Descendant of the Crane

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Oh. My. Gosh. This was a beautiful story and I just.... I can't get these characters out of my head. They're perfect.
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Thank you Netgalley/Publisher for an approved arc of this title for an honest review in return.

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I find it was more of a creative YA fantasy. Hopefully this book doesn't get underrated cause it's a good one to still read. I was constantly on edge and kept me guessing until the end.
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This took me forever and a half to read! But completion feels nice.

I was really really confused about what was going on during the entire first half or so of the book. The main things that really stuck with me were: Chinese period drama in book form, empress queen female leader, and Japanese guy.

It was probably the format, but my ereader wasn't particularly compatible with the intro formatting to each of the chapters, so I had a tendency to skip the whole "ONE/TWO of the ELEVEN" thing. After the first big reveal about the ex-emperor, the other just clicked in place. Very cliché, not altogether sensible, but I guess it made things slightly more interesting?

Overall, I feel like the characters weren't much, just names associated with actions. People were given personas, but beyond those personas they couldn't really hold their own.

I didn't really understand the motivations of any of the characters either, why they did what they did and why the main plot and investigation took the turn that they did.

I liked Akira the most probably, but still not enough to really bring much to the story. Beautiful cover though, and I love the cultural aspect that existed.

My thanks to Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company for the ARC and adventure!
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"A dead king," said the convict. "A deceived populace. A truth seeker. Sounds like a story that could end very well or very poorly, and I want to spectate."


Every now and again, you pick up a book and it'll transport you through time and space. It'll be your be-all and end-all for however many pages. It'll consume you wholly, until you are one with the book and the book is one with you. 

Descendant of the Crane is one such book. Beautifully written, expertly plotted and wonderfully executed, I began reading with a sense of foreboding but was quickly enamored by He's storytelling. There is something magical, haunting and lyrical about Descendant that no other books has managed to emulate so far. Not only is it beautifully, poetically written, but the plot itself is so perfectly construed, so wonderfully built, that it is easy to lose oneself in the labyrinth of its pages.

Princess Hesina of Yan never expected to become queen, but after her father's untimely -- and frankly surprising -- death, she has no choice but to step up and take the crown. After requesting the help of a soothsayer (highly illegal and punishable by death) in uncovering the truth of her father's passing, Hesina launches a kingdom-wide investigation that threatens the very foundations of Yan, and her own, existence.

When they arrived at the red-light district's peeling archway, an ember sparked in the girl's stomach. Some came to the seediest business quarter of the imperial city to buy warmth. But she?
She had come to buy justice.


Enlisting the help of her adoptive siblings and a convict with a rod, Hesina finds herself traversing the royal life of court, politics and betrayal. Hesina is a spell-binding character. Her love for her father, her determination and her steadfastness is admirable. Even when everything is against her, she pursues justice with a one-track mind, both terrified and sure of herself. I was in awe of her character and found her to be incredibly relatable in mind and spirit. 

I also enjoyed that this isn't a typical YA where strained parental relationships are only ever acknowledged in times of need. Hesina's taut relationship with her mother is very present, and it thwarts her decisions each and every time. Hesina constantly questions herself thanks to her mother's lack of warmth towards her, and even in Hesina's time of need, she finds herself hoping for her mother's love.

"My blessing, is it?" Her mother's hair, quilled with gold pins, was jet-black like Hesina's. Time didn't touch her, or these chambers, which had been painstakingly preserved for the few days a year she visited.
Being here made Hesina feel six again. The orchids hanging from the beamed ceiling looked like sneering faces, and her knees ached with the memory of kneeling against the russet huanghuali floors. "Yes," Hesina answered, keeping her voice flat, cool, and stripped of hope.
"Do you have a trusted scribe?"
But a little always crept back in. "I do. I can summon--"
"Good. You may forge the blessing, because you will never receive one from me."


Descendant of the Crane is ripe in distrust, political drama and mystery. Joan He has penned a tale that'll live through the ages, beautifully influenced by Chinese culture and nuanced with more than the pages suggest. Even the romance is ever so subtle and takes a backseat for most of the book, not daring to impose or be rushed. 

"Bring the fury of the kingdom to your doorstep, to your husbands and wives and parents. Have your little bonfire now, and sizzle later like moths in a flame."


Read this book. Writers, bloggers, readers, take note of this book. Don't let it fly under the radar. 

All quotes have been taken from an uncorrected proof and may be subject to change in the final copy. Thanks to Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company for providing me with a copy in exchange for a review.
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Actual rating: 2.5 stars

Oh, it sure does hurt a little when you end up not liking a book as much as you thought you would.

