Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

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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I enjoyed the influence from Chinese culture in this YA fantasy. There are a lot of political tensions and twists throughout this book. You'll find morally grey areas that the main character has to navigate when she thought the world was black and white. This story is also contain mystery and drama.
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DNF'd on 6.2.19 at 80 pages

I do not really enjoy fantasy anymore, especially YA fantasy, so this was probably on me that I didn't enjoy this
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I Really liked the book and characters a lot. And I h0ad a really good time reading it. And the story was very interesting.
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I absolutely loved this and I'm excited to read more! Hesina is a character I'm greatly interested in seeing grow, along with the others involved in this intricate story.
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I ended up DNFing Descendant of the Crane at 31% it wasnt horrible but it just couldnt keep my interest.
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Heavy is the head that wears the crown. And this book bears that burden better than most. I cried through the ending, shedding tears for the simple tragedy of things that can never be. Imagining another life where things might have been different for these siblings. For Hesina. I think it's safe to say at this point that this was one of the best "Queen takes the thrones" stories I've read. In a genre of mediocre stories featuring one dimensional characters, this was an epic, and one that I hope more people would read. 5 stars.
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Descendant of the Crane was a breath of fresh air. If you are ever feeling that all YA novels are starting to feel the same, pick up this book! It is a beautifully written novel that is full of complex twists and turns that leave you guessing until the end.

This story takes place in a fantastical version of Ancient China and revolves around the princess Hesina who is convinced that her father’s death wasn’t an accident. As Hesina continues to delve deeper into the mystery, she starts to wonder if the truth is worth the price.

At its core this is a coming of age story for Hesina as she learns what it means to be a ruler, and how her mistakes can have far-reaching consequences. This novel really stands on its own in the YA genre and I genuinely hope it will get the recognition it deserves for doing something different. I have favourite tropes as much as the next person but it so refreshing to see an author take more risks and not give into these well-worn story lines. It can get a little slow at times since this book is focused on politics over action, but it is never boring.

Hesina is a great character who follows a realistic progression, as does her relationship with the other characters. The romance is very minimal because it would have been awful if the whole story ground to a halt to focus on a relationship. She has much bigger things to worry about. The worldbuilding is minimal as well but it perfectly compliments the story. The magical elements are few in number, but they are crucial to the plot. The author does a great job of drawing you into her culture and weaving this narrative together.
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Descendant of the Crane is a novel that is inspired by Chinese mythology and history. Hesina has always wanted to escape her duties as a princess. When her father is murdered, she becomes queen. Hesina has to manage her kingdom and find her father’s murderer through the help of Akira, a criminal. Can Hesina and Akira ever discover who the killer is?

     As a huge fan of Chinese historical dramas, I was excited to read this book! I find that Descendant of the Crane did not disappoint! It had all the makings of a clever Chinese drama, political intrigue - betrayal, mystery, and deception! The heroine was strong and complex. Within the first few pages, I feel like I had come to know Hesina. She is a young girl that feels trapped inside the palace. She knows that somewhere within the palace is a murderer. I really admire Hesina’s quest for justice as she tries to solve the murder. Therefore, Hesina is a determined heroine that readers will love to root for.

     Overall, this novel is about trust, justice, and responsibility. I liked all the characters. Akira was intelligent and mysterious. I also like her siblings, each of whom had different personalities. The world-building is lush and vivid in detail that is based on imperial China. The beginning started out slow but picked up pace halfway through the novel. I also did not like that it ended in a cliffhanger. Nevertheless, I’m excited to read the sequel! I recommend Descendant of the Crane for fans of A Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Spin the Dawn, and The Magnolia Sword! This is not a novel to be missed!
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