Descendant of the Crane

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

So excited to have finally read this!
This political fantasy is inspired by Chinese history and introduces us to unforgettable characters as they try to figure out who us telling the truth. Hesina ascends to the throne after her father, the Emperor, dies mysteriously. She becomes convinced that he was poisoned, so uses her new power to start an investigation, unaware that the truths she will uncover could shake her beliefs and the very foundations of her country.
I loved all four of the siblings at the centre of this family and how the inspiration from Chinese history was melded with fantasy to create an interesting world. I had a LOT of questions about Akira, many of which I'm hoping will be answered in the next book. I think that I will need to reread this before Book 2 comes out as everyone is so complicated!
Full review to come on my blog!
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LOVED this book.  I can't wait for it to come out so that I can recommend it to my students.
i love the world the characters its really fun and easy to read
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why am i crying in the club right now????? how dare you joan (i think this might be one of my favorites of 2019)

instead of a traditional review, here's reasons why you should just read this book
🌸 joan's writing is so, so gorgeous and it creeps into your soul
🌸 (it kind of reminds me of roshani chokshi's writing? but more practical)
🌸 this literally has the most twisty plot ever. listen, I came into this book expecting a murder mystery and came out feeling like I'd walked through a hailstorm
🌸 it's not only a murder mystery!! it has a fantasy plotline and centers on Hesina trying to figure out how to manage ruling her kingdom
🌸 I love all of the characters so much.
🌸 especially Sanjing. I would die for Sanjing. I love him so much
🌸 seriously, I was not kidding. I love Sanjing even though he gets the least page time. 
🌸 (oh I just realized I superimposed Li Shang onto Sanjing and it's kind of... fitting)
🌸 also yeah this novel has some flaws, like certain unnecessary plot twists and Lillian's lacking characterization but I've become too obsessed with this book to rate it objectively
🌸 by the way... the romance is kind of lackluster. I said it
🌸 I just don't completely see the appeal of Akira as a love interest. I'm sorry, y'all. I really tried. I just kept picturing his brown hair as a rat's nest
🌸 I also didn't really see any reception from Akira towards Hesina? he never really demonstrated his affection for her. I had so much hope for their ship but no
🌸 Sanjing tho... why was the brother more attractive than the actual love interest
🌸 Anyways. more importantly, Hesina's character was so well-done and I could feel her desperation and helplessness seeping through the pages
🌸 and her realizations that everyone's not who they appear to be are just... so relatable. I love Hesina so much and she Truly Feels Like A Flawed Teen Character to me
🌸 I would categorize this as kind of a coming-of-age fantasy
🌸 I really loved so much about this book. the worldbuilding was honestly flawless and the lore of the empire was one of my favorite things to read
🌸 I mean, this book also tackles institutionalized oppression and how it can be built-in so deep that it can never truly be removed
🌸 also the most wild existential themes are present, yo
🌸 like what the frick I came for an adventure and left with a hole in my soul and inescapable thoughts about legacy
🌸 THIS BOOK SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE NYT BESTSELLING LIST. truly the greatest injustice of our time

Trigger and content warnings for death by poison, slavery, drowning, blood, cutting oneself, (institutionalized) oppression, parental neglect, and strangulation.
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*My review will be posted on my blog and goodreads on April 19th*

I requested this book on a whim and received it about a week before the publication date. After having read this, I'm so glad that I got the chance to! I'd seen a little bit of buzz on twitter and it is all well deserved. Descendant of the Crane is an amazing book! Seriously amazing. Like go add to your TBR yesterday amazing.

Part murder mystery, part fantasy, and all fantastic adventure.

While this book took a little while to find its footing, when it did it completely blew me away. By the end of the book I was pretty much screaming at every new revelation or twist. I can't say anything about the twists because this is a spoiler free review, but this book is a wild ride. It's so great!

I loved the world of this book and cannot wait to see it expanded in the next book.

The characters were interesting and surprising. While Hesina frustrated me at times, I loved watching her grow through the book. By the end she felt like a totally different person than she had been at the beginning of the story. I feel like she's going to have so much growth in the next book, too. I also really liked her sister Lilian even if she wasn't around a ton. Caiyan struck me as kind of suspicious in the beginning and I won't say anything else about that.

As for Akira, I'm still making up my mind about him. I think I like him as a character, but he's also such a mystery. Hopefully, in the next book we get to know him better because he's intriguing.

