Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

Although author Joan He says DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is a standalone novel, it absolutely begs to blossom into a series. This lush fantasy tale takes inspiration from Chinese history and legends and features political intrigue, murder, magic, and a fantastic heroine in a world steeped in deception and danger. An astonishingly assured debut, and I hope to read more from He very soon.
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3.5/5 stars 

This was one of those books for which I was extremely excited in 2019. The cover is GORGEOUS, the plot sounded super interesting, and I was keen to read something Asian-inspired (I haven't read many of those yet). I struggled trying to rate this, and I was pretty certain I was going to give it a higher rating until I got to the end. We'll get to why I found the resolution of this book to be quite weak. 

Overall, I enjoyed this. The main character, Hesina, is one of those characters who's soft and hard at the same time. She is kind and wants what's best for her loved ones and her kingdom, but she is also ruthless about protecting them. I liked that she was clever, and that she was a very active character - i.e. things weren't just happening to her, rather, she was a driving force behind the plot. 

From the summary, I assumed Hesina's enlisting the help of a soothsayer would play a major part in the plot, and that the soothsayer would be a major character. Thus I was quite surprised when the book begins with Hesina talking to the sooth, and then they're out of the picture shortly after. That wasn't at all what I had been expecting, so it all felt a bit too quick for me. Nonetheless, I was content to settle in and see where the rest of the story went. 

The story revolves around the fact that Hesina's father (the king) has died and she (his heir) wants to uncover the person responsible. In order to do this she must hold a trial and, according to the sooth's predictions, find someone to represent her in that trial. This representative, the sooth says, will be a convict with a rod. 

Yes, a rod as in a big stick, I guess. Though I must say I appreciated the number of jokes Hesina's adoptive sister, Lilian, made about wanting to see the convict's "rod." Ha. That said, I found this a bit confusing, since I wasn't clear on the importance of the whole convict/rod thing in general. It's possible I was just reading too fast and missed something, but I wasn't clear on how the sooth's prediction actually helped Hesina in the end. Yes, Akira (the convict) was a good investigator but...I feel like that needed to be revisited near the end of the book so that I could make those connections.

Moving on.

The major plot points of this book are going to be difficult to explain without spoilers, because the story is essentially about Hesina uncovering bits and pieces of information about her father, his death, the sooths, and her kingdom in general. The kingdom's laws revolve around 'the Tenets' written hundreds of years ago by a group called the Eleven, and it is those laws that declare the sooths dangerous and sentences them to "death by a thousand cuts." But Hesina is convinced someone murdered her father and goes against the Tenets to get to the bottom of the mystery.

It was interesting to see her uncover the pieces of her father's past, but there were quite a few things that confused me. 

For example, in the middle of the book Hesina travels all the way to the middle of somewhere to meet with the High Prince of Kendi'a. She's accompanied by a swordswoman named Mei who essentially pops out of absolutely nowhere and then ends up having an important role in the story (?). Then there's a showdown with the High Prince that involves a very brief conversation followed by some revelations. 

Why did Hesina travel all the way to meet him in the first place, just to come all the way home again? It seemed like a way of filling pages. He could have written her a letter. He could have come to her instead. That's also the only scene the High Prince actually appears in throughout the entire book, and it felt very out of place to me. I don't know, man. It's hard to explain, but it just didn't work for me. 

I did enjoy all the tidbits of culture in this novel. It was interesting and I felt immersed in the setting even if I didn't quite feel immersed in the characters and their relationships. Overall, I had a good time reading it. I just needed more. More conversation between Hesina and Akira, who becomes the love interest. Their interactions weren't deep enough for me to feel anything, with the exception of one actual conversation they have near the end of the book, and even that kind of just skims the surface. And though I liked Hesina, her reactions to things were...odd. There were many revelations that should have had her (and me!) feeling ALL TYPES OF WAYS. Although her feelings were explained, I didn't feel it. I should have been horrified and heartbroken and etc., etc. along with her. But I was just...there. It's hard to describe.

Stop reading here if you want literally NO spoilers. I'm not going to spoil the ending or anything, but I am going to go into a little more detail in this next part so you can understand why the resolution didn't work for me. 

So. Over the course of the story Hesina finds out the truth of what happened to her father with Akira's help, but very little is actually resolved. By the time we reach the ending, her kingdom is more out of control than ever. Things are more chaotic than they were at the beginning of the book. War is still looming, and the High Prince is still a threat. The sooths are still hated, and so is Hesina. She's betrayed numerous times by numerous characters, except that some of these betrayals are real, and some aren't. Or are they? Or aren't they? Honestly, it's just confusing. I felt like the rug kept being pulled out from under my feet and then the author was all, "Just kidding! Here's the real shock. Or maybe not!" 

