Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

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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This was a beautiful book embracing fantasy and Chinese culture. It was gorgeous descriptive writing that made me feel like I was within this world myself. Hesina was a strong character who was passionate and knowledgeable about Sooths and that history. I enjoyed reading about her and her brother too. There was a lot of mystery and court intrigue. It was a very interesting political fantasy with rich writing. It ended on a cliffhanger but I sure am hopeful for a sequel. A must for your 2019 Fantasy TBR.
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This book was riveting! There were so many twists and unexpected reveals, I was kept guessing through the whole story. I love the world that He has created, drawing from historical Chinese culture and creating a sumptuous, beautiful fantasy world. Though some of the elements of that fantasy aren't, in my opinion, fleshed out enough, especially in terms of the Sooths, I still felt I knew enough to grasp the plot and the reasons for characters making the decisions they did. I liked the character development for the most part. There are times when Hesina is a little too much. She often decries her useless and it made me wish that she had been given at least one skill she felt totally confident in, to give her a bit more strength (though she claims she's good at lying, she often doubts her skill in the moment, anyway).

I thought the action sequences were really awesome and well thought out. I could really picture each as they happened in my head. These fights, coupled with the gathering of clues, the courtroom drama, and the bartering with neighboring kingdoms to avoid war all equaled a thrilling plot that kept me turning page after page.Some of the book felt a bit rushed, but otherwise the plot really clips along quickly, sweeping through a very complex and intriguing plot. I was deeply invested and I was disappointed at the cliffhanger ending, but I understood the reason for it. I will be greatly anticipating the next installment in this series.
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Well, I really hope there's a sequel of some sorts in the future, despite being a standalone as of now. The epilogue at the end was not enough to satisfy me, unfortunately. The story was well written, contained great characters, and has a world that has left me intrigued. 

Hesina is a great character. I liked her drive and passion in figuring out her father's mysterious death, as well as adjusting to her new position as queen (though we all know she was definitely not ready to be one in the beginning). Hesina is one of the many strong characters, male and female, in the novel. Despite being prone to making mistakes, she still treks forward. Also, she notes that she is a sympathizer, to humans and to soothes, but she doesn't always make it show, because she knows it will be a sign of weakness, so seeing her internal struggle with this was admirable. As a queen, she needs to watch her actions. Hesina is also surrounded by many characters, good and bad. However, my favorite of her interactions was with her brother Sanjing. It was immediately established in the story that both siblings do not get along, and it was heart-wrenching to sense the tension between every interaction. The development of their sibling relationship was heartwarming but unfortunate as it was driven by tragedy. I really like Sanjing as a character, it's sad that he didn't appear more as he would have been such an interesting character to explore. 

The world in which the story takes place in took a while to adjust to, with the occasional info-dump here and there, but all fantasy novels have those so it's a bit unavoidable. The plot of the story was kind of slow in the beginning, but it definitely picks up as events happen and secrets unfold. Although the perpetrator behind Hesina's father's death was unexpected, the true antagonist was expected, at least to me it was because I didn't fully trust the said character throughout the story. I also found the romantic subplot to be rushed as well as the ending itself. As mentioned before, the epilogue didn't leave me satisfied because it didn't provide a solid conclusive ending, which I would have preferred since this is a standalone novel (though the author has mentioned that there is a potential for companion novels, but none as of yet).

Overall, this was an interesting read. If you're looking for a Chinese fantasy story that involves mystery and politics, then this might be worth a read for you.
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I don't even have words for how good this book is. The worldbuilding was on point, the characters were so rich, and I'm still just in awe. This well-deserves to be one of the biggest books of 2019, and the hardcover comes out just in time for my birthday so you know I'll be picking one up. :)
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Get ready for Joan He, a new tour-de-force who is changing up the YA fantasy game.

DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is a richly drawn tapestry of complex characters, a sprawling world, and a tense plot that wounds the reader as tightly as it does its burgeoning queen, Hesina. Utterly compelling from page one, this book will grab you and not let up until the final page. And even then, it'll leave you wanting more.