But the really magical thing about this book is seeing how excited the Asian people represented by this Chinese inspired fantasy are about this book. Seeing some of the people I follow on twitter freak out over the cover and the representation was amazing. While it's great that I loved this book, I'm a white person and can't speak to the representation. So, I highly recommend checking out some of the ownvoices reviews and if you know of one please comment the link in the comments.
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An exciting, all-encompassing story that lives up to its Game of Thrones comparison. With amazing characters, trilling twists, and an impressive setting, Descendant of the Crane is a book that everyone should read. I look forward to more from Joan He!
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4/5 stars! An excellent YA fantasy that explores fantasy China with such rich depth and magic that I can't help being disappointed that it's a standalone (good to hear that there's going to be spin-offs!). At times the pacing lagged a bit, and worldbuilding was a tad heavy at the beginning. Still, the plot was interesting (I love a good mystery) and the characters dynamic as we had to decide whether it was possible to label them as "good" or "evil".
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Compelling, interesting, fantastic. I can’t even put into words how thankful i was to receive this ARC from NetGalley! I couldn’t put this down once I picked it up! Definitely one of my top reads of 2019.
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I was initially drawn to Joan He’s debut novel Descendant of the Crane because I heard it described as a Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones.  The promise of a Game of Thrones-style, action-packed epic fantasy set in a Chinese-inspired world just sounded way too good to pass up.  When I dove into the novel, however, I realized that it had a lot more layers to it than I was expecting.  Descendant of the Crane is equal parts epic fantasy, coming of age story, and murder mystery all rolled into one very compelling story.

In the kingdom of Yan, magic has been outlawed for centuries.  Seeking to use it for any purpose is a crime punishable by death.  Joan He grabbed my attention immediately by starting Descendant of the Crane on a most unexpected note, with the protagonist, Princess Hesina of Yan, knowingly committing an act of treason by seeking the counsel of a soothsayer, or fortune teller.  Hesina is willing to risk getting caught, however, because she desperately needs information that only a soothsayer can provide.  Her father, the King, has recently passed away, and Hesina is convinced that foul play was involved.  Hesina knows that while the soothsayer cannot see the past and provide her with the killer’s name, the soothsayer does have the power to see into the future and can thus point her on the path to bring her father’s killer to justice.

I admired Hesina right away, for her determination and bravery, and for her devotion to her father.  What I liked most about Hesina though is how much growth she undergoes throughout the story.  She determines that sitting on the throne will provide her the best opportunity to bring her father’s killer to justice, so she convinces her mother to let her go ahead and ascend to the throne to rule as Queen of Yan.  Descendant of the Crane is a coming of age story in the sense that Hesina really has to grow into the role of Queen and learns many tough lessons along the way.  When she first takes on the role, her main goal is just to avenge her father’s murder, but the longer she rules, however, the more she realizes her kingdom is unstable and fueled by its hatred of the soothsayers and their magic.  She becomes determined that it’s time to wipe out this hatred so that the soothsayers can just live in peace.  Undoing centuries’ worth of hatred is a tall order though, and Hesina quickly learns it’s not easy being Queen and that her decisions and actions sometimes have unintended consequences.

In addition to Hesina’s journey to figure out what kind of ruler she wants to be, Descendant of the Crane is also filled with plenty of political intrigue to keep the plot moving along.  Hesina quickly realizes that there are many potential suspects as to who killer her father.  Many within the palace have much to gain from the King’s death that Hesina is convinced it’s an inside job.  It makes her really examine each of those around her, looking for potential motives and whether or not they would have had easy access to the King.  And once there are actual suspects, there’s even some courtroom drama to mix things up a bit.  It reminded me of an epic fantasy version of Law and Order, which I thought was quite unique and very entertaining, especially since Hesina’s legal representative, in another unexpected twist, was a sexy ex-criminal named Akira.

While the pacing for the novel wasn’t the fastest, it still worked well for this story.  It’s kind of a slow burn to find out what really happened to the King, but there are so many twists and turns along the way that it really effectively keeps the suspense building. There were a couple of jaw dropping twists, in particular, near the end that have left me anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

I think my favorite part of the story is the way the author has crafted her characters.  There are lots of complicated characters and relationships, and who’s good and who’s bad, isn’t always obvious.  Morally gray characters abound, which always makes for a great read for me.  There’s also some interesting sibling dynamics within Hesina’s own family that I very much enjoyed reading about.

