wei, her lover who wont let her go; the Emperor's concubines, Lady Sun and Lady Meng; and the present Empress. Can she do it without embracing the callous magic that runs through her veins, sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed?.

"Xifeng bent over her refection in the pond, her hair spilling over one shoulder. In the moonlight, she could only see the right half of her face. The other half lay in shadow, the eye dark and wild as the night. 'You have two faces. Two beings that live within you, struggling for control. One heart that thrives in the darkness and feeds on the pain of weaker souls. The other longs to stretch a hand to the light, to live and love as others do. Have you never sensed this?' Xifeng stared into the star-scattered water at her own face: one half bright, the other hidden, unknowable."

I loved this story, and would read more of Julie's work but toward the end of the story I started to get annoyed of how Xifeng started to forget who she was and become callous and cold. I also think the story could have ended better. 

"'Life is difficult when you're born a woman into this world. You've entered a game you can't win men make the rules and we are left to be used by them or claw our way to whatever scraps they left behind. But I had this.' She touched her face.' This is how a woman plays the game. It makes men weak and forget they make the rules. She becomes the player and they the pawns."