He's style is as lyrical as Laini Taylor, and as unforgiving as Leigh Bardugo. CRANE is destined to become a modern fantasy classic.
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Descendant of the Crane is already one of my favorite books of the year. This rich, politically tense fantasy was such an enjoyable read for me. 
My favorite part about the book was definitely the characters. Lilian was my favorite, closely followed by Akira and Caiyan. While I didn't enjoy Hesina quite as much, I did appreciate her dramatic character growth throughout the book. 
The plot was so unique, and like nothing I'd ever read before. I really liked the Chinese-inspired setting, as well as the detailed history of the Eleven and the relic emperors. So much was going on in this book; political obstacles to navigate, tensions with other countries, complicated relationships between Hesina and all of her siblings, and the ever-present threat of the magical abilities of the sooths. 
However, I did find the first several chapters of the book difficult to get through. It wasn't that the content was boring; I just wasn't very interested in any of the characters or anything that was happening yet. In particular, I thought the trial surrounding the king's death was strange in that it was treated as any other trial, rather than one investigating the possible murder of the king of the country. It seemed to me that no one was taking it very seriously. 
As the story continued, I did come to enjoy the characters much more and I became a lot more invested in the plot.
The prose was absolutely beautiful, as were the depictions of the relationships between Hesina and her siblings, particularly her adopted siblings.
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This is the book. Everyone else can stop writing now, cause this is the best one. Writing is over, cancelled. This ornate world'building, incredibly engaging and fresh character dynamics, and plot twist after plot twist that kept me guessing until the end is exactly what YA should be. Joan He is a genius, an evil genius perhaps because of the ending, but a genius all the same. Hesina is the main character everyone aspires to write, relatable but not cliche, strong but vulnerable, and complex in many other ways. This is book is perfect and you should read it.
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It's a heart-wrenching, gorgeous, and remarkably clever standout in YA fantasy. It pulls absolutely no punches. I'm just floored and shoving this at everyone I know when it comes out in April.

Most engaging to me was Hesina and her plans. The politics were so smart. I was rooting for Hesina every step of the way, and all her mistakes and successes felt so nuanced and genuine. When she was caught off-guard by the own tiniest weak points that her own plans exposed, on herself or on others, I was just as shocked as her. I felt overwhelmed by all the things she had to handle, but stunned as well by the cleverness and clarity with which the book handled so much backstabbing and political nuance.
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Descent of the Crane is a 2019 YA Fantasy novel by debut author Joan He. It has been called a Chinese Game of Thrones, but I think that is unfair. It is certainly its own story, and despite some similarities, it treads its own path.

The story revolves around Princess Hesina, who finds herself prematurely taking the throne when her father, the King, unexpectedly dies; or is it murder? Should an investigation and throw the kingdom into chaos and paranoia? If it was murder, who can she trust? Her siblings join her along with the charming Akira who has his own secrets. They flirt with disaster sympathizing with the sooths (magic people) who are heavily persecuted while searching for truth in a corrupt court in an upside-down kingdom in a backwards world. Yes, we are still talking about fiction.

The story is fun and satisfying at times. Right when I started finding myself getting bored, something what pop up that would make it fun again. The world creation was quite enjoyable, but it felt like there were moments where characters were awkwardly talking about how the world works to get us the information. It was a bit forced on occasion, however it was great fun to explore He’s world, and her story did not disappoint. The story was the strength of the novel, while the characters were annoying at times. Akira was too much of a dream-boy, and Hesina was a self-pitying unconfident whiner. Throughout the novel she kept making everything about herself. If anything happened in her Kingdom that was bad, she blamed herself and whined about it. I get that it is a YA novel, and characters that lack self confidence are relatable for many people, but it felt excessive and a little self-centered. Despite these complaints, I did enjoy the read, and will be looking forward to the next installment.

