Descendant of the Crane

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Descendant of the Crane was one of my MOST anticipated debut novels this year -- and man, it did not disappoint. Overflowing with betrayals, political intrigue, sibling bonds, magic, and heart-stopping twists, Joan He's Chinese-inspired fantasy was worth every page I couldn't help but turn.
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I loved this book. The East Asian setting is beautiful, the political intrigue is intricate, but the main plot is definitely the whodunnit-style investigation and trial of the main character’s father’s murderer. Complex and difficult family relationships add some depth, and the world building is nicely rounded out with both cynical and idealistic quotes from the religious text (Tenets Of the Eleven). There’s always another secret and the reveals are beautifully timed. I loved the chessmaster-style finale and am really looking forward to the sequel.
A Chinese (YA) version of the Goblin Emperor. Very good.
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Disclosure.  I am one of the sales reps for this title.  I waited until after my selling season to read it just in case I did not like it. (Difficult to sell a title one does not care for.)  No worries here.  The book is great.  Well worth anyone's time to read.
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I really enjoyed this one with my whole heart and soul. I ended up reading this while cohosting a book club with some of my dear friends, and i think I enjoyed it the most, but it was just such a powerful read to me. I cannot wait to continue on with the series and I cannot wait to see what comes next!
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This was such an interesting book set in a beautiful Chinese setting. The characters were all so well written and you really felt for Hesina and everything she was going through.
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Princess Hesina is brought suddenly into power when her father, King Wen, is killed. The kingdom of Yan is unstable and edging closer and closer to war, and the balancing act of keeping the people in line is trickier as Hesina's attention is divided; she's convinced her father was murdered. This book is all about her journey to get justice or discover that the cost is simply too high - something that will probably break her, if she's not able to properly honour her father's memory.  

Although the book starts off with a brief snapshot of the King and Princess, of him teaching her seemingly everything, Hesina is still somehow quite inexperienced with the politics of a royal court. Despite thinking her father has been murdered she still trusts people she hasn't been given much reason/evidence to trust (and it's in such a delicate time to - surely she understands that her kingdom could dissolve into war at any given moment if she's not careful?). This makes the start of the book rather slow and, at times, frustrating. She was born a princess - surely if they had any respect for their family and their people her whole life would have been set around preparing her for this moment, even if it has come a little earlier than hoped?

It's also confusing that there's no additional security measures - where are the guards, or councils of scholars, or even an advisor? Moreover, where were the King's (surely he had them), OR why didn't he have them - or why weren't they used to working with Hesina and where are they now? 

This effects the world building, making it feel rather lacking and unrealistic. That, and the addition that the length of time between wars, persecution of certain groups of people, and the lack of people with high skills despite the years of education made little to no sense.

The first few chapters felt a bit chaotic and it wasn't always clear what was happening (I think in a 'trying to be mysterious' way), but I wanted to follow Hesina's journey for justice. At 400 pages though, with significant pacing problems, this simply didn't work out. I'm behind in my reviews due to continued illness, and I have to get on with it. 

Especially seeing as the less said about the love interest, Akira, the better. 

I didn't really feel much of a connection for any of the characters, but the relationship between Hesina and her siblings (both by blood, and adopted) were probably the best thing about this book, raising it to three stars. Some of the twists were delivered well, but you only care about twists if you've been drawn into the plot and care about the stakes. Sadly, I wasn't.
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Descendant of the Crane is Joan He's young adult debut. The story is about Princess Hesina of Yan whose father just died. As his oldest child, she is to become queen of their kingdom. Which is something she does not really want, but will still do because as queen, she will be able to open up a trial to find out who killed her father. In this case, she is the only one who honestly believes he was murdered since she found him. This includes her own mother as well as nearly everyone around her. 

Hesina of has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But, when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her. Her court is filled with dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. 

Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago. If you haven’t guessed, sooths main power is predicting the future. Hesina is told to beware of the devil of lies, and that her only hope may lie in the hands of a convict. Akira is said convict and he is as brilliant as he is secretive. Akira is your typical mysterious “dangerous” boy who ticks all the misunderstood bad boy boxes that are seen in nearly all young adult tropes these days.

