Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

Billed as a "Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones", this title certainly didn't disappoint. Full to the brim with intrigue, betrayal, court drama and unforgettable twists. Lavish and breathless, this is a must read.
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Pursuit of the truth and justice leads to some unexpected and unpleasant discoveries in Joan He's Descendant of the Crane. 

Princess Hesina Yan has been an eager learner but far less eager of taking up the responsibilities of rule that her education has been leading her to. With the untimely death of her father, Hesina is thrust into power as the queen of a kingdom threatened with various tensions from without, from competing nations, and within, from her family, advisors, and people. Determined to find her father's killer and seek justice, Hesina seeks out the aid of a soothsayer, despite the treason behind such an act, and opens up an investigation with a skilled convict as her foreseen representative. Bringing to light far more than Hesina bargained for, the facts she learns makes her question her, and her peoples', belief in the tenants they abide by.

A tale of intrigue focused on the manipulations common within an imperial court made political intrigue far more accessible to younger readers by conveying it through the perspective of the young and fresh-from-coronation queen. With world building that feels complete, yet also allows for further growth that would feel organic, the story gains a complexity that is believable, particularly when coupled with the missteps and growth that Hesina experiences on her pursuit for the truth. The relationships portrayed throughout the novel vary but all remain complex and realistic, including familial strain and trust, grudging acceptance with a strong mistrust of motives from advisors, and reliance upon the strengths of others despite a sense of independence. Though the story does reach an acceptable ending, the openness of the ending and the shift of perspective in the epilogue begs for more information to resolve some larger questions that arise.

Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.
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The Descendant of the Crane reads like a first time novel written by a very young and very inexperienced author and so I was not entirely surprised to learn the author is a college senior who began the novel when she was in high school. It suffers significantly from the "and then" trap -- that is the plot seems to chug along from one thing to the next on the power of "and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened" without any sense of intention or overall design. It's a shame really, because the plot is interesting and the world described is engaging. I'll read the next volume in hopes that the author's style matures. The potential is there, it's just not realized yet in this particular book.
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I'll probably write a longer review of this later and post it to my blog (I'll add a link later). 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters and their choices seemed realistic (if sometimes questionable) and the relationships that develop throughout are full of depth. Deception at every corner and a teenage Queen trying to forge her own destiny while upholding the memory of her father are fodder for a fantastic story line. 

My FAVORITE part of this story is the setting. The Chinese culture with which this story is built is fantastic and not one I've readily seen in fantasy or young adult literature. Even the descriptions of clothing, ceremonies, food, and social interactions were delightful and enlightening, adding to my own understanding and knowledge of China (I read some interviews and know she made some changes to make it more appealing to a modern audience, which I think may have been a good choice). 

Overall it was a wonderful read. Felt a bit choppy at the beginning but it was like the beginning of the roller coaster when you're slowly going up and then you crest the top and BOOM you're in for a ride!
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This book was added to my NetGalley shelf during finals week, which was unfortunate for my studying productivity level because I became completely engrossed in the world of Descendant of the Crane. Joan He is an excellent storyteller, and her balance between attention to fine detail and general plot pacing is extremely well done. As a half-Taiwanese American, the symbolism and nods to Chinese history, politics, art, and culture were particularly enriching. I especially enjoyed the side characters--each has a distinct, fleshed out personality and readers can readily empathize with the cast as plot twist after plot twist unfolds. 

I plan to incorporate this book in my college-level young adult literature course curriculum. Its portrayal of a largely uncharted historical period in the young adult genre lends to excellent discussion about emerging diversity in YA. Additionally, the aestheticism steeped in Joan's rendition of the Chinese imperial court can be compared and contrasted to the predominantly European aesthetics popular in mainstream YA historical fantasy/fantasy novels, such as Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. 

Descendant of the Crane does not disappoint. It has enough delicately woven twists that are easy enough to follow, yet complex enough to surprise. The political statement it makes is relevant to contemporary issues despite being embedded in a historically inspired setting. I look forward to holding a physical copy of the book in my hands this April so that I can ogle the gorgeous cover even more.
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When Princess Hesina of Yan is thrust onto the throne as Queen after her father's death, she declares a trial to seek the truth and must race against the clock before an innocent pays with their life. As the trial unfolds Hesina realizes that everything she has known is not what it seems, that she and her family are apart of something much bigger than she could have ever imagined, that those closest to her aren't who they appear to be, and not every villain is black and white. Seeking justice for not only her father, but the one's who now call her their Queen, she sets out to carve out her own fate and create a better home and future for her people. 

Descendant of the Crane is a Chinese inspired fantasy chalked full of betrayals, court intrigue, family dynamics, twists, turns, revelations with a side of swoons! The majority of the book is planning and plotting to get everyone in their places and around 70% is where I couldn't stop reading and had to know what was coming next (bob and weave because those reveals will fly at your head!). 

Debut author Joan He has carved out a nice little nook in the YA Fantasy world and if you are a fan of Chinese inspired fantasy or just fantasy in general, this will easily fit into your book world too. Releasing April 2, 2019, start marking those calendars!
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This book was added to my do not finish pile. What I liked about the book was the rich history and the amazing visuals the author was able to convey. I was able to see the court and was able to see every motion in clear details. I loved this aspect of the book. What I didn't like was Princess Hesina of Yan. She doesn't listen to people. She doesn't trust people but expect those around her to trust her. For a Princess, who wasn't interested in the crown until the murder of the King, she jumps into the role as if she has always been preparing for it. She is so entitled that I couldn't stand it. 

Another issue that I had with this read is it felt like this was a book two and I missing everything. I love when books jump right into things but only if its well done. I felt the author took jumping into things with the intention that if you start at the middle, a reader will be heavily invested. 

I was invested but not heavily. Its just as I was reading it always felt like I was missing something. I stopped the book at chapter 12. Will I pick it up again? I am not sure. I have seen a lot of high ratings and a lot of positive reviews., which will warrant me to give it another try but for to the DNF pile it goes.
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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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