Once upon a time, there was a peasant girl whose beauty enraptured the Emperor of Feng Lu. He whisked her away from the poverty of her hometown, into a life of luxury and ease in the royal harem. She who had never known anything but dust and exhaustion now saw her wildest dreams fulfilled.
This is not her story. This is the story of one who watched her leave, burning with envy. This is the story of Xifeng- scarred, bitter Xifeng, who would do anything to gain a crown.
This is not the story of a heroine. This is the story of the Evil Empress.
Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns is a YA novel by Julie Dao, released in 2017.
This book includes the following tropes:
- Cassandra Truth: Xifeng guiltily enjoys sadistic fantasies of murdering her romantic rival, despite knowing they are morally wrong. When she confides in Wei about them, he assumes it's just bog-standard jealousy that she shouldn't worry about. (Partly justified by the fact that the primitive society they live in barely understands mental illness, much less 'a God of Evil is trying to corrupt people's souls'.)
- Love Makes You Stupid: Wei ignores Xifeng's (entirely justified) concerns about her morality mostly because he loves her.
- More Than Mind Control: The Serpent God is responsible for the sadistic fantasies that Xifeng occasionally has- nothing else. It did not make her travel to the Imperial City or kill her court rivals, something it explicitly spells out during the finale.
- Tragic Villain: It isn't that there's no good in Xifeng. It's just...choked out, over the course of the first book, by her spite. She goes from sweeping her hosts' floor in gratitude to eating people's hearts.