Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

An engaging fantasy novel that incorporates a murder mystery and courtroom drama makes this an excellent choice for readers of all genres as well as those who are looking to explore the fantasy genre further.
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Such a creative and inventive world, lush characters, and a plot that had me at the edge of my seat. Joan He's book was the first book in a very, very long time that I couldn't put down. I can't wait to see what else is to come from her.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.

I’ve been struggling with YA fantasy for the past year or so, however I wanted to give it another try while in quarantine. I dusted off my copy of The Descendant of the Crane -- one of my most highly anticipated 2019 releases that I never managed to read (oops), which is coming out in the UK in June. It turned out to be the perfect escapist read filled with gorgeous world-building, fun characters, and more twists and turns than I could have ever anticipated!

This book is a funny one for me because I think it was a fairly generic YA story with fairly generic characters, but there’s something about it that worked so well for me! After some consideration, I think the thing that drew me into this book and kept my interest was the wonderful world-building. The author does an incredible job of creating an intricate world with lush imagery, interesting politics and government system, an in-depth history, and fascinating mythology. As someone who loves world-building above all else in fantasy, I absolutely devoured every single gorgeous detail. The plot itself is fun, but a bit of a mess -- throwing so many twists and turns into the reader’s path that felt almost overwhelming -- but the amazing setting and culture absolutely made this book work for me.

I didn’t find any of the characters particularly outstanding or memorable, but I did enjoy Hesina and her incredible determination to find out what happened to her father. Her strained relationship with her blood brother and mother, especially in comparison to her close relationship with her adopted siblings, was really interesting to read about, especially as the story unfolds and you learn more about this history between family members. You get the sense that Hesina wants to be a good queen, however she’s left a little in the dark, despite the training her father gave her, and she spends most of the book struggling to keep her head above water. She has a very classic reluctant ruler story, but it was one that I enjoyed reading nonetheless. 

The Descendant of the Crane is a fun and twisty YA book that might not work for everyone, but lovers of beautiful fantasy worlds should consider picking up! It was a great quarantine read and was the perfect escape! I am seriously hoping we get a sequel in the future.
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This novel is one of the best I’ve read this year! The characters are so dynamic yet relatable. I loved the flow of the story. It held my attention the whole time.
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This is one of the best own voice, fantasy books I have ever read with an intriguing plot, amazing characters, beautiful character dynamics and such exquisite writing!  This book deserves to be recognized because it brings a sharp uniqueness to the ya genre.  The plot twists were fantastic!
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I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the brutality, the Chinese historical influence, the exploration of estranged parental relationships, and the lore of the sooths. However, what didn't work for me was that this book felt like the beginning of a much larger story. After I finished the book I found out that this is a standalone novel which made me feel differently because I don't feel that the story was properly wrapped up and we almost got zero answers to any of the questions that I had. With that being said, I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
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The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm so sad to say that this book was not the right one for me. 
The plot sounded really promising: it looked like an Asian version of GoT (and that sounded really amazing), with twists and turns, politics and female power. I was sold. So, the premise and promise were high and I had great expectations, but then, sadly, they were not met. 
I found this book to be very boring to read. I had so much potential, but it wasn't exploited well enough.
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"No might was perfect for treason, but this one came close."

I really wanted to love this. It was just too slow and I lost interest and had to keep coming back to it. I realized after almost exactly a year that it came out I still can't finish it. I keep coming back to it but the words I don't know are too distracting and there are so many characters. I'm done trying for now. Maybe I'll pick it up in the future. Maybe.

"What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good kinds pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the firs thing we betray."
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I can't believe I waited, like, a year to read this title. BIG MISTAKE!


It's fresh. It's new. It's unique and brilliant and incredible. The world-building is top-notch, the plot is constantly twisting and turning, Hesina is just SO STRONG AND AMAZING - I disappeared into Joan He's lyrical prose and magical world in a heartbeat, and didn't emerge until I was done. It's just that good.

I've read tons of reviews saying that this title is an addicting read, and I cannot agree more. Read it, read it, read it. You're going to love it!
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This ancient Chinese-based fantasy explores the idea of how history is written and crafted by the winners of a war. When Princess Hesina’s father is murdered, she vows to discover who was responsible. But the more she delves into the truth, the more she learns about her country’s history and how that history has been twisted to oppress a portion of the population known as sooths. For generations, her people have maintained what they consider to be a sort of utopia—a world of fairness and equality and peace. However, they’ve covered up many aspects of how that utopia came to be and the costs of maintaining it. The story is admittedly slow at the beginning, but it picks up with a series of twists that keep Hesina and the reader guessing as to who she can trust and what she will do once she uncovers a whole series of very inconvenient truths. Will she be able to lead her country toward a new future or will she be forced to maintain the status quo?

NARRATION: Though I didn’t have an actual issue with the narration, I’ll confess that listening to this book instead of reading it did present a problem for me: I kept getting characters’ names mixed up. This has never happened to me before while listening, but I think a few of the Chinese names sounded somewhat similar, and I had a really hard time keeping track of who was who. This caused me some real issues with tracking the story, but I didn’t count that off in my rating since it seemed like a “me problem.”