Thus, the start of her reign as queen becomes filled with a murder investigation. You never know who to trust, or what anyone’s motives are until revelations happen too fast to do anything about them. Hesina was a bit too trusting of everyone. She's got a good heart, and means what she says about making sure her people are taken care of, but there are those close to her that are eager to see her fall. Hesina has four siblings: a brother a year younger who is a general (Yan Sanjing), two adopted siblings (a twin brother Caiyan and sister Lilian who Hesina is very close too), and a younger half-brother (Rou) who Hesina’s hardly speaks to since it is a daily reminder of her father’s infidelity.

Unfortunately, Hesina's relationship with Yan was so very strained which was pretty sad considering he was one of the few who could have been a steady presence for her when she is confronted by backstabbing and betrayal. My one major complaint in this entire book just happens to be the ending. There is nothing on the authors web page, nor on Goodreads, or anywhere else about a possible sequel. For me, there absolutely needs to be a sequel. You can't just leave things hanging in perpetuity forever without giving readers like me an answer. 

Overall, this Chinese-inspired fantasy combines two elements politics and a murder mystery. If there were to be a sequel, I would have hopes that I could find time to read it to see what happens next for Hesina.
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I was really anticipating reading this book but overall I felt let down. The characters, plot, and world building all just felt underwhelming to me. I did find the writing nice though. I may try future books by this author if the premise intrigues me.
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Descendants of the Crane has such rich storytelling and weaves in lore seamlessly while creating its own magical and unique story. I initially wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading, but in no time I was completely drawn in by Joan He’s enthralling tale. I’m sure my students are sure to enjoy this book as well.
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Even before I knew what the story was about, I fell in love with the cover of this lovely book, and I found the story equally charming. It would have been nice if the characters were a little older, to reflect the nature of their positions, but overall this is a strong debut from a new young adult author!
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“She’d never bothered to see it wasn’t about her. It’d never been about her. Not all stories were hers to narrate.”

TW: Death, Torture, Oppression
Bechdel Test: Passes

If you’d have told me last month that I would end up rating The Descendant of the Crane 5 stars I would have asked you what you were smoking. This book took me about 5 attempts to get past the first few chapters, however this last attempt I managed to stick through it (also thanks to a great buddy read partner James!). 

The Descendant of the Crane is a fabulous debut from Joan He and I’m screaming at the fact that it’s a stand-alone (though I hope there will be a sequel? please tell me there will be a sequel). The ending reveals just kept coming and coming to the point where I needed it to stop or I couldn’t take any more unresolved storyline’s!

In all honesty, the book did take a long time for me to get invested. It’s a very character driven story and I didn’t feel particularly invested in Hesina until about 50% of the way through - which is a long time to slog through a book with little reward, however the intrigue of the secondary characters (read: Akira) managed to pull me through the first half until I was swept up in the second half. I felt a bit disconnected from Hesina’s motives at the start, which makes sense as I read the book further in that Hesina grows into her strength and her characterisation of being a truth seeker - even if that truth isn’t what you are looking for. 

The treatment of the sooths led a lot to be desired. I understand the need to show the brutality and the oppression however I’m never really a fan of reading about mutilation and torture (though my favourite genre of movies is horror, go figure). To me, the torture scene felt like the Mulan moment. The moment when they are in the middle of singing A Girl Worth Fighting For and end up coming face to face with the brutalities of the Huns. That moment changed the tone of Mulan’s story and the torture scene changed the tone of Hesina’s story. 

I can’t really go into too much of the last 50% of the book without spoiling anything as I feel like it was just shock after shock after shock and my mind is still reeling from all the revelations. I would recommend this book and I encourage you to stick with it if you’re struggling to get through the first half, as it really pays off. 

*thank you to Albert Whitman & Company and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you Albert Whitman & Company and Netgalley for the review copy.

I really, really enjoyed DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE and I'm looking forward to what Joan He writes next!
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As beautiful as the cover      

This was once a quiet little book that snagged my radar when its beautiful cover released. I hadn't heard much about it when I first read it. Now it's all over the place, and well-deserved. He's debut is a forceful, genre-bending masterpiece inspired by Chinese history, with a generous touch of magic. I found myself gasping and white-knuckling the pages with every unexpected twist and turn. The astonishing ending left me desperate for a sequel.

Murder mayhem magic     

The beginning was a little disjointed, so stick with it. It starts well with Hesina finding out that her fther, the king, has died. She believes it was murder, and demands a trial. A soothsayer (one of the magic-users who were killed and shunned years ago, and must now live in secret) tells her that a specific criminal must be her lawyer if she wants to find the truth. It's an excellent set-up, but then the pacing gets a little choppy. It feels like the trial is moving way too fast to be the focus of the book.

