Descendant of the Crane

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

I requested an eArc of Descendant of the Crane by Joan He from Netgalley, and I am also a member of the street team for the book! (Ministry of Works, what!!!) I am so happy I finally got a chance to read it, I feel like it’s been glaring at me through my kindle forever. Once again, as has been the case so often with Asian inspired YA, this wasn’t what I was expecting!

I was drawn to this book due in part to my love of Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa, there is no denying that. The two books are very very different! Descendant also differs a great deal from The Girl King by Mimi Yu, yet another recent release that I loved. This all conspires to indicate that I may just have a soft spot for books in this vein. Whether or not that is the case, I found a lot to love in Joan He’s debut novel.

I knew the book had a pretty big cast of characters, but I felt that the focus was primarily on Hesina. She is tasked with a big job early on in the book, arguably the biggest. She has to deal with a lot of family drama simultaneously, and I felt that she was able to balance it all fairly well considering the amount of emotional trauma she had to wade through. Akira was a character I thought I would love, and I did enjoy him, but he didn’t get enough page time for me to really sink my teeth into him as a character. He did however play a large role in one of my favorite aspects of the book.

Descendant spends a lot of time exploring the justice system of Yan, Hesina’s home country. Not only are the laws society has to follow laid out, but the actual execution of those laws is tracked through court proceedings. I thought this was super interesting and fed into my love of true crime drama. Totally unexpected in this YA fantasy novel, and I ate it up! It did slow the pace down somewhat, but I didn’t mind it. You might be surprised by it if you are wanting something more high action.

Though there are some really awesome fight scenes, don’t despair!

In addition to the justice system, Hesina’s court and her people play a huge role in the plot. She spends a lot of time thinking about how her choices will affect everyone in Yan, for good or ill. I thought it was refreshing to see a YA book with royals at the fore, where downstream effects on the whole country were actually important. So often I feel like the choices made by YA royals only matter to the royals, but of course their people will be impacted.

I have so many additional thoughts on the book, so I’m going to post about it again closer to the release date. The ending was so powerful, I cannot wait to do a reread, and of course to get my hands on book 2. Let me know if you’re planning on picking this one up on April 2nd!
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I want to start off this review by refuting the claim that it’s a Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones.  I honestly believe that got me in the wrong mindset from the beginning, because that comparison left me wanting so much more.  Descendant of the Crane features a fairly messed up royal family, but otherwise, this is its own thing.

The opening of the story is great.  We start just after the death of the king.  The atmosphere is gloomy and unpredictable, even dangerous.  The main characters steal into a disreputable district to seek forbidden magic.  It’s a great beginning.  It pulled me right me.  The characters we meet are distinct and interesting – the desperate princess, her cautious adopted brother, and the sarcastic adopted sister.  They’re well-matched and interesting together.  After the opening scene, my interest started to wane.

Characters that were interesting at first failed to develop.  For me, Lillian was the most interesting of the collection.  She spoke with a more unique voice than the others, and added a bit of lilt to the dialogue.  The main character, Hesina, waffled back and forth between what she believed and what she wanted.  The ultimate betrayal was so flat that I couldn’t bother to be surprised.  It was all so… underwhelming.

If I had to pick, it was the plot that really lost me.  The story is supposed to follow the king’s murder trial, but the scenes in the courtroom are few and far between.  The way the trial is treated and manipulated made the whole thing feel like a joke.  At its core, the trial didn’t matter anyway, because Hesina was always off doing her own thing and getting her own answers.  In fact, the entire plot of this novel was about the young queen and a greedy advisor having it out behind the scenes and pulling the strings of the system to get what they wanted.  It was petty and uninteresting.

What was interesting was the magic.  I wanted to know a lot more about the magical system, and I wanted to see more of the sooths.  The sooths were central to the story, and yet, they only seemed to pop up when there needed to be a moment of political hysteria.  All the interesting bits of the story surrounded the magic-users, how they had been hunted, and the future different rulers wanted for them… but Hesina was all over the place.  And because of her uncertainty, the plot was all over the place.  Sometimes she was looking for murderers, sometimes she was having spats with siblings.  Sometimes she was parading for her people and sometimes she was lecturing about the history of her kingdom.  I wish the story was more focused, because a lot of things were happening, but most of them felt very irrelevant.

Also the ending?  The ending was anti-climatic.  It may work if this is intended to be a series, but honestly, I don’t know if I would read on?  If you’re looking for an intense Chinese inspired fantasy about war and magic and injustice, I suggest The Poppy War.

