Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

When Princess Hesina’s father dies, she is suddenly thrust into power. She is now the ruler of an unstable country, nearly at war with its neighbouring country, full of political corruption, and a country that has outlawed and oppressed soothsayers, magic users, for centuries. While others think her father died of natural causes, Hesina believes he was murdered. A trial ensues but her entire court is filled with deceivers and those using her father’s death for political gain. In order to find out the truth, Hesina commits a treasonous act, punishable by death – she enlists the help of a soothsayer.

Descendant of the Crane is a Chinese-inspired fantasy that is by far one my favourite reads so far of 2019 – and will probably stay as one of my favourite books, especially fantasy, of all time. If I could, this would get far more than five stars from me. It has everything you would want in a fantasy – an immersive and descriptive world, a thrilling court of politics, lots of betrayal and deception, and intense mystery, a masterfully crafted story, and a brilliantly complex and flawed protagonist.

It is a slow-paced book, which doesn’t always work for me but Joan He managed to create such a turbulent atmosphere where one wrong move by our characters could have drastic consequences which made this a thrilling and suspenseful read.

What I loved most about this is that finally, we have a ruler that really understands power and rule. Hesina also truly grapples with what it really means to be a good ruler too. Placate the majority and continue with the status quo in order to protect your own rule or commit to change and progress and challenge that oppression and hatred despite the consequences? She questions everything she does and, frankly, it is refreshing.

“What is power? Hesina had thought it was wielding the knife, or getting someone to wield it for her. Now she realized it was neither of those things. Power was yielding. It was taking the bloodstained knife out of a thousand frenzied hands and making it her alone.”

The political intrigue in this book is masterfully done. I adore books that feature political intrique, it is a surefire way to make me love a book. I loved how Hesina handled the politics, the deception, and the dangers of court. It was truly invigorating and kept me fully invested despite the slow pace. Descendant of the Crane featured so many twists and turns, morally ambiguous characters, betrayal and deception, and so much conflict. You think she’s done with the reveals and THEN YOU READ THE EPILOGUE. shit.

Hesina is right up there with some of my all-time favourite characters. She is a brilliantly complex and flawed character. She is a ruler but also an oppressor. She makes hard and sometimes wrong decisions that tend to have disastrous consequences. While she wants to change her country for the better, she fears her own people’s resistance to change – she feeds their hatred and prejudice because she is scared to confront them and their prejudice. I loved watching her learn and grow throughout the book.

Also, the romance is so lovely.

Overall, Descendant of the Crane is an impressive and powerful debut, and I will read ANYTHING Joan He writes. Listen to the hype, this book definitely delivers.
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I admit it, the cover got me. Look at it, it’s so beautiful. The plot sounded intriguing too, so I was excited to read this. I was a little less excited when I started, because it is very slow to get going and for a long time I worried I wouldn’t like it at all.

Thankfully it picks up. However, if you’re here for action and excitement, you will probably be disappointed. If you’re more a fan of political machinations, moral ambiguity that comes in considerably more shades than fifty and repeated demonstrations that no one, NO ONE, can be trusted, then this will be catnip for you, my Machiavellian friend.

Family rifts, hints of romance, political troubles, potential revolution, the threat of war, possible coups, prejudice, murder, poison and mystery are just a few things that Hesina has to cope with throughout this book. Oh, and betrayal. Much betrayal. All the betrayals. Trust no one. Seriously, no one is to be trusted. She can’t even trust herself at times.

It’s slow-going and ruthless at times. I spent a lot of chapters wondering how much I cared, until another plot twist turned out more like a knife in the ribs and I realised I did care, deeply, about what happened to these characters, in this place, in this time. It’s subtle and compelling, and I struggle to believe it’s a standalone, because that ending left so many things undone that surely, surely there will be more. (In other words, publishers, give us more. Please. This story isn’t nearly done yet.) In all an enjoyable debut. I look forward to reading more from this author soon.
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As informed as I like to think I am, I do miss a book or two. Or several. Things are just sort of helter-skelter here in the House of Gosch – especially with this BRAND NEW JOB approaching its first day here right quick – but I’m still making sure that I’m on top of things. Especially books.