And that's because it's really not. Once He really hits her stride and the rest of the plot unfolds, it's a breakneck ride to the end. There's just so much that happens! He does a great job of managing all the disparate plot threads so that the plot feels intriguing and complex rather than overwhelming. Instead, we get a great sense of how overwhelmed Hesina feels. She's being forced to keep a brittle empire together while war threatens from a neighboring nation. Internally, an unknown spy threatens from within the court.  She's at odds with a mother who openly reviles her and a brother who feels slighted. She feels pity for the soothsayers, who are being witchhunted as scapegoats for the king's murder, but cannot save them openly without courting rebellion.

To top it all, she's starting starting to fall for Akira, her mysterious criminal legal representative, who may be her only hope in preventing powerful courtiers from using the trial to railroad innocents. And as Hesina does her own investigation, she finds that there is much about her family she never knew. Take nothing for granted! With every new reveal, He reveals herself to be a master of red herrings, foreshadowing, and secrets. Everything is connected. But even if you pick up hints along the way, you will, if you're like me, still be astonished at how it all builds to explosion at the end.

I can show you the world       

The plot alone would make this book a worthwhile read, but it's strengthened with a foundation of believable characters and intricate worldbuilding. Yan is based on historical China, and He is good at giving enough details to make you feel embedded in the world without infodumps or over-explaining. In this inspiration she creates her own unique world, a world in which soothsayers were once depended on for fortunes and magic but were driven out by the mysterious forebears of Yan, the Eleven. Each chapter heading has a tenet from One and Two that comments subtly on the chapter content. And the way Yan's history relates to its present is so clever, I can't go into too much detail without spoiling. Suffice to say, He has solid sense of her world, and it shows.

I love all the messed up kids

Hesina is a wonderful narrator. She's headstrong, stubborn, clever, selfless but sometimes a little self-absorbed, and all of this comes through strongly in her voice. You can see her stepping into traps, but you can also completely believe why the circumstances would lead her there. She's flanked by Caiyan and Lilian, her adopted siblings, her greatest supports, and interesting enough on their own that I wanted to know more about them. I also loved her brother Sanjing, a fiery warrior who resents Hesina's easy closeness with Caiyan. Their sibling dynamic is so contentious, so believably fraught with misunderstanding and stubbornness!

When it came to romance, Akira is actually kind of lukewarm. I loved his moments of sarcasm and his clever lawyering, but I just felt a little too distant from him to be as invested in his relationship with Hesina as I could have been. On the other hand, I am totally invested in Sanjing's friendship with spitfire assassin Mei. But the romance wasn't a central theme, because there's just too much else going on to absorb my interest.

Magic meets thriller      

Descendant of the Crane is that rare fantasy that goes beyond the bounds of the genre to create something unique. While magic is certainly a part of the story, the thriller-like plot takes center stage. It was an exciting, breathtaking read that grew on me the more pages I turned, and left me wishing desperately for a sequel. It's a world that feels homelike, and characters I came to know intimately. Don't miss out on this gem.

My thoughts overall

He's debut is a forceful, genre-bending masterpiece inspired by Chinese history, with a generous touch of magic.

    Will I read this author again? Yes yes yes
    Will I continue this series? Please please everyone buy it so we can get a sequel
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A wonderfully entertaining Chinese inspired fantasy novel! I loved the worldbuilding and how so much of the lore was incorporated but never felt overwhelming or info-dumpy. My only negative would be the romance, even though I like both characters I just feel they lacked romantic chemistry.
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So I read this as an e-arc from netgalley so bear in mind that some things I say might not be in the finished copy. The formatting of this book was very strange and it honestly confused me a lot. As an example we would randomly jump from scene to scene without any kind of a cohesive structure. This lead to me thinking I had somehow missed a page. However I found that it was just how the book was structured. This might have been fixed in the final copy. 

My next thing is more of the gripe, this book was very boring. I never really had a desire to pick it back up, I found the characters to be bland and unremarkable. The plot seemed to jump around a lot and it didn't really make too much sense. We would randomly get a little interesting tidbit and then it never got resolved in a satisfying way so you are left questioning about it. I believe this will be a series by the ending of this book so this might be something that gets explored in future books. 