If you are interested in the latest YA fantasy, then this will surely be one of the big debuts of the year. It doesn’t top my list of recent books in the genre, but it is a promising debut. If you do end up checking out the book, I recommend going to her website here; she has some amazing art, some relating to the book.
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After the mysterious death of her father, teenage Hesina finds herself thrown into the ruling of her currently-unstable kingdom (becoming Queen Hesina of Yan). She is convinced her father has been murdered, and will do anything to see to it that he gets an investigation and trial... even if that means committing treason.

Honestly, this didn’t sound like something I would normally read, but I decided to give it a try... and I’m so thankful I did!

Joan He’s writing is atmospheric and beautiful, and although the story started out slow, it ramped up at the end and was full of action. Hesina was loveable, and the rest of her blended family were all interesting characters. I honestly would want to continue reading a series about this family if the author decided to turn this into a series! I was definitely left wanting more.

Overall, I had fun, and I’m happy I read something out of my comfort zone!

Thanks to Net Galley and Albert Whitman & Company for an advanced copy. It’ll be out on April 2nd!
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I need to stop being so easily intrigued by pretty covers. The Descendant of the Crane has been described as a Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones. Like George R.R. Martin’s epic saga, I wasn’t expecting rainbows and scenes of happiness. No, this book was dark and political.

The story begins with a King’s mysterious death. His daughter, our protagonist, Hesina, is to be crowned Queen, but can’t permit her father’s death to go unpunished. She is determined to discover the truth. The land is speckled with magical soothsayers whose abilities arouse fear across the kingdom. Despite the danger it entails, Hesina seeks the help of one of these mages. Ruling a whole kingdom is a challenge. Discovering truth which changes not only her faith, but the fate of her people, is on a whole other scale. 

I wish there was more magic. We’re introduced to these fearsome mages known as soothsayers but don’t see much of them in action. I would have been more engaged if there was more information about their abilities and their history; the blue fire was compelling, but we see little else. Moreover, the pacing was a little shaky at parts. What alleviated this however was the the final third of the book. A plethora of secrets are revealed, nobody is as they seem and the twists didn’t disappoint. 

I can see why this book has received so much hype; it’s a fascinating story of a Queen determined to stitch her kingdom’s wounds of centuries past back together. She’s growing from her insecurities, surviving her pain, and rising stronger and more determined than ever. It further illustrates how the public are often unable to handle the truth, leading to relentless persecution based on beliefs. Overall, this was compelling and woven impeccably throughout parts of the book. However, the court procedures didn’t interest me much and having little knowledge of Chinese culture, the world-building lost me at times. Nonetheless, the ending hints at an interesting sequel in which I’m eager to discover more of the character’s motivations and agendas. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
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Thank you Netgalley for the digital ARC. I wanted so badly to love this book, and it seemingly had all the elements necessary for it to be a page turner. Unfortunately it not only fell flat, but I found myself unable to stick with the book for long periods of time which prolonged the inevitable.

I did enjoy the premise, the Chinese fantasy, the elements of surprise and mystery weaves throughout. All of that, however, did not make up for the flat characters and bizarre pacing. Our main character, Hesina, never saves the cat, and I could not get myself emotionally invested in the characters or their journeys thereafter. The pacing left me confused and struggling to slog through the pages. There were times I found myself going back a page or two certain I had missed something important only to find an intense scene was written so speedily, I was unable to be there in the moment. Other parts drug on for pages that felt unnecessary. This pacing issue was never resolved, even up the very last pages.

While I didn’t hate the book, I won’t be reading the next installment.
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I loved the entire concept of this novel! Teen fantasy has been an ever growing genre over the last couple years and lots of times these books fall into the same tropes. This book however, is unique and gripping. The writing is intricate and the story well developed, I was hooked until the very end. I cannot wait to see what comes next in this series.
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This book opens with the death of the King and his daughter Princess Hesina of Yan is convinced he was murdered. She pushes to get an investigation and trial opened up which leads to more mysteries, magic, political intrigue and plot twists. 