Overall, I was very impressed with Joan He’s debut.  Equal parts epic fantasy, murder mystery, and coming of age story, Descendant of the Crane has a little something for everyone.
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It is hard to believe that DotC is Joan He’s debut novel. The story is so well-crafted that it feels like something made by a seasoned author, not someone who was a SENIOR in HIGH SCHOOL when she first started it. (It’s fine, I’m not jealous or questioning what I’ve done with my life…) The story quickly sucked me in, and I read this roughly 400-page novel in just a few days because I simply couldn’t put it down.

Descendant of the Crane takes place in a Chinese-inspired fantasy country called Yan. Joan carefully and cleverly builds this world layer by layer, giving us all the information we need without dumping in chunks of expository text. As the main character, Hesina, learns about being queen of Yan, we naturally learn more about the country itself. There are a few times when it seems like Hesina gets a little nostalgic solely for the benefit of telling the reader something about the world, but since Hesina’s father was killed, it also makes sense she’d be a little more reminiscent than usual. And I would always rather learn about the world through the eyes of an interesting character, rather than having a narrator drop in paragraphs of information.

On a similar note, the magic system was so unique and such a fresh take on what could have been a tired trope of fortunetellers. The sooths are the strongest fantasy thread in the book, and they hold up this responsibility well. At the start, we only know that sooths can See into the future, and they have been demonized and systematically executed because of their abilities for centuries. Rumors swirl about other powers they may have, but neither the reader nor the characters know what is true, what is gossip, and what might have once been true but now no longer is. I don’t want to talk in too much detail about the sooths, because spoilers, and it would just be me fangirling over the cleverness and ingenuity of Joan’s creation anyway. So once you read it, send me a message and we can freak out together.
By far the strongest component of the book is its plot. Ultimately, it is the story of political intrigue, and a young queen trying to do what is best for everyone in her country, while still crippled from grief over her father’s death and conflicted about the treatment of sooths in Yan. I don’t watch/read a lot of political dramas, but this one kept me rapt. It is the perfect balance of political maneuvering with action scenes. We don’t spend the entire novel inside the castle, allowing both us and the characters to breathe and explore the world more. And when we are in the castle, it is so hard to know who’s on which sides, it’s just as suspenseful as any of the fight scenes.

That said, I didn’t find it hard to follow. One review I’d read mentioned making a sort of character map to keep all the characters and who they supported straight, so I was bracing myself to have to focus hard on keeping track of everything. But while the plot is intricate and some characters are duplicitous, since we see everything through Hesina’s eyes, I thought it was relatively straight-forward to know who was on which side, at least in the moment until things changed. Maybe also reading it in just a couple of days helped…
The one thing I did feel the book was lacking was some character building. The narrative is first person from Hesina, so we do get a good sense of her character arc, but I kept finding myself wishing we could just take a beat and spend some time with the other secondary characters. Probably the relationship that shows the most growth is between Hesina and her brother, Sanjing, which is interesting because he spends much of the book away leading the army as Yan’s general. Hesina’s relationships with her adopted brother and sister, Caiyan and Lilian, her half-brother Rou, or her mysterious representative, Akira, aren’t given very much page time to develop. It feels a little bit like the reader is expected to care for them simply because Hesina does, rather than giving us moments of pure character interaction to truly allow the reader to care for them because of what we see them doing. It was a very packed book already, so I understand that the focus is on the plot and weaving everything together, but if a little more time had been spent on helping the reader connect with the characters, the stakes of the plot would have felt even heavier as it moved toward the climax.

Overall, this was a spectacular debut, and I gasped several times while reading it. Joan’s writing style is also beautiful, and I was taking mental notes of how she creates gorgeous descriptions with just a few words so I can try and emulate in my own novel! I am already itching for the second one in the series, and can’t wait to read more of Joan’s work.
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I'm not really sure how to review this one. I went into Descendant of the Crane with such high expectations that I think I built myself up too much and was slightly let down.

Even within the first few chapters I just had this feeling it wasn't going to be my favorite. It jumps right into a scene and I was entirely confused for more chapters than I want to admit. The overall story was okay but I think it could have been executed better. There was a twist ending that could have been amazing but ended up falling way flat for me. It just had so much potential I couldn't help but be disappointed. Throughout the story things just felt.. scattered? I don't even really know how to put it. I'll just leave it at I was confused the majority of the time about what was even happening.

