Mini-reviews: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns + Empress

pub 10/10/17 by Philomel Books
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received from pub for review
Going into the book, I knew it was a fairy tale retelling with an Asian twist (which I was so here for) but I thought it was about Snow White and had no idea it was actually about the Evil Queen. It was so unexpected and given the point-of-view, a much darker tale than I was anticipating. But that’s exactly what made it so good! It’s not often that you see the anti-heroine perspective in YA Fantasy. It’s usually not easy to connect with (IMHO!) but Dao’s writing is just so vivid, engaging and haunting that I was immediately sucked in. Xifeng is a beautiful girl who’s always longed for more beyond her simple life and according to her cruel aunt and witch Guma, the cards foretell a great future for her. But with greatness comes a price (doesn’t it always?) and it’s something Xifeng constantly struggles with. I think that’s what made her character so compelling. She is undoubtedly ruthless and there’s an evil magic she is only beginning to realize exists inside of her but she questions it. Who is she really? Who does she want to be? Is she ready to give up the comfort of home and the love of a good, young man for greatness? It’s these questions, along with the incredible world-building, that make this story so interesting.

Do I recommend? I do! It’s a strong debut novel from Dao and I am so curious to see where she takes this story next.

pub 10/31/17 by Simon & Schuster
for Young Readers
Young Adult - Science Fiction
Received from pub via Netgalley
Diabolic was one of those books I decided to just give a chance last year. I had never read anything by S.J. Kincaid before and the premise (diabolics are human-hybrids with powerful abilities that are bonded to a single person to protect at all costs) sounded interesting. And wow, I ended up enjoying the book so much! It was a good mix of sci-fi, thriller and romance and I was very invested in the main character, Nemesis, and someone else who becomes very important to the series (especially in this book), Tyrus. It was meant to be a standalone so I was excited to learn there’d be more books, which is where Empress comes in. I typically just jump right into the next book instead of re-reading its predecessors but I actually think it would’ve helped a lot in this case. It took me a bit to get re-acclimated with the world. Once I got my footing though, I was quickly reminded of why I loved these characters. They were facing new challenges, personal and outwardly, and I think the plot was at its strongest when it was Nemesis and Tyrus against the world. But the second half just started to lose its way and the obstacles they faced became so relentless to the point of repetitiveness that I started to think - ugh, when will it stop? I actually felt exhausted by the end of the book.

Do I recommend? I can’t say I’m in a rush to continue the series after reading this installment. But if you’re curious to know how Nemesis’ story evolves, then I say check it out (from the library).


  1. I'm still debating if I'm going to attempt Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. I'm happy it exists but I'm not typically into books about villains . . . being villains. I'm sad you didn't like The Empress more. I loved it though I agree a recap of book 1 would have helped. I read this last month and have been thinking about it ever since. I don't think my jaw left the floor once while I was reading this book and I can't wait to see what happens next.

  2. I think Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was so interesting! The perspective it offered was unique, and I liked finding out what made the Evil Queen the way she was... with the Asian twist ;)


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