Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

First off, I know the drama of publishing this book, and boy, am I glad I am late for this review.

Second, I enjoy this historical fantasy book. It was very political heavy, and I NEED more books in this world because I have so many questions about that ending and how things will go and change.
The plot twist in the middle was so unexpected! I was like, "UM WHAT?!" and then that ENDING BETRAYAL????!!!
Let's say that even though it was dense and info heavy in places, the pacing and flow worked beautifully, and the explanation of those betrayals paid off so well.

Also, folks watch Kdramas or Cdramas set in history or fantasy history because I love them, and I was able to picture scenes PERFECTLY in my head as I read the book, and it is magical!
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An exciting and twisty mystery that will leave you hanging on the edge of your set until the very end.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read this. It was a little too slow paced for me but I would definitely be willing to try this author's future works.
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Unfortunately, once I picked this book up, I wasn’t able to get into the story. However, I do hope to give it another shot in the future.
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This probably has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen! It is absolutely stunning and the title as well is very eye catching and perhaps the two main reasons why I requested the book.
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I will not be reviewing this book. It wasn't my cup of tea and I didn't make it more than 10% into the book.
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Where’s the sequel because Descendant of the Crane sure as fuck deserves one. As a stand-alone, Joan He’s debut feels like a partially formed world with incomplete characters and loose plot holes that aren’t solved by the end. Honestly, if I didn’t know this is a planned series but not official, I would be extremely disappointed.

But if I’m looking at it as a first in a series, Descendant of the Crane is a strong start; I loved all the twists being thrown and the world Joan He builds, added on top of family secrets and court politics. My only issue is the romance, which didn’t feel necessary to the story.

P.S. Lilian is the Best.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this Chinese-inspired political fantasy and have never read a book so quickly. The plot twists sped me along on a magical journey through a rich, vivid world steeped in Chinese folklore, and the mystery intrigue and drama kept me hooked and reading way into the night. 

I really hope there's a sequel in the future.
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DNF page 79. 

I found everything felt rushed, surface level, and I just didn't feel invested in the plot at all. This book is meant to be filled with political intrigue but I found Hesina to lack subtlety (she just walked around telling everyone her plan that could end with her death, like dude, come on). 

I ended up skimming through the book to see if anything grabbed my attention, but I think this one is just not for me. It might be a 'not for me for now,' but I don't plan on revisiting this one.
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A pretty good story and plot. One of my most anticipated releases, Joan He will be on my shelf I lot more I think.
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I appear to be on a mysteries kick lately? Something about epic twists and turns and betrayals and murders seem to make the unending worry and monotony of quarantine more bearable. Joan He's writing is rich and elaborate, and her world building is easy to get lost in.
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Descendant of the Crane is a pretty solid fantasy debut with an engaging whodunnit plot! I actually hadn’t expected the mystery aspect of this novel when going into it, but was so pleasantly surprised by it. There’s also a lot more to love, too: courtly politics, reluctant royals, starcrossed lovers, strong themes of family and friendship, and well grounded mythology and worldbuilding.

The various “reveals” in this were brilliant and while some were predictable, others definitely took me by surprise, particularly the villain reveal near the end. 

There are times I felt this book suffered from having too many characters with similar roles, as I would occasionally get confused about who was who or doing what, but I also feel as though the characters in this story were one of the most interesting parts. I recall seeing another reviewer mention they wished this had been written as an adult novel, rather than a young adult and I have to agree with that. At times it feels as though the story wants to be more mature, especially as the characters feel older than they actually are, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.

Overall, this book captivated my attention throughout and I think it’s perfect if you enjoy the fantasy genre but are looking for something a little different than your typical YA fantasy. If there is anything I could change, it would be to see the ending wrapped up a little neater, as there are a few aspects left open ended enough for a sequel, despite no plans for one going forward.
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One of my favorite parts of writing reviews is coming up with a snappy tagline that compares the book in question to iconic stories. The publisher has promoted Descendant of the Crane as a Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones, and while it does have an intricate plot and luscious world building, its single point of view and limited scope of conflict (at least in book one) does not quite fit the juggling of agendas and sweeping scope of George R.R. Martin’s masterpiece. Perhaps it is more akin to Netflix’s Marco Polo, minus Mongols and a whiny protagonist. 

