Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

**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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We need diverse books! This book fills a hole I didn't realize we had and we need so much! It's a Chinese inspired fantasy with lots of intrigue,  action and (of course) some romance. It was such an enjoyable read and I think it will be well received.
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Something that I have become a little tired of is reading story that could be a full, adult fantasy novel, or even just a murder mystery novel like this one is (with fantasy elements) but someone along the way said it might survive better in YA. This isn’t to downtalk YA, keep in mind that much like ‘millennial’ is misused to describe teenagers, people assume YA is meant for teenagers too, and it is, but it is also for young adults such as people in their early to mid twenties. So I get that YA can be adult, I expect that. The elements that tire me about YA is that the main characters have to be 16-18 years old. I’ve mentioned before that the kind of YA I like the best is when the story is compelling and interesting and I forget all about how old the main characters are – it’s mentioned so infrequently and everyone acts so maturely that the story and characters stand on their own independent of the YA indicator. I haven’t been requesting many YA ARCs because of this. I’m tired of reading the same beginning of every book: “She was only 16 when she faced this terrible choice/journey/job” or “She had just turned 18 with her whole life ahead of her when…” and now that I’ve read too many, I see it everywhere and I can’t get past it.

This story escapes this particular criticism through the clever use of royal succession. Hasima’s father the king dies, and the royal doctress rules it a natural death and sends a decree out to the people of this, but Hasima discovers poison during his autopsy and decides to use her new powers as queen to call for an investigation into his death. Only problem is that her kingdom works under strange rules based on a history of fearing soothsayers and magic wielders. In an attempt to make society safer and more just, her kingdom is ripe for misuse and corruption, especially after the king’s death. Many people have knowledge of how the system works, and can therefore take advantage of its loopholes and dark places.

Many of the decisions made in this book are based on a set of Tenets written by the Eleven, a group of revolutionaries that overthrew the soothsayer Emperor and “freed” the people from the “evil” influence and oppression of magic. The philosophy behind these tenets is questioned, discussed, and sometimes ignored, but I really enjoyed thinking about how such clear teachings could be used to oppress and scapegoat a people in favor of saving a separate people. I like to think about how people can take advantage of things and about whether or not those actions are justified.

The major reveal, which I won’t spoil here, comes in several parts. More people are involved than you think, and the truth isn’t anything you could possibly have guessed until it happens and you’ll be like “oh right, duh, of course.” I was very sick for the past week and a half or so, and it’s possible that my usual instincts weren’t up to snuff here, but Joan He did a great job keeping me interested and reading, and unfurling the truth slowly enough that reading the entire book was worthwhile and rewarding.

I am confused about how a sequel might address the ending. There is a lot left undone, and only vague indications of how it’s going to get dealt with. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything because most of the charm of this book is its mysteries, but I’m not aching for a sequel. Honestly the way this book ends just made me say “yeah, that’s what happens. Now everyone can get what they want and live their lives.” Maybe I feel this way because this story was more plot-driven than character-driven, and I feel less connected to the characters so I don’t care as much about what happens to them. My only loyalty was to the mystery, and now that I know the answers, the characters don’t seem to mean as much.

You should definitely pick this one up if you like murder mysteries. The magic that would make this a fantasy novel is ancillary, the real action is in the whodunnit and overall it is masterfully done. Go get you some.
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I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This by no means affected my opinion of it.


I must say, I was one of DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE's biggest fans out there. I was drawn to the blurb and cover, and ready for a good read. Unfortunately, what could have been a great book was marred by its own dragged-out pacing and repetitive nature. On the surface, DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is elegantly written with beautiful, lush cinematic prose you could get lost in. But that is precisely the problem: the writing meanders on and on and you feel as though you have been reading forever. Another thing I had a quibble with was even when the chapters picked up steam, it felt like elements were missing here and there as if the storyline was rushed to compensate for the lost time!

I did, however, enjoy the worldbuilding. It is utterly Chinese and does not fall into the trap of being culturally diverse by name or language only, like so many other YA books out there. If only Joan He sprinkled the same magic onto her characters - they were rather weak and lacked significant development or complexity. Hesina also does come across as rather shallow and naive at times, which I dare say lessened my love for the book. I did love the twists and political atmosphere, though it was not nearly as intriguing as the 'Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones' pitch made it seem. In short, my Chinese soul hurts, but I am willing to read the sequel to this disappointing but nevertheless entertaining story.
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This is a DNF. I wasn't a fan of the writing style which made it hard to get into the story. The pace was a little slower, and eventually I had to let this story go.
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What I Liked
UMMMMM okay... WOW??? This book was amazing. The cast of characters is so rich and distinct, the magic of the sooths is unique and tragic, and the political workings of the palace kind of made my head spin. Hesina is relatably steadfast, stubborn, and means to do good. The twists all along the way were wonderful. Some I saw coming, and some came out of nowhere, and some were like...

Me: Hey what if such-and-such happens?
Me: Nah that would never--

What I Would Have Liked to See
Sometimes the action was unclear, but that might have been because I was reading too fast because I needed to see what happened next!!

My Favorite!
Lilian! Her attitude, her style, that comic relief. LILIAN!

When Hesina's king father dies under mysterious circumstances, she must be the queen her kingdom needs while trying to figure out the truth of his death. But sometimes truths are better left unlearned, and secrets are better left buried.
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