Thank you to Albert Whitman & Company and NetGalley for giving me a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed the court politics and political intrigue of this book. At first it took me at least ten chapters to be fully engrossed in this world as I had a bit of a hard time following what was going on. I liked how this isn’t a story about the main character, Hesina, becoming a queen, but rather how she manages her life as a queen. I have to be honest here, I’m not sure she’s made for the job. She is very bent on figuring out who murdered her father and it takes her places that perhaps would have been better if she had stayed away. The last few chapters of the book bumped up the book a good half a star. There are a decent amount of shocking revelations and twist I never saw coming.

I don’t have a favorite character, or one that I felt particularly drawn, too. The struggle is here that I didn’t feel for any one of them, unfortunately. I liked the twins, Caiyan and Lillian, one was very stoic while the other seemed a little carefree. I’m not sure what to make of the supposed “love interest” for Hesina named Akira. He was a mystery, but the little bits of backstory he revealed to Hesina didn’t do anything to convince me to like him. Granted, without him, many things wouldn’t have been solved in regards to the dead king and the soothes. I will say the betrayal of one character in particular surprised me completely and made me sad. I never saw it coming!

Despite how I feel about the book, I enjoyed the writing style. He does wonders weaving an intricate story, and I adored how this is a Chinese-inspired story. I truly felt like I was transported to another world, and it was like a story and a side I didn’t know I was missing. While this book wasn’t for me, I plan to keep an eye out on what else He has in store for her readers.
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**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
Wow  this book was brutal.  The pace was very slow and that made it difficult to get into the story.  Epic/ high fantasy is often difficult for me because I need action.  The writing is beautiful but, it was a little much at times.  
If you like Asian inspired fantasy that is not afraid to be gritty, the. This might be the book for you.
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Damn, I did not see that ending coming. 

Descendant of the Crane blends Chinese culture, magic, and political intrigue into one tasty and addictive morsel of a story. An amazing read for any YA fantasy lover!
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This book. Wow. This book was written beautifully. I have no complaints about the writing at all. It didn't read like most YA fantasy novels. It didn't have non-stop action. But it had twists and I did not see that ending coming at all! This was a slow burn. I can't wait to read more from this author!
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So I started this in February and finally got around to finishing it. The first half was kind of boring. It moved really slow, and I didn't really like Hesina or understand her motivations as a character, a daughter, and a queen. About half way through the book, the action starts to pick up, and the plot really gets moving. We get to see some revelations, and just twist after twist is thrown at us. I really enjoyed the ending and I'm curious to see if this story will continue. I ended up really like Hesina and her resolve. I wish we had gotten to know the side characters more...but at the same time, keeping them a mystery served the plot.

Overall, this had some great political intrigue and writing, but the plot moved a little slow at first which hindered my enjoyment.
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Thank you to Netgalley and AW Teen for providing me with an ARC of this book. 

Descendant of the Crane follows a girl named Hesina whose father, the king, she has found murdered. Once she is crowned, she is determined to get to the truth of his death. What she finds though is that sometimes the truth is better left uncovered. 
I thought that this was an intense and intriguing political fantasy. If you are looking for a book that has a heavy emphasis on politics and the inner workings of palace life, definitely pick this up. This is an Asian inspired fantasy as well which I found really intriguing. I loved learned all the new things about this world and learning about things that I didn't know about before. I thought Joan He did a great job in her descriptions of this world and how this political system works. I would also encourage you to seek out own voices reviewers to get the best possible opinions on how this world was handled.
It's been awhile since I've read a heavy political fantasy and I really enjoyed this one. I thought it was interesting to unravel the secrets of Hesina's world and everything happening around her. Hesina was a character who grew so much and really grew on me as the book went on. I loved being able to see her journey. 
The reason this book didn't get a full five stars from me was that there was a few things I wasn't too convinced on. The first was the romance. I would have honestly preferred for it not to be there as it felt rushed and out of place to me. Along with that, I would have liked to gotten more to a gradual reveal about the romantic interest past. 
I also felt that this book, although a stand alone, was left pretty open ended for another book. The epilogue, at least to me, felt like it was a lot of information dumped on me that explains everything that happened. I would have wished that also would have been spread out more throughout the book. This book is open to a second book and I would be very interested to see more from this world in the future. 
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a fantastic political fantasy novel. It showed a lot about truth and how sometimes the truth is much different than what we perceive. This was a fantastic book and I can't wait to read more from Joan He.
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This was great mix of Chinese mythology and a murder mystery. I actually enjoyed it so much. The mystery was well plotted out and the court room drama the perfect touch. I think that the relationships between characters were strong and well crafted. The writing was very lyrical and visual. It was quite stunning.
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An intriguing, well-written fantasy-mystery with thrilling twists. Hesina is an interesting and enjoyable narrator, and I was a fan of hers from the beginning. Interesting plot twists, political intrigue, and a wily cast of characters kept me engrossed. Definitely has YA-Adult crossover appeal. I do think this title could've gone a little darker/edgier and been written for an adult audience, as certain parts felt a bit "safe," but overall, I really enjoyed He's debut.
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This book was great, but a little overhyped for me. So in this review I'm going to try and be objective and see past the fact that I wasn't blown away by how fantastic it was and focus on the stuff that I did really like. I loved the characters. Hesina was a really deep, well thought out character. Joan He did a fantastic job of showing the pressures that are put on rulers and how much it takes to be a good one. 

