ARC Review: SIX CRIMSON CRANES by Elizabeth Lim

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in red on softly blurred image of girl surrounded by cranes
Genre: Fantasy (retelling)
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book in duology


Book cover for SIX CRIMSON CRANES: title in black on pastle image of cranes above a garden

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I am not always a good fit for retellings, particularly fairy tale retellings, because they tend to be the same handful of stories told again and again and again (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet) until there’s pretty much nothing new to be added, and you can predict every beat.

However, the Six Swans is a Grimm’s fairy tale that I’ve hardly seen around – in fact, in the near 20 years I’ve been reading, I can think of only one other time I’ve seen this story retold. It makes it feel very new and unique, and hard to predict what’s going to happen next. Plus the story has a nice twist on the roles and motivations for the various antagonistic forces arrayed against Shiori.

While this new series is not a continuation of Elizabeth Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology, I believe it is set within the same world, just in another part of it. You don’t need to have read that previous duology to read this book, but if you do, the world does feel richer as some of the world building elements have been explored in great depth before. Plus, it makes reading this book feel very warm and welcoming and familiar, as a lot of the internal mythology and magic carries over.

Naturally, you have the same lovely prose here that paint a vast array of different landscapes and situations. The snow-swept mountains, a small village, castles and palaces, a sacred lake that’s calm and deadly. The magic also carries a large toll, vicious and stinging, but without resorting to the blood-magic-self-harm that’s been so in vogue these last few years. Instead, it’s alluring and dangerous, and the way the colours are used with the nettles was a lot of fun.

Shiori spends the first half of the book being swept around by other people’s choices, rather than forging the path herself. Most of what happens is a consequence of her stumbling into the right or wrong people. It does make her feel like someone bobbing along with the flow, a spectator rather than a main character at times.

Another year until the next book! Yes, it’s a satisfying ending with the main story all wrapped up and the start of a new one seeded in, so it’s not as cruel as a cliff-hanger, but still.

Read my reviews of other books by Elizabeth Lim:

Six Crimson Cranes (this series):

The Blood of Stars:

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