***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
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I was provided an e-arc from netgalley to read and review 

I unfortunately missed the opportunity to read
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I received this as an eARC to read for free in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company for giving me access. 

Being Asian, I always enjoy a story I can picture myself in and Descendant of the Crane was a beautifully written.
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I have had this on my “currently reading” Goodreads shelf for almost a year. I received an e-ARC from the publisher (Albert Whitman & Company) and Netgalley. Thank you! I am so sorry that it took so long to read and review this book. As many know, it was due to a crazy pregnancy.

Anyways, this book had so much promise and potential but it just didn’t do it for me. I felt like I needed more from the world building. There are so many things that I would have loved more information and background on. Things were just skimmed or skipped. This was one of the biggest issues for me.

I do think that the author did a great job with the characters and supporting characters. Anyone else wanting to read more about her parents? That would be an awesome book, I think! I really was craving so much more about them. I did have some issues with Hesina because she was just frustrating at times. She was a Queen and she did not act like it. She acted on the side lines and she really needed to assert her power. I think one of my favorite characters was Akira. I wish he would have been a little bit more present. He was a lot of fun.

I do wish that the “trial” actually lasted a lot longer. I really enjoyed Akira finding the faults in the witnesses stories. It was amusing and I would have loved a lot more of it! It really could have helped this book because the plot is so slow. It takes forever to get things going and it gets a bit boring. It’s not particularly a hard read but just a really slow build.

I did like some of the plot twists! I did know what a couple of them were ahead of time, it was quite obvious. I think what really threw me was Lilian. Ahhh! That’s all I’ll say about that because .. no spoilers!

Overall, this wasn’t a terrible book but I wanted a lot more from it. If I remember correctly, it was pretty hyped before it came out last year. I’m not sure what happened after that, since I kind of dropped off the face of the earth. Regardless, there are definitely some enjoyable moments but it’s filled with some issues.
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This was a beautifully built story from a debut author. The beginning of the book was rather slow, and I can understand how many people would end up DNFing it. But once the pacing picked up, it got very interesting - the intrigue and the various twists and turns really pulled you in and forced you to see what would happen in the end. Recommended for those who enjoy the cultural setting and can settle in for the long haul to a satisfying end.
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I'm still absolutely in shock that Descendant of the Cran is Joan He's debut novel. It's such a beautifully written Chinese-inspired fantasy story and it really reads like she has been writing for at least a decade. I loved the story and the world-building so very much and I flew through this way too quickly!
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First, let's talk about the bad.

The worst was probably the beginning first half was slow. Like super slow. Slow enough that I thought about DNFing it a few times (hence the whole list of moods). It just took forever to get into. Honestly, if it wasn’t an Asian inspired fantasy (or a Netgalley title), I might have actually called it quits.

The other thing that was a little subpar was the romance. Part of me thinks there wasn’t a romance but I’m pretty sure there was one. Or at least an attempt. The fact that I’m confused is why I’m putting this is the “bad” category. The romance wasn’t exactly bad, like the pairing and progression of the relationship makes sense. It just felt a bit rushed and haphazard.

Now that we got that over, here's everything I liked about Descendant of the Crane. Which is pretty much everything else. Literally, everything else besides the slow start and the questionable campus was enjoyable. Honestly, if Descendant of the Crane didn’t have such a poor start, it could have been a 5-star book.

I love, love, love, all of the characters in this story! They’re all so different and unique. Plus, all of their psychology are all on point. I was even tricked into forming emotional attachments to some characters that ended up WRECKING me and my poor heart.

I do have some (minor) mixed feelings about Hesina, our MC but her development is just so fantastic. I like how she’s not a perfect heroine and has many faults. She’s not the best fighter or the smartest, or even the one with the best calligraphy (relatable lol). She’s just the most determined (sometimes stupidly so). But her growth outshines all of her qualities, good and bad. I really appreciated the ability to watch her opinions and abilities transform over the span of the story.

Descendant of the Crane has sooooo many freakin plot twists. And there were all really good surprising ones too! I swear, I did NOT see any of them coming, which is unusual for me. Some of the plot twists made me gasp audibly, one made me tear up, and that ending got me SHOOK. Let’s just say I sincerely hope this book sells enough to get a sequel or a spin-off. (Please, please, please buy it!!!)

I’m of Chinese descent so I really appreciate the way ancient Chinese culture was woven into this story. Especially the Chinese terminology. I love how some actual Chinese vocabulary was included in the story. It makes the fantasy feel a little extra special. The italicized Chinese words should be easy enough to infer, even if you didn’t suffer through 12 years of Chinese school like I did, and add an extra level of authenticity to the world building.

Descendant of the Crane makes up for its extremely slow start with its well-written characters and boatloads of unexpected plot twists.
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My Thoughts:

According to the acknowledgements, Joan He started writing this story when she was still in high school. In the six or so years that it has taken to get this published, I think Ms. He has developed a complex, multi-layered world of magic and mystery. This is a great foundation for more stories to come. 