So let me tell you, I’m so glad I didn’t sleep on this hit debut. Shoutout to all my bros on Twitter for causing all kinds of a ruckus about this book and bringing it to my attention!

This book, of course, is THE DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by the fantastic Joan He.

Princess Hesina of Yan is about to become queen, but she’s more concerned about her feather’s murder than anything else. She’ll stoop to any low to find out what happened, including the treasonous act of consulting the long-ostracized soothsayers.

What proceeds is one part murder mystery, one part historical fantasy, and a complete whirlwind of emotion-driven tension that leaves you begging for more.

I mean, it’s been a long while, it feels, since a book’s demanded me to stay up past my old person bedtime of 9:30 to finish it, but that’s what happened. The back half of this book just pinned me to the bed and said, “Son if you do not finish this book it’ll eat you alive ’til morning.”

My response, in this situation? “Hell, dude. You got a good point.”

There’s a lot of elegant writing, couple with a lot of vicious scenes. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but every time I think of how to describe what goes on, it feels more and more like a Shakespearean tragedy (you know, if he could get on Joan’s level and write the sort of tension that we’re seeing here).

(In case you weren’t aware, me and Billy don’t have the best relationship. Anyone who shows him up is golden in my book.)

If you’re searching for that quick summer read, this isn’t it. You don’t want to just fly through this book, dear reader – this is a book to be savored, to be enjoyed, until that very moment where it grips you to let you know that by not finishing the story, it’s going to haunt you for the rest of your days. (On that note, please remember that I may also haunt you if you don’t finish this book. Because I want you to read it.)

Joan, whatever you’re doing, keep at it. Readers? Get this book. You may not thank me after your all-nighter to finish it, but you’ll thank me at some point.

Check out the full podcast review BEWARE THE NIGHT on iTunes, Spotify, or Awesound!
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I cannot stop thinking about this book! I really hope there are plans for a sequel. I need more Hesina and Akira, Mei and Sanjing, soothsayers and everything else. Initially, I wanted to take my time with it, but that plan quickly went out the window. I couldn't flip through the pages fast enough! Descendent of the Crane is easily one of my favorite reads this year!

All of the characters were fascinating and unique. Lilian was sassy and always had a smile for her friends. It was obvious how much she cared about her brother and sister. She still used an affectionate childhood nickname for Hesina, and always brought laughter to their conversations. Lilian was loving, sarcastic, and always put her family first. Her twin brother, Caiyan, was more reserved and quiet, but she never failed to tease a smile from him.

Caiyan and Lilian were Hesina's adopted siblings, but they didn't see it that way. They were family, and that's all that mattered. They put each other's interests before their own, and I think that really shaped the overall story. However, they did keep secrets that eventually damaged their relationships, despite having good intentions. Their actions stemmed from love and a desire to keep each other safe. It was tragically complicated, and my heart hurt for all three of them.

Sanjing is Hesina's blood brother, but the two were at odds more often than not. They saw the world differently, but both took their roles very seriously. They both had their people's best interests at heart, but had very opposing ideas about how to keep everyone safe. Their relationship felt very honest and realistic. They're teenagers with responsibilities they're not entirely ready for, facing threats from outside and inside their city. It was hard to know who to trust, because everyone had their own agenda. Sanjing and Hesina do love one another, but it's understandably complicated.

Akira was a very interesting character that the author doesn't elaborate on very much. He plays a crucial role in the story, but his past remains a mystery. We're not even told if Akira is his real name. We know some minor details about experiences he's had, but nothing really significant. The author hints at important details, and I really hope he's fleshed out more in a future book. I really enjoyed him as a character, and his interactions with people were often meaningful. He doesn't always say a lot, but he's very observant and knowledgeable.