As for the characters they also left me feeling almost nothing. Our main character was very immature and naive, and while I understand this is a Young Adult novel so I shouldn't pick out things like the character being immature but it just really keeps you from connecting to her. We get almost no back story on her and I had no reason to want her to succeed in this story. Even the side characters weren't much better. There is no development for any of them and not having a care about the characters kept me from enjoying this book.

I'm also incredibly confused about my feelings towards this book because it seems everyone enjoyed it but me, and I don't understand why. It was lacking in everything I look for in a good book. Maybe that's just my preference? Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for this story? I have the hardcover so maybe I'll give it some time and try to read it again, I don't know if my feelings will change though.
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4 “Politics & Courtroom in Fantasy” Stars

ARC via NetGalley.

Thank you, Albert Whitman Company!!!

For avid YA Fantasy readers, it’s rare to come across a book that feels different from everything else out there. Publishers more often than not prefer to invest their money in formulas that have done well in the past—sometimes I hate it, sometimes I understand, because I’ve been guilty multiple times of searching for similar books after I’m done reading something that I liked a lot. Who hasn’t done that?

But isn’t it exciting when you also get to read something amazing that feels unique? Fresh? This is the feeling I got when I finished Descendant of the Crane.

If this intro isn’t enough to convince you to buy this book, then the cover should do it. Have you seen that beauty???

Though this book has a main character that is also a royal, she isn’t your average white princess who also happens to be a special snowflake. Sure there’s something unique about her, but it isn’t the focus of the story in any way or not even the driving force behind her actions. It’s something I’m betting will be explored more in the sequel (and no, this isn’t a standalone) but it doesn’t make a huge difference in this debut. Hesina, the protagonist, doesn’t rely on magical solutions to fix the problems that arise, most of which she created herself. She makes tough calls—and sometimes doesn’t even make them, which yeah infuriated me a little, but made her more flawed and human.

Hesina isn’t perfect, and neither is the book, which is why I’m not rating it five stars, but watching Hesina (and the book) grow was a fulfilling experience. I’ll be honest here and say I almost stopped reading at some point in the middle, because one of the twists was pretty obvious to me and it irked me that Hesina couldn’t see it. Having said that, I’m extremely happy I kept going because while I was right about the twist, I was SO WRONG about the motivation. It feels like Joan He wrote that final chapter just to tell me: you thought you knew what was going on, huh? Well, I surprised you, didn’t I?

She sure did.

She also surprised me with a few other twists, with a protagonist that made me feel, with a story filled of intrigue and politics, and a debut that deserves a lot more buzz that it’s getting. The narrative is quite smart, the world is inspired by Chinese culture, the writing is good, most of the characters are twisted in a good way (though some of them could use a little more work), there’s a hint of romance and the love interest is someone who interested me from the very beginning. Yes, the pacing is a little slow, but the fact that there’s a murder mystery helps keep readers engage. By the way, I LOVED seeing courtroom scenes in a YA Fantasy. More, please.

Because of all the above, I’m rooting for Descendant of the Crane. I hope this book gets the recognition it deserves. I highly recommend it to YA Fantasy readers looking for a fresh read from a new and promising writer.
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As beautiful as the cover      

This was once a quiet little book that snagged my radar when its beautiful cover released. I hadn't heard much about it when I first read it. Now it's all over the place, and well-deserved. He's debut is a forceful, genre-bending masterpiece inspired by Chinese history, with a generous touch of magic. I found myself gasping and white-knuckling the pages with every unexpected twist and turn. The astonishing ending left me desperate for a sequel.

Murder mayhem magic     

The beginning was a little disjointed, so stick with it. It starts well with Hesina finding out that her fther, the king, has died. She believes it was murder, and demands a trial. A soothsayer (one of the magic-users who were killed and shunned years ago, and must now live in secret) tells her that a specific criminal must be her lawyer if she wants to find the truth. It's an excellent set-up, but then the pacing gets a little choppy. It feels like the trial is moving way too fast to be the focus of the book.