It’s not all bad, but I think my main takeaway from Descendant of the Crane was that it could have been so much more.  And I feel like kind of a jerk leaving a less-than-favorable review.  This debut is getting overwhelmingly positive reviews.  And I am so so glad readers are enjoying it.  But I’m also seeing that a lot of these reviews are from critique partners and the social media squad, so go in with in open mind, and you’ll probably like it more than if you go in expecting the next George R. R. Martin.
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Descendant of the Crane was a really entertaining book about magic and its place in a world that hates it. The story was well paced and full of twists and turns that kept me gripped the whole way through. I would definitely recommend this book, and will be keeping an eye out for a sequel should it come my way.
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Unfortunately this book didn't work for me. I thought the world was an interesting one and well written. Political intrigue plays a big part in the story and He did a great job at weaving the threads of the plot together. I love intrigue in fantasy books so I enjoyed this element of the story. However I wasn't invested in the characters and that created a distance between myself and the story. I didn't really care for Hesina as a protagonist and found her to be quite frustrating at times. In general the characters were well written, if a little lacking in depth. While there were elements of the plot I enjoyed, it dragged throughout the 400 pages. Overall this one wasn't for me but if you enjoy YA fantasy then I would definitely recommend checking this one out.
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I tried really hard to like this.  It's not awful. But I felt like Sina made a lot of foolish decisions, went back and forth on herself a lot. I was confused here and there about what was happening. Some of the words used weren't explained, and while I understood from context that Diania was a term of respect and the rest were mostly clothes related, I would have liked more explanation. But it's not an awful read; there was a twist I didn't see coming, it was interesting enough to keep reading, and I'd read more in the series to see what happens next.

Not amazing, not awful, a middle of the road for me.
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I think Descendant of the Crane is going to be one of my favorites of 2019.  The world-building in this book is masterful and the characterization is so well-done.  This book is totally immersive - I could hardly put it down.  I pre-ordered a copy the second I finished the e-galley, just so I can read it again in April when it releases.
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This book just wasn't for me. It had been compared to Game of Thrones but it liked that excitement for me. I felt more like I was reading a textbook than an exciting novel. It didn't really get good until a twist about halfway in. Even then, the twist wasn't dealt with the way I thought it would be and I found myself yet again bored. I didn't like the ending at all and it didn't make any sense to me. Most of this novel didn't make any sense to me and I wish we had gotten a lot more background information on the various other kingdoms and the sooths. I felt like I was plopped into the middle of a history book having no prior knowledge about anything they were talking about. None of the characters really stood out to me, nor did I connect with them. The side characters weren't flushed out very well. The very brief blip of a romance actually just made me mad. There was no prior hints at feelings or anything and suddenly she was kissing someone who could be seen as her savior. 

Overall, I thought this book was lackluster and could've used a lot more character and world building.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*
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This book hit on a lot of the things I love in fantasy, and in books in general, and ended up being one of the stronger books I read at the end of last year. I loved the characters and I enjoyed the story and I’m excited to read more of Joan He’s work in the future.

Forbidden Magic. This is one of those things that I absolutely adore, partly, I think, because it adds to my fantasy that magic is in fact real and is just being hidden from me and I will one day discover my magic powers – just me? Ok. But I enjoyed the way that this played out as part of the narrative, the idea that Hesina needs to use magic to find out what to do but is aware that to do so could cost her the throne and the good favour of her people.

Law. I could just as easily type ‘lore’ because the two are very much one and the same in this book. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from ‘the Tenets’ written by one of ‘the Eleven’ and treated as the law books for the kingdom. Not only did I enjoy how that element of worldbuilding played out in the book (no spoilers), but I also enjoyed how the characters twisted and manipulated the tenets throughout the story. Quite often, particularly with books that concern royalty the law is something that is often ignored with the justification of ‘I am the monarch and I can do what I want’. In this case, Hesina has to learn to use the law to her advantage and it makes her place as a piece in a wider game feel so much more powerful and interesting.

Detective stories. I haven’t read a good detective story in a while (though I’ve watched quite a few) and I’d forgotten quite how much I enjoy them. Akira is a great character who I think many readers will delight in. While this book isn’t a detective story in the traditional sense, there are a lot of elements of that in there, the overarching plot is driven by Hesina’s desire to find her father’s killer. Again, I enjoyed how this played out, with many twists and turns throughout the story. I will say that the addition of fantasy elements makes this even more fascinating.

