Book Review: DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane banner.png
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Standalone

Synopsis:

descendant of the crane

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Thoughts:

This is one of those books that book twitter exploded about, and the description involved political fantasy aspects so naturally, I wanted to read it. It took a bit of tracking down – no UK publication and printing issues – but I got my hands on a copy.

DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is a lushly drawn fantasy book, the world leaping off the pages. The world feels so real, the details woven through the story in such a way that you don’t notice the individual brush strokes because the painting is so flawlessly rendered. It was an amazing world to fall into.

The characters are a vibrant bunch, and I loved how a variety of sibling relationships were shown through Hesina’s siblings. Hesina herself has a determination to see things through, and gets herself into a fair number of scrapes following her heart. I loved Lilian, and the mischievous bluntness of her words. Akira is so mysterious I didn’t get a real sense of him, and he does rather splurge his backstory (which didn’t help me understand him any more).

The chapters begin with quotes from the tenets – a key part of the story. The contrast between the solemn tone of the first and the somewhat flippant response of the second made me laugh. Often these epigraphs don’t add to stories, or come across as slightly pretentious to me, but I enjoyed the injection of dry humour they gave.

The plot is full of surprising twists and turns to keep you on your toes, shocking and exciting in equal measure. I could not have predicted the plot at all, with all these elements cropping up and tangling together to move the story forwards. It is not your typical YA story, and I can see exactly why book twitter has exploded over it. However, some of the twists felt too surprising.

The final act caught me by surprise. It felt like it came out of nowhere, sending me into a confused tailspin for several chapter. I didn’t understand why the character behind it would do such a thing. Thank heavens for the epilogue (the very long epilogue) that actually explained what had just happened and why.

I know this book’s being marketed as standalone, but it reads like the first book in a series. Joan He, on twitter, has said that she wrote it as a first book but the publishing house only acquired the first book and it shows. There are so many plot points left unfinished. Here’s hoping the later books are acquired!


Read my reviews of other books by Joan He:

Standalones:

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