It reminded me of the end of Caraval, where there's too much happening and you can't figure out anyone's motives and you just give up on trying to determine what the heck is going on. And then once I finally thought I'd gotten to the REAL, actual betrayal, the epilogue came along and made me second guess THAT, too. It tried to spin it so that everything that happened in the earlier half of the book was part of some "grand plan" where the manipulators knew exactly what Hesina would do and what the outcomes would be. This annoyed me because I don't think it gave Hesina enough credit as a character. 

Sorry if this was confusing, but it was really hard to write this given that some of the most important plot points of this book would be considered major spoilers. Hopefully I communicated my confusion enough that you understand what I'm talking about. I wasn't as profoundly lost in this book like I was in Wicked Saints - hereafter to be referred to as surely the most confusing book I will read in 2019 - but I was left questioning the logic of many things. I know a lot of this will likely be resolved in the next book, but considering this book isn't even out yet, I feel like it should have provided at least SOME closure instead of leaving every. single. conflict. hanging. 

That said, I did enjoy reading this. Joan is a very good writer and I'll read the next instalment. I just think this book would have been better if some of the less-important scenes in the middle were cut and some actual resolution was added, so that the reader isn't left feeling so yanked-around for no payoff.
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WHat A BOOK !!! I think it has been a perfect hell of a ride reading this Game of thrones inspired Chinese story. I am huge fan of fantasy stories and I cant help saying but I absolutely adored this book. Especially the second half of the book was just so great , with betrayals, deceptions and what not to complement the story line . 
I cannot wait to read more of the story .
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Thank you to Albert Whitman Company and Netgalley for the Arc copy.

Honestly this was a complete cover request for me, it’s utterly gorgeous and this is definitely a case of DO judge a book by it’s cover as the words inside were just as beautiful.  It’s not often that books leave me lost for words with where to start but truly Descendant of the Crane is something pretty special. Every time I thought I had the genre pegged in this own voice story the tables turned, from YA fantasy, to thriller, to mystery, to court room drama; Descendant has a bit of everything and they are all seamlessly woven together in a delicate tale of intrigue and misdirection. It would be remiss of me however to let the brilliance of the last 2/3 gloss over the fact that it wasn’t the easiest book to get into. It must always be a hard decision to find the right place in the story to start but given the mythology and magics in play, some detailed background early on would have helped as I often felt like I was on the back foot in the opening chapters. The story does fall into place by the conclusion of the first of the three parts though, however, the quotes from the Tenets at the start of each chapter never flowed well for me.

Descendant celebrates all that is good about standalone novels. Does it have the potential to expand; yes, but I’m glad it didn’t as I absolutely adored the ending and the trust was put in the reader to consider the future. It would have been easy to spread such a intense tale over 2 or 3 books but by being a standalone it means that there are just wave after wave of twists and turns really bringing the reader into Hesina’s world where the feelings of confusion, elation, and betrayal are acutely felt.

The characters are wonderful though and I felt like I had really bonded with Hesina by the end, so much weight on her shoulders and the distance and indifference of her mother really tugged at me as I’m a parent myself.  Akira is a really complex character and we are left guessing for much of the time but he’s effortless in all he does, and his Atticus Finch esq approach to trials was jaw dropping at times. All the characters are layered though and that’s what helps Descendant really pack a punch, so much mystery surrounding so many of the players both large and small, the comparisons to Game of Thrones is well founded and means I will say little else about them!

Despite the shaky start once everything had fallen into place in my mind I found it a difficult book to put down. The attention to detail from the clothing to the buildings, the descriptions about books and engravings felt alive in my mind, like I could almost reach out and feel them. Despite this though Joan He created a world that felt very muted (not dull!) but it was clearly against a back drop of mourning and it was a really subtle way of reminding the reader that actually everything is not okay. The magic system was wonderfully simple and the way it walked side by side with Hesina growing with each discovery left the lines feeling blurred.

Descendant of the Crane is a great stand alone read which will leave your head spinning and your jaw on the floor, just give it the time to get there!
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Joan He writes a compelling tale full of intrigue and heart. Descendant of the Crane tackles the realities of palace life and rulership all in a coming-of-age story. He's characters are relatable and authentic, while the plot moves with purpose. I can't wait for the next book!

