I first heard about Forest of a Thousand Lanterns at BookCon this year when I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Julie C. Dao at Penguin Teen breakfast. I loved the idea of another fairy-tale retelling, and lord knows we need more diverse characters, so the Far East setting was a huge turn on.
Unfortunately I think I may have missed the memo that this was the a retelling of Snow White’s Evil Queen, not Snow White herself and oh my… when I finally realized what I was reading, I was… concerned.
Finishing this book and dealing with the subsequent ‘meh’ feelings that followed can be summed up into one idea: “it’s not you, its me.”
I really wanted to love Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and my rating has nothing to do with the character development, the plot, or the writing in general. I actually thought the East Asian setting was gorgeous and visual and lush, and basically everything a reader needs. The world building was intense, vivid, and unique. I have not read many East Asian stories, but I loved Feng Lu, and I loved all of the different characters and creatures Xifeng encountered in her story.
I just wasn’t that into Xifeng’s journey. At first I thought it was because Xifeng is the anti-heroine, but after I finished the book, I don’t think that’s quite it. I am drawn to some villains in literature, I don’t always root for the good guy. Upon reflection, my main issue with Xifing was how vain and superficial her story turned out to be. While it makes sense in the context of the fairy tale of Snow White and the Evil Queen, I never found myself nodding in agreement to her decisions or feeling that she was wholly justified in anything. Even though her journey is really, really well done. I actually thought that the pacing and events that brought Xifeng to her villanous climax felt right, even if I didn’t personally agree or connect with them.
Basically, the previous paragraph summed up in one statement: I had a huge disconnect with the main character, and made it difficult for me to love the story.
BUT. BUT. I have… suspicions… about some plot points and characters that are going to be the focal point of the next book, and if I turn out to be right I am going to be super excited for the sequel! Unfortunately, if Xifeng is the star again, I may have to pass.
Huge thanks to Penguin Teen though for including this ARC in their Game Changers promo this year, and sending a copy my way!