And that's because it's really not. Once He really hits her stride and the rest of the plot unfolds, it's a breakneck ride to the end. There's just so much that happens! He does a great job of managing all the disparate plot threads so that the plot feels intriguing and complex rather than overwhelming. Instead, we get a great sense of how overwhelmed Hesina feels. She's being forced to keep a brittle empire together while war threatens from a neighboring nation. Internally, an unknown spy threatens from within the court.  She's at odds with a mother who openly reviles her and a brother who feels slighted. She feels pity for the soothsayers, who are being witchhunted as scapegoats for the king's murder, but cannot save them openly without courting rebellion.

To top it all, she's starting starting to fall for Akira, her mysterious criminal legal representative, who may be her only hope in preventing powerful courtiers from using the trial to railroad innocents. And as Hesina does her own investigation, she finds that there is much about her family she never knew. Take nothing for granted! With every new reveal, He reveals herself to be a master of red herrings, foreshadowing, and secrets. Everything is connected. But even if you pick up hints along the way, you will, if you're like me, still be astonished at how it all builds to explosion at the end.

I can show you the world       

The plot alone would make this book a worthwhile read, but it's strengthened with a foundation of believable characters and intricate worldbuilding. Yan is based on historical China, and He is good at giving enough details to make you feel embedded in the world without infodumps or over-explaining. In this inspiration she creates her own unique world, a world in which soothsayers were once depended on for fortunes and magic but were driven out by the mysterious forebears of Yan, the Eleven. Each chapter heading has a tenet from One and Two that comments subtly on the chapter content. And the way Yan's history relates to its present is so clever, I can't go into too much detail without spoiling. Suffice to say, He has solid sense of her world, and it shows.

I love all the messed up kids

Hesina is a wonderful narrator. She's headstrong, stubborn, clever, selfless but sometimes a little self-absorbed, and all of this comes through strongly in her voice. You can see her stepping into traps, but you can also completely believe why the circumstances would lead her there. She's flanked by Caiyan and Lilian, her adopted siblings, her greatest supports, and interesting enough on their own that I wanted to know more about them. I also loved her brother Sanjing, a fiery warrior who resents Hesina's easy closeness with Caiyan. Their sibling dynamic is so contentious, so believably fraught with misunderstanding and stubbornness!

When it came to romance, Akira is actually kind of lukewarm. I loved his moments of sarcasm and his clever lawyering, but I just felt a little too distant from him to be as invested in his relationship with Hesina as I could have been. On the other hand, I am totally invested in Sanjing's friendship with spitfire assassin Mei. But the romance wasn't a central theme, because there's just too much else going on to absorb my interest. 

Magic meets thriller      

Descendant of the Crane is that rare fantasy that goes beyond the bounds of the genre to create something unique. While magic is certainly a part of the story, the thriller-like plot takes center stage. It was an exciting, breathtaking read that grew on me the more pages I turned, and left me wishing desperately for a sequel. It's a world that feels homelike, and characters I came to know intimately. Don't miss out on this gem.
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It was engaging from the beginning, holding the viewer’s attention with it’s rich world and mystery. When realising it was the first in a series, I was at once irritated, realising that I was already waiting for the sequel of a book that itself was not out yet; and ecstatic that there would be more from these characters and this world. 
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3.5 stars 

Thanks to Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review 

This little gem may have escaped my notice if I hadn't seen a list of highly anticipated YA novels for 2019. Reeling from the death of a beloved father, the teen regent Hessina is hell bent on finding the person or persons who may be responsible. Plenty of twists and lots of back stabbing betrayals ensue and it isn't long before Hessina wonders- who can I trust?

There is potential left here for a sequel and despite a little bit of a slow start in the beginning, I soon was swept away by this tale.
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A Chinese inspired Game of Thrones like world! An intricate Chinese fantasy full of twists and treachery while keeping to a singular goal: the truth. The writing and characters were all beautifully described, capturing your attention but never demanding. The pacing was a bit slow at first, but definitely picked up in the second third of the book. 

Honestly, no review I write can do this book justice.
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There is a lot of hype surrounding this book and it is very well deserved. I went into this book knowing very little about this book, but from the description it sounds like a standard nobility murder mystery with a dash of fantasy elements. But, while most mystery/thrillers are focused on the drama of actually catching the killer, Descendant of the Crane takes a more introspective look at the main character and the concept of “truth” in general. I loved how readers can see the time and effort that Joan He put into building her world and how intricate she made the court system.  I love her writing style and every chapter is prefaced by a quote from the Tenets of the Eleven which is this worlds “bible” for an easy comparison. The way in which these quotes are written really make One and Two their own characters with distinct voices of their own. Joan He did an awesome job making relatively believable characters all with their own distinct voices, which with a cast of characters this size it isn’t always easy.