The murder mystery element was also a fantastic addition. We need more murder mystery fantasy novels. Especially with the high political stakes that this was had. It was made even better by the twists that were revealed later in the book. There was some stuff I guessed, but wow, there was one very major thing I just did not see coming! 

I liked the different factions, the sooths and those that wanted them gone, the neighbouring countries that are ready to use that to their advantage. I liked how much of Hesina's work was a balancing act between all of it, as well as how she quite clearly had a side despite not being able to show it in her role as queen. 

I really really liked this world and these characters and overall, while I didn't get that feeling of amazement and love that I expected to get from this book, I just want to see more of this world.
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Wow. How can a single person describe his/her feelings about this novel? 

It was fascinating, outstanding, positively scandalous, and absolutely incredible. Joan He really hit it out of the ballpark with this book, and I'm excited, as both a person of color and reader, to see where He takes this plot and characters. 

Hesina, our protagonist, finds herself thrown into unfortunate situations when her father, the ruler of Yan, dies. However, I can see why others may say this issue is too easily pressed and folded away into the story without another notice because the death really was too sudden and quickly settled without proper consideration given. In this case, Hesina is properly maddened by the murder of her father, but we, the reader, are not as moved as can be. I was mildly disappointed to say that Hesina's motivation only slightly touched my heart. I think He could have paid more attention towards detailing her protagonist's rage and motivation. 

Nevertheless, the story plods on until we meet the Soothsayer, who then pushes Hesina and Akira, our criminal love interest, whose past and motivations are neatly hidden, together. This love story was a bud that I wasn't too fascinated by, but I supposed all YA novels need a solid love interest for the protagonist. Bonus points for the criminal aspect, although that, too, isn't wildly creative. Why can't we get a "Podrick" character for once?

The best part about this entire novel is how He deliberately ensures that Hesina never quite gets her way. After all, readers get sick and goddamn tired about how easily protagonists can manipulate entire court systems, political hierarchies, and monarchies with a simple triumphant huzzah in the court room. I like how Hesina struggles to succeed her father's legacies and teachings whilst also pondering her lack of power and experience in a court that has lived before her and will live after her. Hesina's power struggles are real, and they truly do leap off the page. The sheer sizzle of her rage and frustration is a nice touch.

"What is truth? Seek it. Write it. Good kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray."

Descendant of the Crane is a fascinating YA addition to the growing hoard of literature, but it stands out with legitimate power struggles and a headstrong, albeit weak, protagonist. 

3.5 stars.
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The writing of this story is absolutely beautiful. The first page had me drawn in so quickly, it felt like a portal sucked me into the world and here I was - seeing everything. I also really liked the premise for this story and how it just kept building onto each other. The murder mystery style of this book, mixed with the stunning images, made this an easy book to read as well. My only issue was the slow pace in the beginning. While something is always happening, it felt like not much occurred to help the plot and I'm left wondering what is going to happen next - which isn't a bad thing. Overall, it's hard to put into words how much I liked the story because I forgot to take notes for this review. I just really wanted to read it and I enjoyed every second of it! (That should say something)

I'm excited to read more of Joan He's work in the future and everyone should read this book!!
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Didn't realize this had been archived. I own four different editions of Descendant of the Crane and I don't know what else I can say that hasn't already been said. It's a beautiful book! 💖📚
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Ugh, what to say about this book?!

I was so looking forward to devouring this when I read the blurb and learned that it would be set in a Chinese-inspired world and culture. In the last few years there has been more of a shift towards Asian mythology and Asian-set fantasies, but most of these take place in Japan, so I was really looking forward to exploring a China-based one. The description also mentioned a team-up with a criminal, which is also right up my alley, so I was expecting a lot.