Rou was incredibly sweet and always had a something kind to say to his siblings. He may only be a half-sibling, but he still referred to Hesina as his sister. He was there for her when no one else was, and showed a hidden bravery that I hadn't expected. He's loyal and willing to do whatever it takes for his family, even if they've been less-than-friendly towards him in the past.

The Silver Iris, Mei and her shadows, and even some of the council members, were all very well-written, and I enjoyed learning about them. I even liked learning about the characters that were easy to hate, because they all had a role to play within the story. There were a lot of hidden agendas and surprises that I didn't anticipate, and I enjoyed being kept on my toes.

I know this post has been mostly about the characters, because they're truly amazing, but the story itself was fantastic and impossibly creative. I loved the rich history the author created, and I hope we learn more about soothsayers and the Eleven in the future. I think they've both committed atrocities, although I don't think either group anticipated how long their hate and destruction would continue.

I really loved the Descendent of the Crane and hope there will be a sequel! The ending left the story somewhat resolved, but definitely open for more. It hasn't concluded, but I'm okay with where the author left things.

Originally posted at Do You Dog-ear? on April 23, 2019.
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Descendant of the Crane was much more political and twisty than the standard YA tropes out there. It was a refreshing deviation from "the chosen one" protagonist, to focus more on a main character that doesn't have it all figured out, seems to be one step behind the antagonizing forces and relies on the wrong people. Although written in third person perspective, the narration of the story is singularly focused on what Hessina knows and sees--most often the reader only knows and interprets information from Hessina's perspective. This is a difficult technique to accomplish well without using first person, and I think it helped the plot immensely. 

The pacing of this is slow and there are minimal big action scenes. But, what this story lacks in in your face excitement, it makes up with an intriguing mystery that the reader and Hessina are racing to solve before it's too late.  

This is a great first novel from Joan He, and I would recommend it to anyone.
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Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for the advance copy for an honest review. 

Wow. Let's start with the beautiful cover. That's a cover that would draw you in across the street. Gorgeous! 

What a story...fantastic political mystery set in Chinese history. Hesina ascends the throne when her father dies...under mysterious circumstances.  She sets about an investigation.  As with most things , open the kettle of fish and she finds out a lot more than she planned. 

The entire family is great. Book 2 will have big shoes to fill in terms of answers! 

I'd definitely recommend this book to friends that like fantasy and Asian culture!
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I had such high hopes for this title, I was so excited to receive a copy. Unfortunately it wasn't quite for me. The book is well written but I felt the plot was mediocre and could have been fleshed out a little further. The family system is not well-explained (all Hesina's siblings) and the magic system and sooths could have been better explained. The cover is amazing and I'm so glad the Teen section is becoming a bit more diverse with fantasy stories set in various cultures.
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I had high hopes for this book, and I was SO excited when I was given an early reader e-copy, I just wish I had finished it sooner! This is how I summarize Descendant of the Crane: Hessina, a reluctant and yet capable Princess is forced into ruling her kingdom. She finds out that her kingdom has many MANY secrets, and she must decide if she wants to rule the kingdom as it has been ruled for hundreds of years, or if changes should be made. I love her growth as a character throughout the book. I love her vulnerability and strength as well as her willingness to learn and sacrifice for others. I truly connected with Hessina. I also enjoyed the twists and turns that the story took. Unexpected things happened, and even when I wasn't happy about the events, they made for wonderful plot twists! This is a book that I want to own in physical form asap! Thank you SO much NetGalley and AWTeen for the opportunity to read this book!
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Descendant of the Crane is a book that will grip you and not let go until you've finished the final pages. The twists and turns of this book had me reeling, and you can tell that it was all set up very carefully. I loved the cast of characters and their dynamics, especially the sibling and parent-child relationships. The author didn't pull any punches, and the ending was probably by far the most shocking and devastating moment in the story, rendering the reader shaken and speechless. This is a book I won't forget, and I hope that the sequels/companions will be published so that I can dive deeper into this wonderfully-crafted Chinese-inspired world.
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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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