A lesson in idealism vs. practicality in governance, Descendant of the Crane follows Hesina, the daughter of the recently deceased Emperor. Thrust into the role of ruler, she breaks the laws she is mandated to enforce: namely, she secretly enlists the aid of the magic-using Sooths to prove her father was actually murdered. The ensuing investigation requires her to navigate sycophants and backstabbers as she tries to play by the rules, and also manage an imminent invasion by foreign aggressors.

To accomplish this, the author crafts a fleshed-out world based on imperial China. Painted with vivid prose, it feels real, textured, and lived-in. The magic system, while not complex, has clear rules regarding strengths and limitations that make sense within the larger history and current story.

Copious amounts of Mandarin vocabulary find its way into the narrative, perhaps bordering on the excessive: for whereas most of these terms can be inferred through context—which I appreciated in the third person close narrative distance—I sometimes felt that I could not visualize what item was being described. As a non-native but fluent Mandarin speaker who has watched countless period dramas, I imagine the average reader would have a harder time.

Where Descendant of the Crane truly shines is Hesina’s relationships with her siblings. Each is vibrantly crafted with distinct personalities and their own agendas. She has something of a contentious relationship with Sanjing, her half-brother and military leader; while she leans on her brilliant adopted brother, Caiyan. Meanwhile, I could not quite put my finger on what made her interactions with adopted sister Lilian so enthralling.

Less compelling to me was the romantic arc. Based on illegal prophecies, Lilian seeks the help of a convict, the enigmatic Akira, who has a wide variety of talents—whether it’s swordsmanship or legal expertise, he could be compared to the tall, dark stranger that a young adult protagonist is destined to develop feelings for as a relationship evolves from belligerent to mutual attraction. In this, the romantic tension felt like an afterthought instead of a core part of the plot.

As a whole, the story is part murder mystery, part political maneuvering, part international conflict. Two brilliant twists at the 75% mark I didn’t see coming, and the final twist was brilliant. Taking all this in consideration, I rate Descendant of the Crane an 8.5 out of 10.
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This is an absolutely superb book but I’m so bummed to hear of the mistreatment of the author.  Such a shame this gem of a book fell into the wrong hands. I’ll keep recommending it to everyone I know.
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Rich novel inspired by Chinese culture. The plot is half courtroom drama, half political intrigue; the characters are a wonderfully messy & morally-grey (that don’t read as teenagers). Slower, more considered approach to fantasy.
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Eventually, I will get over this YA fantasy slump and dive back into the amazing worlds that these authors work hard to create, but unfortunately today is just not that day; and with everything that is going on with the publisher and this author I cannot under good conscious give a review for the book under this publisher. So I will be picking up this book and giving it another try once it has been rehomed.
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Joan He's debut is an absolute reckoning, packed with intriguing characters and such rich world-building! I eagerly await her next offering.

Please Note: Recently it came to light that Joan has been egregiously mistreated by her US publisher of this title. You can find updates on this situation on her social media platforms (Twitter and Instagram). If purchasing this book, please ensure for the time being you buy from her UK publisher (Titan Books) or await its rehoming with a new publisher in the US. Also, support the author by pre-ordering her new book, THE ONES WE'RE MEANT TO FIND.
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There are no words to describe how much i loved this book. Joan He's debut was -chefs kiss- it felt very reminiscent to Game of Thrones and with how rich this story was. It makes me sad whats happened to Joan because she's such an amazing writer and deserves to have the royalties from this novel.
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I loved the culture Joan He incorporates into the book and the determination of the main character. Hesina is willing to do almost anything to find justice for the murder of her father, even acts that are considered treason. My favourite part of this book was Hesina herself, and that we got to see all the twists and turns of the political game she was involved in. It was very refreshing to read a fantasy novel that revolved more around the political machinations than great acts of magic or legendary warriors.
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This book is excellent, but the author has been taken advantage of by her publisher (see her Goodreads page/Twitter for details) - please pre-order/read her next one, THE ONES WE'RE MEANT TO FIND, instead!
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