I had a wonderful time reading this book, and I have no doubt that many others will feel similarly. I have (shamefully) read very few Chinese-inspired fantasy books and this has definitely encouraged me to seek out more of them. If you’re looking for something new to read that has heaps of politics, dodgy dealings, royal conundrums and a dose of magic then I would suggest you order a copy of Descendant of the Crane.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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When I saw that I was approved for this arc, it made my eyes sparkle. At least, that's how it felt like to me.

This book is literally too high quality for this world. I want to assimilate it into my being and find a way to apply all of Hesina's qualities and knowledge into my life. Who is Hesina, you ask? Oh, just the main character of this story WHO IS A CONSTANT REMINDER THAT GIRLS ARE BEAUTIFUL AND ETHEREAL AND I AM A PILE OF INCOHERENT SEAWEED WHEN IT COMES TO THAT. This story is heartstopping and unique. The plot centers around gorgeous and complex cultures and addresses important discussions in today's world. Asian inspired game of thrones is being thrown into early reviews and I can testify to that. The strong world-building and carefully-crafted characters set us up to care even more when the action really kicks in and lives are threatened. It is the very opposite of the "mindless action scenes" I have been complaining about recently in fantasy novels. I cared so deeply about the characters that the action scenes were extremely tense and terrifying.

All in all, this is a sweeping epic tale that has complex and detailed world-building that is seamlessly integrated into the story which I loved!! Sooo when can I get Joan He's next book?
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Descendant of the Crane is easily one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in my life, and I cannot wait to see it in print. We’re told not to judge books by their covers but you can go right ahead because this story is just was beautiful and constructed as it looks. It took me a little time to settle into Hesina’s narration but once it settled, I was completely sold. Descendant is lovely and brutal and unforgiving all in the same breath and I can’t wait to read the next one!
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This book had so much that I loved about it; good world building and really pretty imagery, political intrigue, female lead, plot twists, and magic. I really enjoyed it the bulk of it, but the last 60 pages or so felt really rushed and left me feeling a little unsatisfied.
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A whirlwind of political intrigue, forbidden magic, assassins, and found family, DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is a must-read.

The pitch of ‘Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones’ rings true. I was impressed by the way that author Joan He handled her court drama, balancing it with a wonderful wealth of characters, world-building, and intrigue. 

I enjoyed being able to piece together the puzzle, and was happily thrown by various plot twists throughout the novel. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the series! 

5 out of 5 stars.
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This YA fantasy should've been shimmering, and in some ways, it's still well done. It's for fans of a well-imagined Chinese-inspired world. The mystery aspect was done very well, too. But the last 50 pages were convoluted; too much coming at the reader from left field. Even though the author explains every move, I still didn't feel as if it was believable to the characters that she spent so much time building up.

Overall, though, I'm glad I read this fantasy and can see many many people enjoying this and its sequels that are sure to come.

Thank you to NetGalley for an e-copy of this for review.
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The story had some really good ideas, although it didn't give me a lot of suspenseful moments i would have liked to have seen more of.

Hesina was a great character who was driven to find her father's murderer, her story throughout this investigation unfolded well in terms of how she realised her life has changed or things weren't as she always thought they were.

I would say that the ending felt a little anticlimactic, and that i would have liked to see more action or suspense scenes that wasn't just political or formal meetings between characters, although i  should say that Hesina's character can only really fight this way sometimes.

It wasn't a bad book, but i wish it had been a little more exciting.
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Wow. Let me just take a few deep breaths and process what just happened!! I was very lucky to be approved for an EARC over at Netgalley - and I am so grateful that I did. Had I known what a gripping ride I was in for - I could have prepared myself. 
I am going to find it hard to describe how much I adored this book. I was gripped to the story the whole time I was reading it, especially the last few chapters - I couldn't sit down!!

Descendant of the Crane follows Hesina, a Yan Princess - on a mission to find out who murdered her father (no spoilers as this is in the blurb!). The story follows this process and all of the trials, deceit, betrayal and adventure that comes with it.

The world building and scene setting was incredible. Such vivid and beautiful descriptions provide the backdrop of this wonderful world. So much culture is to be found on the pages of this book. I have learnt so much.

The characters were well developed and complex. There are so many twists and turns with the characters that I couldn't keep up (in a good way!). My heart was broken and rebuilt many times throughout this story. My favourites are Hesina, Lillian, Mei and Rou (my love Rou!!) and of course Akira. I won't go into detail as to why, but you will find out when you read the book *which you MUST*

Roll on April when I can own a hardcover edition of this fabulous book. The cover is beautiful and captures the intricacy of the story very well. 