Set in an ancient Chinese like world, the twists and turns in the plot made this both frustrating and intriguing. Sina, or Princess Hesina of Yan is thrust into the monarchy by the death of her father. Although Queen is not what she wants, and although her strengths become weaknesses (loyalty, a sense of justice, stubbornness), the reader is treated to a less than perfect heroine who continues to fight when others would give up or wallow in self pity. 

I am looking forward to the continuation, although I hope it will not take another six years

From the Publisher:
Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own. Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she's thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father's killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who's also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.
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*Note: Review will be live on the blog and at the link provided and Goodreads on January 8*

"If you want to understand a person, peer at his heart through the window of his prejudices and assumptions."

Descendant of the Crane follows the journey of Hesina of Yan as she searches for her father's true killer. Now the queen, Hesina holds the power to order a formal investigation and trial to identify the murderer. Yet the young leader's pursuit of justice is not so simple. Hesina hides her own act of treason from the public: seeking the assistance of soothes, clairvoyants rejected by society. To complicate matters, Hesina's representative in court, Akira, is a criminal himself, and the court desires a quick answer rather than a fair trial. Even worse, other kingdoms, sensing the new court's vulnerability, near closer to war. With the help of her royal siblings, Sanjing, Caiyan, Lillian, and Rou, and her representative, Akira, Hesina must quell public dissent and mediate court politics to find the king's murderer and save her kingdom.

What most distinguishes Joan He's debut novel is its characters. Hesina's siblings are flawed and nuanced, which make them all the more interesting. Sanjing, while a bold soldier, grapples with the implications of murdering the innocent and his weak relationships with his siblings. Caiyan is loyal to his sister, but his motivations are unclear. Lillian, too, is loyal, but less tolerant of Sanjing than her twin brother Caiyan. Hesina's mother is perfectly gray. Wracked by grief, she attempts to dissuade her daughter from taking the crown. Hesina herself acts in ways not easily classified as good or bad. Only a teenager, she struggles to reconcile the public image she must maintain with the consequences of her decisions.

These characters' actions and moral conflicts illuminate one of the novel's core questions: do the ends justify the means? The protagonists face demanding situations that force them to choose between losing the consensus of the public and hurting potentially innocent people. To preserve peace, Hesina would have to compromise her values. Should she choose to punish no one, however, a revolt could ensue, leaving her powerless to address her kingdom's greater problems. Descendant of the Crane's portrayal of difficult and even decision issues enhances the complexity of the characters and examines to what extent pain is forgivable if the decision-maker's intent was not malicious.

The court intrigue and gossip explore the effects of mob mentality and supplement one of the most enjoyable parts of the book: the trial to punish the king's murderer. In the informal (albeit entertaining) court proceedings, a rigid director presides over what can only be described as a search for a scapegoat. Rather than enforce a just trial and discover the true identity of the killer, many courtesans are willing to lie to achieve what is accepted within society, even if what is popular is wrong.

"What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray."

In the highlight of the middle of the book, Akira's dramatic counterarguments meet the antagonists' falsified evidence. While Akira brings up substantial points, his reasoning falls on many deaf ears that prefer echo chambers over equality.  The general public, meanwhile, becomes so polarized and susceptible to manipulation and propaganda that they are willing to engage in blackmail and witch hunts, becoming as corrupt as the worst members of court, to maintain the status quo.

Although the court drama and resulting conflicts accelerated the pace of the story, parts of Descendant of the Crane were, at times, difficult to follow. The roles of the sooths, the kingdom of Kendi'a, and the Eleven were initially confusing until later sub-plots clarified their significance. Hesina follows the advice of the first sooth woman she meets verbatim, even though the sooth advises the queen to make a prisoner her representative in court. Hesina's trust in this advice and her later romance with Akira felt rushed and underdeveloped-- a contrast to the slow pace of Hesina's quest for the crown in the first half of the novel. Later in the book, many conflicts ensue simultaneously, including a journey to Kendi'a, that distract from the search for the king's murderer. In these moments, the investigation into the king's killer, a major focus of the beginning of the book, felt like an afterthought.

Still, thanks to He's characters, the plot twists in this novel are unpredictable and exciting. It's a rare occasion that I am surprised by the conclusion of a book, but Descendant of the Crane packs some potent punches.
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The Descendant of the Crane has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019, but unfortunately, this one was not for me. The story itself pulled me in immediately, but it would at the same time make me lose interest. I read this book over the course of 4 months because I had the most difficult time connecting with the characters. This is such a shame because the concept is amazing and the writing is beautiful. But I just couldn't finish the book which leaves me unable to provide a review. I don’t feel comfortable review/rating (giving it a three-star rating via Netgalley)  the book since I didn’t finish it, but thank you regardless for approving me of this book.
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DNF @ 15%

I was SUPER enjoying this and then I think I just got into a bad reading rut because I haven't touched it since April. So it's about time I set it aside for good. :(
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