When Princess Hesina's father is murdered, she knows her destiny involves finding his killer and brining them to justice. Supported by her brothers, sister, and a mysterious convict, Hesina dives into a life-changing investigation and political intrigue. Hesina will need bravery and loyalty in order to surmount the challenges that lay ahead, as nothing is as it seems.
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I am happy to be reviewing it on Women's Day because one of the main things i absolutely loved about this book is that it imposes no gender expectations or roles on its characters. 
You can rule, you can go to war, you can study, just do what you do best - whether you are a man or a woman.
It is very refreshing, especially so for YA, and i think we need more of this for teenagers, both male and female. 

Figure who you are as a person, what you stand for, what are your beliefs, what is important for you and what can not be sacrificed - these are basically the main questions Descendant of the Crane places in front of the characters and in front of you. 

I like books where the characters are not all good or all bad, that only makes them one dimensional. Joan He manages to paint her main character quite thoroughly in this regard but i felt that maybe a bit more was needed on some of the supporting characters. Or at least i would've wanted that and i don't think it would've robbed anything from how their stories developed.

I am also hoping for if not continuation but at least more books in the same universe! :) 
No pressure, Ms. He ;) 

All in all i am thoroughly impressed and have already mentioned it as a recommendation to my friend's daughter :D
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I went into this book being assured that it would wreck me. And I can’t say that was wrong – I am wrecked. Because this book is probably, at heart, about a family falling apart. It’s not really an epic fantasy in terms of scope – there are parts that extend beyond the family and the city, and they’re hinted at becoming more important – but the focus is really on the king’s death, his daughter’s investigation, and the city.

Descendant of the Crane starts off with Hesina, the king’s daughter, opening an investigation into the death of her father, because she believes that there is no way his death was natural. But in delving into this mystery, she opens a whole other can of worms – who was her father and how can she stop the rot that’s set into the city and country?

The best part of this book was the characters. I don’t really know how to describe how much I loved them. They were so well fleshed out and developed and their interactions caused me so much pain (in a good way!). Especially Sanjing and Hesina. And [redacted] and [redacted] at the end.

And the twists! God the plot twists in this were so good. I may have had little issues with how they were spaced out (most of it happened in the last quarter of the book), but each twist came so suddenly and made you think back to how could I have seen this coming. Yes, I picked one or two, as is always going to happen, but others just hit me out of nowhere. And then the last one! The cliffhanger! God.

I guess, ultimately, there were two small things that means that I only gave this four stars rather than five. First, it gets fairly slow at points. After the halfway point and the twist there, there’s a kind of lull until the last quarter. I lost a bit of momentum reading it then (because I’m impatient). The end did bring it back but it was just that little slowness that got me. Second, I didn’t like the romance, really. I could see where it might come from, but I felt it was maybe underdeveloped? Or less that and more there wasn’t much chance to spend time developing it so it ended up that they became friendly and never really felt like they ought to progress beyond that. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but yeah. I wasn’t a huge fan, but it didn’t really play that much of a role so it didn’t matter.

Putting that aside though, I don’t think I’ve read such an intense ending to a book in a while. I was so tense while reading it (and hoping that what had just happened wasn’t real, then being sad because you know why but [redacted] doesn’t). And the cliffhanger? With no news of a sequel yet? That’s mean.
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Throughout my time reading this book, I've struggled with how to accurately describe my reaction to it. Here at the end I have determined that Descendant of the Crane is pretty average. I was initially drawn to this story by the premise of a fantasy novel set in an Asian-influenced world with a strong female character and plenty of intrigue. To my disappointment, I never felt like this book delivered on this in a satisfying way. 

The story starts out with the death of a king and his daughter, who is convinced it was murder, is determined to learn the truth despite her surprising inexperience with the politics of a royal court. During the first few chapters, I was very engaged in the secret and treasonous meeting along with the mystery to uncover, but as the story progressed, I became less invested in it. 

For me, the strongest stories have well-developed and realistic characters yet I never felt a connection with any of these characters as most of them came across as very one-dimensional - particularly at the beginning. While there was some improvement for a few of them during the second half of the novel, it was too late for me to develop a strong interest in them at that point. 

The overall text suffered from pacing issues as sometimes it was exciting while other times it dragged. I was pleasantly surprised by the many twists throughout the story. These were a major highlight that kept me engaged throughout the book. The prose was hit-or-miss for me, but it was so well done during those "hits" that I could forgive the "misses". I enjoyed the dialogue less as it often felt stilted.