Alas, this book didn't at all live up to my expectations because it was so. darn. slow. I was bored out of my mind after about three chapters, but I kept pushing on expecting the pace and plot to pick up. Nope, not at all. It was a drag to read each chapter because nothing seemed to happen and anything that did happen seemed very unimportant. Besides that, I never felt a great connection to any of the characters. All of them seemed very blah to me and therefore didn't make me want to root for them or hate them. Even the "big" twist at the end was pretty predictable in my opinion.

I will give the book props for exploring good vs. evil and not making it a black and white issue. A lot more books have been focusing on this theme lately, and I thought the book did a good job of exploring the moral gray zone. But even that couldn't save this book from boring me to tears.
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Joan He's take on this Chinese-inspired fantasy failed to impress me. Princess Hesina is about to take the throne of Yan, a title that came with a price. In this case, the untimely death of her father, which might look like a natural death to all but not to Hesina. As Hesina tries to find evidence of foul play, she confronts a soothsayer, an offense that is considered high treason, she also faces the dilemma of who in the court is trustworthy and who isn't. And that is how she meets Akira, a robber and Hesina's last chance at getting justice for her father.

The story as such is full of plot holes and reads like a hasty, poorly narrated fiction novel. The character sketches are a hit or miss. While a few of them are well written, most are just boring, unpredictable and irrational. Most of the plot feels abrupt and written in haste, except the final chapters, which brings back the usual elements of a political conspiracy.

The second half of the story definitely left an impression on me and made me believe that the author could have given more time for the characters to grow, especially Hesina and Akira, who appear uncertain and mysterious most of the time. A plot oriented take that could have been written better.

With half-baked characters, sloppy writing and a plot without purpose, 'Descendant of the Crane' goes to my 'disappointed' basket.
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Descendant of the Crane is Joan He’s debut novel and I absolutely loved it. I’d expected to like this one but this surpassed even my high expectations for it.

I finished Descendant of the Crane last night and I already want to reread it. I thought I knew how the story would go but at almost every point I was wrong. He does a fantastic job of taking fantasy tropes and adding a dash of magic to create something new. Plus the world-building was good (with the potential for it to really expand in the future books). The plot was this great mix of murder mystery and coming-of-age tale that kept me engrossed from the very first chapter. It started off a tad slower but that really worked since it allowed the author to lay a solid foundation for an intense finale.

The characters were also all so vibrant. Hesina really jumped off the page for me and I loved seeing how she grew and changed throughout the novel. We mostly see the other characters through their relationship with Hesina but I thought that added an interesting element. I was never 100% sure if how she saw/interacted with the characters was actually representative of who they are. So it was fascinating to see how everything unfolded.

I’d recommend this one if you’re looking for a YA fantasy that feels fresh and new. I’m going to be keeping my fingers crossed that a sequel is announced soon!

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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I was really excited to read Descendant of the Crane because of all the hype in the Twitter community, but it fell a little flat for me, which is a shame as I think some people are going to love it! (Also, that cover is amazing!)

I’m always excited for fantasy that explores politics and the complex relationships hidden behind the facades of stable governments, so I thought I was going to love this. Hesina, the princess, must attempt to solve her father’s murder while also attempting to begin her new rule, despite an unsupportive Dowager Empress and a bunch of questionable acts in the empire’s history. Murder aside, magic users have been oppressed and persecuted, and there’s a very complicated set of siblings involved in the succession, so there’s plenty of space for things to go wrong!

Unfortunately, I simply wasn’t invested enough in Hesina to be particularly fussed about the various intrigues and betrayals of her life. I think that a deeper look into her interior thoughts and feelings at the beginning would have set this up so that I cared more about what happened to her, because I honestly felt a little like I’d tuned into a film a third of the way in, and never quite caught up on why anything was a big deal. The stakes are high and have international effects, but we see so few characters that I felt very detached from the danger and importance of certain actions, and Hesina often seemed to be operating completely in the dark. Everything is very limited to Hesina’s viewpoint, which is clever in showing her confusion as she comes up against complicated history and politics, and I think this would have been much more enjoyable for me if I had cared about her.

The descriptions of the architecture and clothing are lovely and vivid, and the Chinese-inspired setting is unusual in YA fantasy without being added for the sake of diversity. I liked that there was minimal romance. I would have loved if the story had kept to the single line of the investigation into the king’s murder, as the courtroom scene near the start of the story is one of the most interesting in the book. I think this mostly comes down to a matter of taste – I was hoping for something twisty and political, like The Goblin Emperor, and I got something much more YA coming-of-age-y. In fact, it really reminded me of Ash Princess. It’s no bad thing, but it didn’t suit me. Three out of five stars, with a caveat that with different expectations you may read a wholly different book!
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