Suffice to say this just really wasn't the book for me which is sad because I was really looking forward to it.
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Descendant Of The Crane by Joan He has an absolutely gorgeous cover. It also had some praise from someone who I tend to trust. So, dear friends, I was quite hyped up for this book. As it turns out though, this wasn't really the book for me. However, I think that it could be THE book for many other readers - especially people who are typically underrepresented in books.

Descendant Of The Crane follows main character Hesina as she's about to take over ruling the Yan empire. You see, her father has died. Hesina suspects it was not by his own hand and so, launches an investigation/trial. Meanwhile, her kingdom is gearing up against people who are sooths/magic users. And there's some border tensions. Also, some internal drama too. So, Hesina has this guy, Akira, who is mysterious, hired to conduct the investigation. And well, she learns much more than she bargained for.

So, what didn't work for me? I guess the pacing was just very slow. I felt disengaged from the story. It seemed like it was hard to get a real sense of the world in which we are dropped into. Also, I felt like I was at a distance from Hesina. She keeps her cards close to the chest, which is fine. However, just not for me. I think that readers who are more discerning and more patient than I am will like this book. But personally, it just wasn't my thing. That said, there's a whole lot of potential and I think that eventually I'll check out some more of He's work in the future. Maybe this was a case of wrong book at the wrong time.
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THIS WAS SUCH AN AWESOME READ! I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the mythos, and the world that Joan He created. I was sucked in from page 1 and couldn't get enough of this luscious world. The plotline kept me thoroughly intrigued and the twist at the end had me gasping out loud! I cannot wait to get the sequel in my hands and devour it!
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Originally Reviewed At: Mother.Gamer.Writer
Rating: 3 out of 5 Controllers 
Review Source: NetGalley
Reviewer: Ariel

Oh boy, was this one a rollercoaster. Descendant of the Crane is the YA debut from Joan He and it is one heck of a debut. There’s magic, courtroom drama, politics, and a mission to find who killed the king. If these sound like your cup of tea, I would recommend picking this one up!

Hesina is the princess of Yan, and when her father passes away she finds herself taking on the role of queen. The Imperial Doctress declares that the king died of natural causes, but Hesina has reason to believe that he was actually murdered. With the help of her siblings and a freed criminal, Hesina is determined to discover who her father’s murderer is and see them punished for it.

There is a LOT that happens in this book. We start out with Hesina and her adopted brother, Caiyan, headed to the Red Light District in order to enlist the help of a soothsayer. Sooths are banned and Hesina is committing treason even by seeking one out, but she is determined to find her father’s murderer. While the Silver Iris, the sooth who helps Hesina, can’t tell her who the murderer is, she does point her in the direction of someone who can help her, a convict who is currently imprisoned at the palace. The convict, Akira, becomes Hesina’s representative in the investigation into her father’s death.

The first half of the book reads like a police procedural, with trials and political machinations everywhere. Honestly, the first half of the book was a little slow for my personal tastes. BUT THEN there is a huge twist about halfway through the book that will leave you dumbfounded. This is when things really start to pick up as Hesina finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew.

While I was excited about the first twist that occurred, there were so many twists and turns in the second half of the book that I felt like it was giving me whiplash. I went on Goodreads to see when the second book was coming out only to learn that this is a stand-alone novel which was such a bummer. Without spoiling anything, if you are someone who needs their books to have endings that are tied up in a nice little bow, this may not be the book for you.

While the plot was a little hot and cold for me, the world that Joan He has created is so beautiful and vivid that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. The world is inspired by China and I loved the descriptions of the clothes and the palace, and really just everything. I also fell head over heels in love with the characters. Hesina didn’t always make smart decisions, but she was trying her best. And the side characters were amazing. Akira, Caiyan, Lillian (Caiyan’s twin) and Sanjing (Hesina’s biological twin) all had such strong personalities.

Overall, I give Descendant of the Crane 3 out of 5 stars. The plot was a little slow for the first half of the book, and I felt like there were way too many plot twists in the second half, but the writing is absolutely beautiful and the characters are great.
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Thank you for proving us with an ARC of Descendant of the Crane but unfortunately it was not selected to be featured in our April box.
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By the time I downloaded the book to read I already heard so many good things about it from the diversity to the actual plot and I was pretty excited, but once I started reading I just couldn't get into the story and I really wanted to. I'm hoping I can try to go through it again but it was moving a bit slow for me. I can see why so many people enjoy it so I don't discourage anyone from reading. 

2.5/5 stars
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