I was not prepared to take this journey of truth with our mc Hesina. I was all for searching dark alleyways to find a killer but instead, I got taken on an introspective ride of what is “truth” and what is the true cost of it. Also, what is the true cost of remaking the world? Poor Hesina put way too much on her plate. Honestly, I was just curious to see how far she would go with her trial and whether she would take the Cersei Lannister route to get what she wanted.

But (thankfully) Hesina actually cares about people and had to wrestle with caring about her subjects and getting the truth she desired.  I would definitely say that there are some flaws in the logic of this book, but I feel like it could just be that some areas weren’t as fleshed out as I personally would have liked. But, I definitely didn’t understand why Hesina kept focusing more on her trial than the blossoming war on her borders. I just felt like once that crown got placed on her head she should have shifted focus to more administrative issues rather than just her own quest for justice. I highly doubt that while she’s running about her city that there weren’t other important matters beyond the trial for her fathers murder. Real life doesn’t work that way.

Also, not gonna lie, the twist ending is a little disappointing but I would like to see where it goes if this book becomes a series. I feel like there were enough threads left hanging to allow for a second book at least. My only other complaint is that the romance felt a little forced/sudden but at the same time it didn’t seem like it was trying to be more than just a simple attraction between two characters? I dunno it was a little confusing.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this story. I thought that the characters were all very distinctive and the writing style incredibly beautiful. I did find some plot holes and felt that there some areas that could have been explained much better or revealed a bit differently for more impact but despite those things, I would highly recommend this book for readers looking to break into YA fantasy but aren’t looking for something that is going need a huge commitment or be super confusion. This is an awesome introspective read that really takes readers for a ride!
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Let me begin by saying that I had toyed with the idea of reading this book for a long time. Months. The premise had me intrigued but there was just so much hype surrounding Joan He’s debut that I was, honestly, a little intimidated. Now, I’ve read over-hyped books before but most of those gripped me from the synopsis and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them anyway. Descendant of the Crane didn’t have that “must read now” pull for me and I wasn’t sure whether it was something I needed to read or not. At the end, curiosity won out. I’m not mad about it. 

I had a hard time getting into this. I actually stopped at 30% and went to Goodreads for reviews because I wanted to see if I was the only one having issues and whether it would be worth continuing. Again, there is so much love for this book that I had to keep on trucking. Pretty sure I would have been condemned like a sooth if I had put a DNF on my review. I can see the mob now. *shudder* Luckily, past the half way mark this turned around for me.

He’s writing is fantastic. I found that the pace of the book was on point and I wasn't getting bored, which is always a worry of mine especially if I’m not feeling the story right away. I feel like the world building wasn’t quite as extensive as I would have expected but I also don’t think it was needed. There was so much work put into the plot, the twists and the characters that too complicated of a world would have taken away from the story and have more of a negative effect on the reader rather than an immersive experience, which is what every reader wants. 

The characters are what makes this book something special. I am absolutely in love with the entire main cast. Lilian HAS to be my favorite. I mean, who doesn't love a girl who thinks food and clothes can solve all your problems? A girl after my own heart. And let's not forget about Rou. Sweet, adorable, squishy Rou. I want to keep him. The whole Hesina and Akira connection doesn't sit well with me, though. I feel like that is more of a forced friendship rather than a natural connection. It's a little awkward. I also had higher hopes for Hesina. A girl playing dress-up was not my idea of a Queen. It works for the book, but there is something so unbelievably naïve about her that it grates my teeth. I give her an A+ for enthusiasm but a ruler, she is not.

There was so much that I really enjoyed about this book but what stalled me in my reading was the unrelenting sense that I was missing something. There was so much action, underhanded politics and plot twists (holy HELL....the twists!) that I constantly had no idea what was going on and that made this a long read for me. If I wasn't constantly feeling lost, I know I would have flown through this book. 

The real star of this show, for me, was that ENDING! I know I should have seen it coming, and some of it I did, but I was blown away. Full redemption for everything I wasn't feeling throughout the rest of the book. Now, I need MORE. I had read somewhere that Descendant of the Crane was a standalone but after finishing, I'm hoping that there will be at least one more book. You can't end it like that's not ok.