There was some clear effort to create a history and world, but it never felt fully fleshed out. I was left with a lot of questions about the culture/world and I wanted more of the sooths and their magic. Some of the names felt rather out of place - such as using the "Investigation Bureau" as the name for an official agency. This was so off-putting as every time I read it I thought of FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) which immediately removed me from being immersed within this fantasy world. A completely fabricated name or one more Asian-influenced would have been better. 

For a debut novel, I can identify a lot of potential here. With some tweaking, this could be a very thrilling tale. 

2.5/5 stars
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Thank you to Netgalley and to the Publisher for the ARC.

This book was stunning. The writing was flawless to me. The world was great. The characters were amazing. I highly suggest this read.
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Not suitable for curriculum but will definitely reccommend to students for a diverse Asian inspired fantasy read. Full of action and intrigue!
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WOW! Descendant of the Crane is everything I didn't know I needed in YA right now. Successfully blending elements of the mystery, thriller, court intrigue and fantasy genres. Fantastic world building combined with a fast pace make this a YA debut not to miss!! 

Recommended for advanced readers 12+
Plot twists Galore
Clean Language
Minimal Romantic themes, these are innocent
Triggers for depictions of violence
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I will admit I was going into this book with thinking that it would be good. But I ended up LOVING IT! I cannot wait for this book to come out so that I can bask in all it's glory! Diffidently a five star read!
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At its barest bones, Descendant of the Crane is much like many other fantasy novels. An abnormally young Queen (Hesina) ascends to the throne on the heels of a conspiracy (the death of her father), and sets about unraveling said conspiracy along with the help of an assorted crew of other teenagers.

However, where most of the other books that follow this blueprint blend together, Descendant of the Crane shines. Hesina is an immensely relatable narrator and every time she hurt, I hurt. When she cried, I cried. The rest of her motley crew (her brother, her adopted siblings, and a convict) is fleshed out to perfection, making their sufferings throughout the book very affecting. (If it seems like I'm focusing too much on the sadness, it's because this book absolutely broke my heart in the best way, and boy am I still feeling it.)

The plot takes turns that are unexpected and never extraneous. The setting is beautiful and vividly depicted. Relationships grow believably and emotionally. Hesina struggles with her country's persecution of the sooths (a magically gifted subset of people) and this exploration of what to do when your sense of morality conflicts with seemingly everyone else is at the core of the story. 

Hesina has just become a monarch, but I loved that, unlike most of these characters, she was extremely competent. There were many forces at play that she had little control over, but her promise as a ruler is never clearer than during her interactions with the Crown Prince of a rival nation. The backbone of the plot of the book is the mystery of the death of Hesina's father, and although other plotlines make up the heart of the book, this mystery's twists and turns keep this book engaging.

As genres, I love period dramas and fantasy for their court intrigue plotlines, and Descendant of the Crane featured enough of this to make me happy, while still being more of an action/adventure type fantasy novel than I was quite expecting. Nonetheless, the action was exhilarating, and I wouldn't change a moment of it.

I think I may never recover from this book. I will be eagerly awaiting its sequel and I highly recommend it to lovers of fantasy, incredible heroines, and mystery.
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DNF, stopped in Chapter 2.

Honestly, I am really disappointed. The cover is beautiful, the idea is great, and who doesn’t love a Chinese inspired setting?? Unfortunately, the first chapter failed to grip me, and the second chapter just made me frustrated. I feel like we were just dropped into the story and expected to care without given a reason why. 

Hesina mentions the Eleven, who overthrew the previous dynasty,  and says that she disagrees with the way they handled the Sooth, but not what her actual relationship is to them. I’m assuming they are her ancestors since she’s the princess, but it’s never explicitly stated, and she describes them so distantly that I don’t care. 

Everything, actually, was delivered in these confusing snippets of information that was almost all historical background, but not much about the characters. I know that Hesina is going to be queen (and has always known this, even though the synopsis implies otherwise), that she has twin siblings that her father adopted, a blood brother, and that she wants justice for her father’s murder. Except, as the king, this shouldn’t be that hard to investigate? She literally has all the resources of the kingdom at her disposal, and it makes no sense to me whatsoever that the death of THE KING wasn’t investigated further in the first place. The whole premise does not make sense. 

And her solution, the big plan to get justice for her father? 

Litigation. She needs to find her representative...for a court case…..the very idea has me bored out of my mind, and I cannot continue. 

