Author: Julie C. Dao
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings
Series: Rise of the Empress
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Finally, finally. I had anticipated its release because East Asian fantasies are my ultimate favorite. I had a couple of chances to read it but life happened (as you can tell by this blog’s shortage on posts by me). But I finally did it! I finished the book! It’s so lovely.
Okay, so before this I read Julie Dao’s “Pumpkin Patch Princess,” which is very cute and fun. FOTL is definitely nothing like PPP but I enjoyed it so much. Even though this is an anti-hero story and therefore, dark, as expected, I could not help but think of just how pretty everything in the Feng Lu universe is. Julie Dao knows how to build her worlds. Her descriptive use of words can evoke vivid images to the reader’s mind. I even enjoyed how she described Xifeng’s little village at the beginning. I could almost smell the different odors haha. Then the descriptions at the Imperial palace reminded me of the Chinese period piece movies I enjoy watching!
This is a retelling of Snow White. FOTL takes us through Xifeng’s journey and development into the Evil Queen. This is brilliantly told because, from the beginning, the reader would root for Xifeng, but might be able to see her budding dark ambition at the same time. She is not evil from the get-go. She is beautiful, knowledgeable, and talented. But she is also at war with herself.
(Also this is random but while reading, in my head, I pictured her looking like the actress Gong Li, who is excellent at portraying both simple country girls and empresses!)
I have to now wait (im)patiently for the sequel this October!
“She knew her own worth. She would seize her destiny with all the strength and spirit within her, and bend them all to her will: every man kneeling and every woman overshadowed.”
My Rating: ★★★★★