Obviously, I have a LOT of thoughts about this book. There are so many more but I don't want this review to be 6,000 pages. Descendant of the Crane is my most surprising book this year for sure and I am already considering reading it again. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book to read and give my honest (and very long) opinions.
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So, it's never surprising that there are always new releases that I'm excitedly anticipating, but it's always a surprise when I receive one through NetGalley!
In this review, I will be covering Descendent of the Crane by Joan He.

Title: Descendant of the Crane
Author: Joan He
Publish Date: April 9, 2019 
Publisher: Albert Whitman Company
Synopsis: "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."

I was really excited to read this, considering Joan He is a Chinese-American author and the story seemed culturally rich and captivating. Additionally, the first thing to catch my eye about this book was the cover, which was designed by Feifei Ruan. In an article, I had read that Ruan's imagery is very deliberate and specific- every layer has added meaning.
So, I finally just finished reading this afternoon. I'm completely blown away with Joan He's writing, and the ending made me want to run away to the mountaintops and beg the heavens for a second installment. Honestly, I had NO idea what to expect, especially since there was a mixture of fantasy and mystery. Honestly, I'm extremely impressed. I really enjoyed the intrigue with the investigation and the court with the give-and-take between Hesina's representative and the investigation bureau, which was presenting fake suspects and evidence. I don't remember reading any YA fantasy novel that incorporated crime/mystery elements into the story telling. Asides from that, I enjoyed Hesina's character. Extremely relatable and human, and struggling to keep her faith and will against all odds.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy themes of lies, trust, and betrayal. The ending with sting unexpectedly, but you'll be ready for more.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Hesina becomes queen after the death of her father, and is determined to find his murderer. But there are truths that do more harm than good...

Do you ever feel like you read a completely different book than everyone else?

The summary for this was incredibly intriguing—billed as an Asian GoT, with twists, turns, politics, war and feminist agency, I was beyond hooked. And all of the reviews from my Goodreads friends had me psyched and ready to rock on the hype train.


This was not the book for me.

The premise and promise was so high, but I felt like the execution wasn't polished as neatly as it could have been.

It played out like a lot of other YA fantasy stories that I've been seeing lately—twists and turns, haphazard worldbuilding (some parts of this world were breathtakingly beautiful, and others popped out of nowhere 3/4 of the way through the book without context), and a heroine whose motivations, actions and words are going in three completely different directions. And secondary characters who are painfully one-dimensional. (view spoiler)

There are so many different things happening in this story—war, salt/water trades with a kingdom that is trying to go to war with them for some reason, evil ministers, sooths and oppression and magic, a where'd that come from? love interest with a tragically mysterious backstory, immortal people, a red herring trial, a maggot-eyed scout, a vanishing village subplot that literally vanishes faster than the villages did, distant mothers and more and more bunny trails and side plots that erupted and then vanished into the ether leaving more questions than answers.

Additionally, Hesina herself is probably one of the most frustrating queens I've ever seen. Where are her ministers? Where is any communication? Where are her guards, her ladies in waiting, her attendants, why are the people of court and her people all faceless blobs who gather at her feet and she doesn't know any of their names???Where the adults??

And finally, the question that's most pressing of all: WHO IS RUNNING THIS KINGDOM?

Because it sure as hell ain't Hesina.

Girl spends like three days doing paperwork, is like, f this shit, and hares off to save the sooths and stop a war, bungles it because she has no clue how logistics, alliances, communication and leadership actually work, and then blames herself for not changing centuries of oppression and ingrained racism and hatred after being on the job for three weeks.

Again. So much potential.

Anywho, don't take my review as gospel.

Many, many other people loved this book. Maybe you will too.

I'm just not one of them.

I received this ARC from NetGalley and Edelweiss for an honest review.
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I wish more people would talk about this hidden gem. Every single word of this story shows how much the author was committed to telling this story and telling it well. Imbued with the most intricate details and political intrigue felt like I was in Game of Thrones but better. I could not stop reading after 25% of the book. 

TWO THINGS: holy plot twists and omg beautiful prose. I am a massive fan of Joan He from reading her debut novel. I am so sad we have to wait a year ...A YEAR ...for the sequel.
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