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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Rise of the Empress, Book 1
Narrated by: Kim Mai Guest
Series: Rise of the Empress, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
4 out of 5 stars (113 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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. 

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. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2017 Julie C. Dao (P)2017 Listening Library

Critic Reviews

"A richly developed fantasy world... Julie C. Dao is a talent to watch." (Marie Lu, number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Young Elites)
"A masterful reimagining of the early life of Snow White's Evil Queen." ( Booklist)
"Lushly written...tantalizing reading." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Wow...

I had my doubts and the story started out pretty slow but it was as terrifying and brilliant as the reviews said. I was wondering which fairy tale this would be and now I know without a doubt... I'm still reeling and wondering if I should even get the next book since I know the story well, but I'm sure curiosity will get the better of me eventually...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Gripping, Dark, and Lovely!

The best flawed character that I couldn't stop rooting for. Then, I felt guilty that I rooted for her and wanted someone to stop her. And then I thought, yes this is her destiny, let her succeed. And then... Yes, this was a story that had my emotions all over the place. Gripping. Dark. And lovely...indeed!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Great if you love political climbing stories!

If you love stories about people scraping their way through the political machinations of a monarchy, this is wonder. Beautifully written and told. Set in a Chinese influenced nation with rich folklore and mythological beings playing into the main action. This story is ultimately not my cup of tea, but that is no knock on the quality of this story. The performance is fantastic and i really enjoyed the reader.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very good.

The story was very good and so was the performance. The only issue I can think of was that it was a bit predictable at some parts. Towards the middle I started to feel as though I was reading from the perspective of the bad guy as if she was going to turn out to be an "Antagonist" as opposed by her early appearance as a "Protagonist".

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Wicked Women

It's pretty rare that I read a book from a villain's point of view in which they aren't framed as really being the hero all along. Xifeng is a complex, interesting woman who has a choice about whom to become. There's a lot about fate/destiny in this book, but at no point was it framed in a way that made it seem as if she couldn't have easily chosen a different path than the one she ultimately made.

I'm glad I listened to the audiobook version of this book because looking at the spelling of Xifeng's name versus how Kim Mai Guest pronounced it, I wouldn't have been able to pronounce any of the names correctly. That being said, it took me some time to get used to Guest's narration style. In the beginning, it sounded far too matter-of-fact, but it became a lot more bearable once I increased the sound speed a little and waited for genuine moments of emotion. As the story progressed, Guest really did a wonderful job of giving the characters emotions and helping me feel what they must be feeling.

The story itself was interesting to me all of the way through. I like political intrigue when it's framed in the right light, and Julie C. Dao did that nicely. I struggled with Xifeng's internalized misogyny a lot. It was never addressed as being a bad thing so much as just-the-way-things-are, and I hate that shit. This book often had some very feminist (like when Xifeng noted how she went from being the property of her Guma to the property of Wei) and very tongue-in-cheek moments (like when one of the concubines - whose name I can't spell because I heard it and did not see it - said she was a protector of women despite treating her maids like trash and harming any woman she viewed at a threat). Obviously, the author wanted this character to seek power in whatever way works best for a woman in a patriarchal setting like this, but by giving her zero female friendships (the one she came closest to was treated as a deception, but half her male friendships she had were genuine and not emotionally treated like a mere tool for her ascension who she could/would betray at any cost). But maybe that was the point. Maybe her lack of real friendships with women could have helped her make better choices. I kind of doubt it, though.

As introspective as Xifeng was about her internal struggle with darkness and light, she maintained that because she wasn't like those dirty, slutty Concubines, she was somehow above them, and I'm exhausted by the treatment of sex workers (especially considering that the youngest one is heavily implied to have not chosen that for herself AT ALL) as being gross and bad. If that's what it had taken for Xifeng to gain power, you better fucking believe she would have done it, too. She just saw a way she preferred and made that work for her. She had her head so far up her ass where other women were concerned she couldn't see she was just like them, maybe even worse. Mighta been the point.

Anyway, four stars for the story and narration. Minus one star for the frustrating treatment of women and those who use their bodies to survive. Coulda been five if the author had addressed it at all.

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Good Story

Good story, it was carefully laid out and the narrator did a great job. I’m looking forward to reading the next one in the series.

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Can't wait for book 2!!!!

I loved this book. The story slowly unfolds and reveals the twisted underbelly of what greed can do a person's soul.

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Wow. Just wow.

Such a massively entertaining story. Based (?) on Snow White, it was fun trying to see which characters would be which and Ms. Dao does a fantastic job of investing you in every single character even with all the twists and turns and even after you figure out who the "bad" guys are.

I so cannot wait for the sequel.

The narrator does a great job with all the different characters. Even tho she doesn't have even close to a "masculine" voice she pulls off every character with just inflection and great character acting.

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Phenomenal

Loved this story and how dark it went, truly devious and need to continue this series for sure! Love the chinese influence and just the whole system of emperors etc.

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Great Premise! Just Not Executed Well

Would you try another book from Julie C. Dao and/or Kim Mai Guest?

I would definitely try another book by Julie C. Doa. She seems to have potential to be a great author!

What do you think your next listen will be?

Currently, I'm listening to Journey to Star Wars: Leia Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Grey and The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe.

What aspect of Kim Mai Guest’s performance would you have changed?

I would definitely have made her voice more lively. It was monotoned throughout most of the book. She did great in portraying the male characters. However, the female characters sounded the same.

Did Forest of a Thousand Lanterns inspire you to do anything?

It quickly became a chore listening to this audiobook. Many times I contemplated returning it for a new audiobook. However, I forced myself to finish it. It was such a boring listen! The audiobook listens like a long drawn-out prologue. There was not much of a plot, and all the characters are one-dimensional. I will not listen or re-read this book again.