I really loved Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and I was finally able to read the sequel and I really loved how everything turned out!
You can read my review of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns here
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?
While book one focused on an origin story for the evil queen, this book is a diverse retelling of snow white. I’m not particularly a fan of snow white but I really loved how Julie took the main themes and elements of the story and made it so much more vivid and fascinating!
We don’t get to see a lot of Xifeng in this story, only as much as Jade interacts with her, but I still loved what we saw of her. She is still ruthless and cunning and will still do what’s necessary for her to stay empress but she has realised that she may have paid a too high price but is too far in to do anything to change that. She is bound to the serpent god now whether she wants to or not.
Jade is a reluctant heroine who only decides to defeat Xifeng because she sees the way that Xifeng is destroying the empire. She is kind and caring and smart which makes everyone instantly like her. She becomes friends with some great characters. Julie does a great job in showing us how Jade would be as empress in the way she interacts with the people she is with and especially those lower in station than her.
I also really loved seeing a great female friendship in this book between Jade and Wren. I loved seeing the female empowerment in this book too especially as we see Wren, who is a fighter and Jade who is so different from her yet they are both shown as empowered.
I really loved seeing the great world building in this book. The first book takes place mainly in the palace and surrounding areas yet Jade travels to lots of different places in her quest for the artefacts, so through her we see the different parts of this world. I also loved that it just felt part of the story and not info dumpy.
I did however feel that during the quest, it felt a little slow at times and things were a little too conveniently put there and I just wanted that little bit more struggle and stakes to get the artefacts. I really enjoyed the ending though and the revelations that we find out! Some I did manage to figure out but others I didn’t. It was an action packed ending and had me on the edge of my seat.
Overall I really enjoyed this duology and do recommend reading them. They are both quite different from each other yet they complement each other. You can also read one without reading the other.