This book was not bad, sadly though I could easily put it down. I’d say it’s a combination of historical-like fiction, fantasy and mystery wrapped into one.
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Unfortunately, I was very disappointed by this book. It just didn't work for me and I really wish it had because I wanted to love it. Overall I just didn't care about anything that happened in this book. I didn't care about any of the characters or what happened to them. I felt the plot and pacing were so slow and some of the reveals and climax moments were entertaining but not enough to make up for the rest of the book where it felt like nothing was really happening. Even the actual ending was disappointing and I never like finishing a book feeling like I wasted my time. It really is a shame because I love a fantasy world with lots of political scheming but something about this book just never clicked for me.
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This has a great plot! The betrayal is heartbreaking and hard to see coming. Fun adventure and the cover art is beautiful!
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THIS BOOK. I've been raving about it to friends for a while. Joan paints in vivid and detailed strokes, creating a gorgeous and full-formed world. The main character is incredibly relatable as she tries to be the daughter her father would have wanted and the best queen her people need, even as she struggles to survive the machinations of her court. The side characters all have their unique personalities and are purposeful to the plot. And the twists (yes, plural) are effective and definitely will surprise in the best of ways. 
5 stars is way too little to do this book justice.
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While I wouldn't describe Descendant of the Crane as an "Asian Game of Thrones" (because to compare anything to Game of Thrones is setting up the reader with unreachable expectations), it was still a compelling and wonderful read. The author executed the plot twists with ease, I had no idea they were coming. The writing style kept the reader interested and engaged. The parallels of actual Chinese culture are well placed and leave the reader wanting to learn more. I also loved how authentic the characters were, each of them are well-enough developed that I was genuinely interested in each of them.
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At least this book managed to get me out of a slump of not being able to actually finish anything, even if my interest started to wane towards the end... I'm not sure if it's what I'm reading at the moment or more about me. 

Anyway, on to Descendant of the Crane, which had all the makings of a book I would really like and which mostly lived up to what I was expecting. The basic premise is that it's the start of a series and book 1 is all about the accession to the throne of Hesina on the sudden death of her father - she's convinced he was murdered and a good-sized section of the book deals with her investigations and the subsequent trial (including attempts by less savoury elements of the court to scapegoat someone they dislike). 

Our setting is a kingdom where a previous monarchy was overthrown by eleven rebels who then instituted a rule based on the Tenets they'd written, including institutionalised hatred and violence towards 'sooths' - people with powers around influencing the future, whose blood burns as a convenient way of identifying them. As a result, the sooths are now in hiding in Hesina's kingdom even as she's looking for a way to overturn the current system (while staying queen). One of the neighbouring kingdoms is enslaving the self-same sooths but using them as weapons, which only helps to inflame the hatred against them in Hesina's kingdom.

At the start of the book, Hesina has consulted one of the sooths herself even though this act is considered treasonous, and ends up recruiting a thief from the dungeons as her advocate and assistant throughout the court process. Akira naturally has a hidden history and all sorts of convenient skills which turn up when needed and Hesina just keeps pursuing him romantically even though he's consistently spurning her advances. Seriously, this sucks when the roles are reversed and is equally unappealing when it's this way around, one of the things I least liked about the book. 

At the end of the book, Hesina finds herself in hot water and someone within her family turns against her, to the point where she and Akira have to flee. What puzzled me was that the author then chooses to finish this particular part of the series with a chapter explaining why that person was not bad really and is actually working for Hesina's benefit in the long run. That would, to my mind, have worked much better as a reveal later on in the series.

There's a couple of bombshells dropped by the author along the way that tip this firmly into fantasy from mock-history, as it's revealed that certain individuals are actually functionally immortal - the search for this had been considered scandalous on the part of the previous regime, so it's passed over a bit more lightly than I'd expected. Maybe this will get picked up later on down the line?

So, in the end it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read and I'm mildly interested in where it'll go next but it will probably be one of those series I'll pick up via the library or if it's on sale. No pre-orders for this one, I'm afraid!
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