Thankyou thankyou book world for allowing me to read this book pre-release. Everyone, you must read this book!
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Received this book from Netgalley. I liked it but found the protagonist to be annoying and a bit lacking, she never really makes a stand and I found the love interest predictable and without any spark. I was surprised but didn’t care when one of the main characters died. It all felt a bit clumsily put together, especially the ending with the change of POV which I felt was a bit too summary/plot-dumpy and might’ve been better as the start to the second book. I also don’t feel like much happened within the novel and that some of the conclusions the protagonist draws (especially in the end about Kendi’a and the kingdom) were pulled from nowhere and didn’t make sense. The world building was fairly good and interesting but I didn’t feel like enough was resolved in the novel and am not sure if I’d want to read the second book because a lot of the questions raised in this novel are already answered in the ending.
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3 1/2 stars. Descendant of the Crane centers around a murder investigation of the previous emperor's mysterious death, which is instigated by his daughter, Princess Hesina. The book opens with Hesina visiting a sooth called the Silver Iris with her adopted brother and sister, who also serve the royal court. This visit is meant to determine whether or not Hesina should proceed with a trial since she believes that her father, the emperor, did not die of natural causes as the imperial palace and the people believe. Instead, Hesina believes that someone murdered her father but she doesn't know how or why. 

Of course visiting a sooth and using their powers to determine the best course it not an easy nor a legal task. Soothes and their abilities have been outlawed since the beginning of the new dynasty ruled by the Yan and established by a group of eleven outlaws, who wrote the founding rules for the new empire. The relic emperors were made up of a class of nobility that used soothes to control and manipulate power and keep the population oppressed. When the rebels killed the last relic emperor, they founded a dynasty that outlawed using soothes and created a government with a series of checks and balances, which attempted to avoid the issues from the relic empire. However as Hesina delves deeper in the murder of her father, she soon discovers that this new and fair system also has problems of its own. 

The story really begins after the Silver Iris foretells Hesina's future. She tells her that in order for the murder investigation to proceed and to be successful, she will have to enlist the help of a criminal with a rod and he will have to be representative in court. This of course is when we run into a problem of the new and improved system. Princess Hesina finds her criminal but the royal court system dictates that representatives must be selected at random to avoid favoritism or bias. So, Princess Hesina makes a deal with the Minister of Rites to have Akira, the criminal with the rod to be assigned as her representative. This action sets off a chain of events that slowly opens Princess/Queen Hesina's eyes to the problems in her own kingdom. 

This book really takes on a multitude of story-lines that tie together rather well and produces a believable character arc. First, there is the murder investigation of the last emperor, growing tensions between Hesina's kingdom and their rival, the Kendi'ans, Queen Hesina's suspicion of treachery within her own court, as well as, her discovery of a secret about her father that would tear the kingdom apart. As all of these various story lines unravel, Queen Hesina's reaction to her circumstances illustrates an increasingly strong conviction in her radical beliefs and raises the stakes for her future as her actions become more volatile and threatens her position. Hesina as a character is not without flaws; she makes mistakes, trusts the wrong people and eventually grows stronger. And, I am beyond excited to see how she grows in the next book and comes into her own power. 

All in all, the author really knows how to deliver suspense in a political form and promises a sequel, where the stakes will only get higher. I cannot wait for the next book and believe that He will deliver an equally thrilling tale filled with even more dastardly political agents and reveal even more potentially damaging secrets about the new dynasty that will threaten the entire Yan kingdom.
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The only word I can use to describe this b9ok is luscious. The world, the characters, the story - all beautifully crafted and perfectly executed!!
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The complex family, the lush world, the twisty plot - this was everything I hoped it would be. 

The world building was my favorite part. It was immersive without being too wordy, and it pulled me in from the very beginning. I am AMAZED.
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This book was not meant to be an easy fluffy read. This book is going to bring out ferocity, anger, pain, and sadness. It is wonderfully written and beautifully poetic. Each character has a back story that unfolds in ways you aren’t expecting. You root for one side then switch as you find out more and more.
While I began with a dislike of the main character I think that was supposed to happen? As the book progresses she got less naive.
Perfect for fans of fantasy, retribution, and magic. But be forewarned that this book will destroy you with each page and require some serious reflection before you can move on.
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