cover image Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Julie C. Dao. Philomel, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3829-7

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is destined to become the empress of Feng Lu, and although she is initially uncertain about this foretold fate, the power it promises becomes too much to resist. Demons and bloody magic keep Xifeng’s face preternaturally beautiful and help her harness the power of her rivals in debut author Dao’s lushly written first book in the Rise of the Empress series, set in an East Asian fantasy landscape and inspired by Snow White’s evil queen. Inhabiting a role usually reserved for the villain, Xifeng schemes her way into the palace, losing her lover Wei in the process. The demons she faces are both literal and metaphorical, external and internal, and her tug-of-war with the forces driving her down a dark path makes for tantalizing reading. As she strives for wealth and becomes well versed in betrayal and politics, part of her longs for a simple life like the one she left behind, brutal though it often was. A fascinating examination of destiny, responsibility, and how choices shape a person. Ages 14–up. Agent: Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary. (Oct.)