Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress, #1)
Author: Julie C. Dao
Publisher: Philomel Books
Edition: ebook edition
Pages: 363 pages
Thank you to Erika of The Nocturnal Fey for allowing me to be part of this blog tour and Penguin Ramdom House for sponsoring the blog tour.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East Asia-inspired fantasy and a retelling of the Evil Queen. Below is an excerpt of the book.
* Synopsis *
An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.
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.
Excerpt from Chapter 7
The stirring within grew more pronounced and she closed her eyes in prayer. Forgive me, great lords, she begged. Forgive me for the lives I have taken. But there was no answer, and no forgiveness . . . only a rising dread that beaded her skin with slick perspiration.
In the silence, the hunger began—deep and primal and fierce, stronger than anger, more potent than lust. The creature preened, its poison caress sending tingles of need into every fiber of her body. She was helpless in the face of its desire, for its craving was hers as well. Satisfying that hunger would cleanse her and restore the perfection of her face as it should be on a journey to her destiny.
Xifeng stabbed into the rabbits, snapping their bones to find their tiny hearts. She slipped both hearts, still beating weakly with the last vestiges of life, between her lips and chewed. The blood scalded her throat as it slid down deep inside her, and she felt a roar of satisfaction echoing from within. A feeling of sated, lazy pleasure filled her being.
She ran her fingers over her face, now as perfect as it had ever been. Her cheek felt raw and clean, like she had simply scrubbed the wound out. If she were to see her reflection again, this time it might be glowing with well-being, inside and out. The knowledge of this power—and of being able to harness it for herself, whenever she wished—was as heady and addicting as wine.
Xifeng jumped, dropping the carcasses in her surprise.
Shiro stood nearby. He stared at her not with desire or admiration, as other men did, but with the dawning horror she’d felt the first time Guma had forced her to eat the squirrel’s heart.
Such a look might have made her quake moments ago. But now she felt strong, flawless. “I trapped these for our morning meal,”she said smoothly, with perfect calm. “I wanted to repay you for sharing your boar with us last night.”
* About the author *
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.
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