I’m sure this is going to be an unpopular opinion, and maybe it gets more exciting past chapter 2, but I refuse to give a book my time if it isn’t interesting after at least the first chapter.
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Descendant of the Crane sounded amazing, and I was so excited to receive an arc for it. I love Chinese historical dramas with all the court intrigue and scheming, but this book really let me down. To start, it just was confusing. You’re dropped right into the aftermath of Hesina’s father’s murder with very little explanation of what is going on or the world in which it’s set. Also, the pace is incredibly slow. Sometimes a slow build up works, but in this case it did not. The main character, Hesina, is pretty uninteresting, and I never could connect with her or any of the other characters. I thought this would be definitely up my alley, but it decidedly was not.
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3.75 / 5 stars

Descendant of the Crane follows Princess Hesina of Yan after the sudden death of her father.  Hesina believes that her father was murdered by someone seeking to disrupt the kingdom.  Hesina seeks the guidance of others to help her uncover the truth of this mysterious death and help her kingdom succeed.  

Throughout this story Hesina must face many different obstacles as she prepares to become queen.  I like how Hesina’s youth does show in this novel as she seeks help and guidance on how to do what is best for her people.  Hesina is resourceful and does show some strong qualities of becoming a good ruler.  There is much prejudice against people with powers known as “Sooths.”  There are struggles between Hesina and others as Hesina makes choices that she believes are right.  Hesina is very protective over those she loves and what she believes.  I think that most of the motivations of her character were very strong and well presented.

I love how the author clearly shows that while Hesina is respected for being queen, it is basically only because of her title.  Without the crown on her head, her people would ignore and not support most of her decisions.  I especially enjoyed how this idea is further used as Hesina begins to openly have some struggle of power between herself and her people.  This inclusion made the politics and actions more realistic, and the stakes of her power of ruling that much higher.    

I did have some problems with this though.  I think some of the ideas and revelations in this novel are not well developed and explained.  I still have some confusion on some of the twists and history included.  I also was not a fan of most of the twists towards the end.  I thought some were good or okay but a lot towards the end I was pretty disappointed by the direction the story took.  I think that the first half of the book was the stronger half.  The last forty percent of the novel began to gradually grow flat for me.  I personally think that this story would have been better as a standalone, but I will not say that it 100 percent needed to be.  I just believe that the story would have been stronger as a standalone, but I am not opposed to reading the sequel or continuing on in this world. 

This book is one I could see many students and individuals adoring.  I may have to pick it up for my classroom.
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Though this book was a bit predictable, the character development was superb and I really felt for her. I think we could have benefited from having the brother's perspective occasionally, but the protagonist was gripping. Loved the Asian themes!
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I’m always nervous when it comes to YA fantasy these days, because my tastes have started shifting enough that I find this kind of fantasy to be very hit or miss. Unfortunately, Descendant of the Crane was very nearly a miss – which simply translates to the fact that it was just plain okay, in my humble opinion. It earns marks for being a quick read (I was seriously nearly halfway through it before I realized I’d gotten so far already), and for having a story that kept me just interested enough to see how it would all unfold. But having had a little distance from the novel, I can easily pinpoint the thing that really bugged me: the underdeveloped characters (and relationships), which invited no emotional attachment from me as a reader. Having no emotional investment meant that the story fell flat for me, instead of being the exciting high stakes fantasy mystery filled with twists and turns that it seems like it was meant to be. It also doesn’t help that there are numerous plot threads woven all throughout, and it ultimately felt like a messy reading experience as we moved from one to the next. Descendant of the Crane was just fine overall, which is personally disappointing since I wanted to love it so badly.
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I was so impressed with this book. It was chosen as one of our Teen Staff Pick contenders and I voted enthusiastically for it! I was engrossed by Joan He's fantasy/historical fiction in a way that a book hasn't captured me since Min-Lee's "Pachinko"! I seriously hope there is another coming out soon!
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A book has never left me so speechless. The last quarter of the book was a wild rollercoaster ride. Jaw-dropping, heart-pounding, amazing, fantastic, beautiful.

Princess Hesina is certain that her father's death was not of natural causes like the Imperial Doctress proclaimed. She is so certain that he was murdered, she's willing to commit the ultimate act of treason to prove it: she will consult a Sooth. The Sooth leads her to a mysterious convict as her ally, but is he to be trusted? In fact, is anyone to be trusted as the kingdom plunges into chaos?

Descendant of the Crane is full of twists and turns around every corner, making Hesina--and the reader--doubt everything she knows about her kingdom, her father, and the throne she sits upon. A phenomenal debut, I look forward to what Ms. He will follow up with--especially the sequel.
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