Descendant of the Crane

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

There are some very light spoilers in my review.

A bit of a mixed bag this one. Some really good aspects and some things I didn’t enjoy so much.

The book is set in a Chinese inspired fantasy kingdom. I usually really enjoy novels set in China or inspired by China and the author did a great job of incorporating cultural features into the narrative and this really helped bring the world to life.

Initially I thought Hesina was totally bonkers and clueless but I warmed to her as the novel progressed. Her actions seem contradictory to her inner monologue but taking into account the conflict between her personal desires and her obligation to her people it actually made her character quite realistic. All too often YA queens and princesses are ridiculously and unbelievably perfect and honourable and it was quite refreshing to see a flawed character in the position of Queen. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Hesina and her mother.

I didn’t actually foresee the twist that happened about halfway through the story which was a nice change again from how predictable some similar novels can be. The ending was also good if a little rushed and it certainly opens the door to a sequel.

Some of the issues I had were around the characterisation. For example Sanjing being the perfect swordsman, a master of strategy and commander of the army at age sixteen. I just couldn’t accept that as credible. I also didn’t understand why one of the main antagonists was just left to his own devices. It seemed utterly bizarre why a Queen wouldn’t use her powers to sort him out, especially one as morally grey as Hesina. The court scenes were also kinda meh and devoid of any real tension.

Some of the dialogue was quite iffy too e.g.

“There are no shadows in daylight, are there?”

Uhhh yes? There totally are? Shadows are literally formed by light.

The dialogue could also be a bit strange at times and it could be hard to follow who was talking. Some of the characters didn’t really have a unique voice and their motivations sometimes seemed contradictory as I didn’t feel I got to know some of them very well at all.

Overall, on balance, I did enjoy this novel. I assume from the ending that the author has future plans to continue the story and if so I’d look forward to reading what happens next.
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I enjoyed this story very much. I finished it within the course of two days, and not because it was a quick read. I read it because the characters were unique and the Chinese infused storyline was intresting. There were many plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I did figure out one of the characters, Akira, pretty quickly but he was still one of my favorites. I wish I had the same level of support the main character Hesina possessed from her family and friends, including those related to her through blood, adoption and a shared parent. Positive aspects aside, I found a few grammatical errors sprinkled throughout the story that were somewhat distracting. Its nothing that a decent editor can’t fix and certainly shouldn’t discourage a potential reader from requesting it. Because people really should read this! It was a very good book that left me reeling from everything that had happened and anxiously awaiting a sequel. It did end on a somewhat small cliffhanger, but I was okay with that because a character I had previously felt betrayed by redeemed themselves and because the ending made me want more. I’m confident that those who read this will not be disappointed.
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Descendant of the Crane is as fascinating as the cover. A fantasy set in a fictional Asian world with a complex plot and characters that captivate with their flaws and their strengths. 

The world-building has both a historical and modern perspective with complicated political contrivances. The relationships among the characters are particularly interesting with secrets and agendas that are not always shared. 

When Princess Hesina's father dies, she is elevated from princess to queen of a large kingdom with plenty of problems. Hesina also has questions about her father's death. She is certain he was murdered, but by whom? 

In desperation, Hesina visits a soothsayer, a treasonous act, but one that may give her the means of having her father's death investigated. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Descendant of the Crane and found the characters complex and sometimes surprising and the writing vivid, weaving the threads of family, tradition, myth, and politics a little at a time so that the reader sees the intricate pattern gradually. 

Listed as YA, the book is certainly appropriate for that age group, but as with all good stories Descendant of the Crane appeals to anyone who wants a well-written tale about intriguing characters in perplexing situations. Hesina's determination will reveal truths she doesn't like, and she is forced to take side-steps and to make concessions, but nothing will prevent her in her ultimate goal.

Read in December, blog review scheduled for March 12, 2019.

NetGalley/Albert Whitman & Co
Fantasy/YA. April 2, 2019. Print length: 400 pages.
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Descendant of the Crane is one of my favourite books of 2018.! It was so riveting that even when I had to put it down I couldn't stop thinking about it, and was eager to dive back in.  

It featured everything I love about fantasy - complex characters, rich world-building, and surprising plot twists. He painted a vivid picture of the world, so much so that I felt fully immersed in the story. It was so easy to root for Hesina the main character, in fact all the characters were interesting and layered. The writing style was also beautiful and it flowed really well. 

Overall, a very addictive read!
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Joan's debut is fast-paced and beautifully written with cinematic prose that drew me in from the beginning. Being a Chinese-American reader, I was extremely happy to feel myself represented among the pages.The twist at the end also strongly asks for a reread of the entire book, as the way it comes together in a murder mystery style narrative compelled me to go back to the beginning and look for the hints and clues that were dropped along the way before the revelation. The characters were consistent all the way through, never acting in a way that felt like contrived. 

I believe that is a lot of merit in classroom discussion for this novel, especially in comparison to other big YA fantasy titles, such as Children of Blood and Bone, where we see similar tropes of a tragic hero and found/biological families. Hesina's siblings brought upon a dynamic that I loved, which made the third act even more heart-wrenching. This book could also be taught along Six of Crows for its expansive world and cast of characters.
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