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.
How could I not fall under the spell of this book? HOLY BATMAN I cannot express how beautifully dark this book is. This book is a typical-folklore fairy: beautiful and hypnotizing and just brings you in with your words… but it’s super creepy and probably going to kill you.
Xifeng is a victim of abuse. Her aunt took her in once her mother was out of the picture and looked into her future. She saw that Xifeng was destined for greatness and that she could even become Empress of Feng Lu, if she played her cards right; those cards being completely dark and doing whatever she needs to do to get to her destined throne.
“She would bloom where she was planted and let her roots close around the throats of her enemies.”
The character building for Xifeng is literally out-of-this-world. She is so meek in the beginning and believes the horrible things her aunt tells her. She believes her beauty is the only thing she has going for her and she must protect her face at all cost. But then she realizes she doesn’t have to do things her aunt’s way… she can do things without her. And then she does and things get really complex and abstract from there.
She wasn’t confident in herself. But as the story goes on, she becomes more and more confident that she can do anything and that is what makes her the most threatening person in this book. She is an anti-hero; if you don’t know what that is, it is when the main character is not a good person but you find yourself loving and cheering for them anyway. And I had my pom-poms out the whole time in this book.
“If my beauty is my greatest weapon, vanity is the shield that protects me.”
The world building in this is so beautifully woven into the story. There is no world-vomit and there is no confusion. The East Asian setting was just jaw-dropping and vivid to the mind. I wish more authors would take this way instead for settings more often. I don’t really know a lot about this culture, but this has really peaked my interest.
I don’t want to give things away, but things like heart-eating and step-mothers and clawing anyone who threatens her being the fairest of them all are a part of this story. She goes about getting the throne in a completely different way than I thought she would, which was really refreshing.
If you love creepy, unexpected, anti-heroes and surprisingly well-done retellings: this is for you.