Descendant of the Crane

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

I liked the concept of this book, the idea of a Chinese inspired fantasy world was great and I obviously loved the diversity in this book. I also thought the writing was nice and I did enjoy some of the characters. However, I found the main character and her love interest quite bland and I also felt the plot fell kind of flat, it was incredibly slow going for a lot of the book, and whilst there were some good twists towards the end, it was a bit too little too late for me. I also would have liked the world building to be a bit more fleshed out.
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Review as posted on my blog:

I read this book in a buddy read with my Discord server friends high five friends! The buddy read was already planned when Netgalley approved me for an eARC. I was so excited to start! DotC is described as the ‘Chinese Game of Thrones’. While I’m not actively participating in YARC (Year of the Asian Reading Challenge), I do want to read more books by Asian authors, and Asian inspired stories, which is why DotC came on my path at exactly the right time.

Trigger warning: gore, graphic injury, death (including parental death), torture, slavery, suicide

This book promises you magical family secrets, deep world building and intricate palace politics. And oh boy, it delivered.

If you know me, you know I love worldbuilding. This world was unlike I’ve read about, definitely not comparable to Game of Thrones. He’s descriptions of not only the world that Hesina lives in, but the objects, the smells, it’s the perfect amount. I haven’t had one moment where I felt it was too much information, never felt like it was just infodump. What He wrote is what the reader needs. There are sentences that seem unimportant, but the information will come back to bite the character in the ass.

Now, the characters and their relationships. The most prominent relationship in the story is between Hesina and her father. Hesina carries the burden of becoming queen of an unstable country while mourning the death of the one person that loved her as much as she loved him. He really captured Hesina’s feelings, whether it was anger or happiness or sadness. Not only in the emotions directed towards her father, but also towards Lilian, Caiyan, Sanjing and Akira. Every relationship was so fleshed out, it was explained who they were, how they felt about eachother, what they would do for eachother. You can’t help but love every one of them. Which is exactly what I did. It was like my feelings were stashed into a small box, which was then thrown off a cliff into a ravenous river that ends in a thousand waterfalls, because damn, you keep getting plottwists and then there this HUGE THING THAT HAPPENS that makes you fall off whatever you were sitting on when reading. I can usually smell a plottwist a mile away, but this one was such a surprise.

Something I absolutely loved about DotC is that Hesina’s fears aren’t diminished. She’s still a young girl, suddenly queen of a country, trying to solve her father’s death. Her feelings of ‘what if this goes wrong, what if I make a mistake and everything falls apart’ is so recognizable, for me it was during college regarding exams.. For Hesina it’s keeping the people she loves alive. Her fail of failure gave her an extra dimension and made her so much more real to me. The fact that Hesina does make mistakes and she needs to face the consequences are even more intimidating when you consider her mistakes have consequences for the entire country, not just herself. I needed this as a teen, to know that it was okay to make mistakes, that yes sure you need to face the consequences, but in the end,  it would be okay.

This book was amazing. I have to admit that it was a bit hard for me to get into it at first. I was a bit held back by some words I didn’t understand. Admittedly, I started reading when I had a sick pet and she wasn’t going to get any better. She was put down a few days ago and after that, I needed to distract myself. I started reading and within minutes I got sucked into the story and couldn’t put it away. It’s good I started reading during the weekend again, because it was 2 am when I finished it. I don’t regret one bit of it.
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I rarely ever give any book five stars, and this is even less frequent for YA books. However, I really think Descendant of the Crane deserves it. What I really think is remarkable is that this book was written when Joan He was a high schooler—I don't think I could even think of anything like this. 

One of the things that impressed me the most was the relationships between characters. The characters themselves and the relationships between them are wonderfully complex and beautiful. I can't stress enough how much I love Hesina and Sanjing, because they are related by blood, but they are both different and similar. Their love is painfully unspoken, and it's so real and familiar, especially as reflected in Asian cultures. I also have to say that although Sanjing doesn't appear that often, he's my favorite character. I don't really have a reason, but maybe it's because he's so sure of himself at first and he's extremely loyal to those he loves. Hesina is a complex and morally-gray character (yay!). She commits treason on the first pages of the book, but there's a reason behind it, as for everything. 

Hesina and Sanjing's adopted siblings, Caiyan and Lilian, are so so interesting. They each have a relationship with Hesina that is complex and changes so much by the end. A lot of this book focuses on Hesina, so we don't really get to see what other characters are thinking—that's part of the reason I love it so much. Hesina's relationship with her mother is also very interesting, even though they don't get along so well. Joan He forces Hesina (and all the other characters) to make really difficult decisions, and I absolutely loved that. 

I gotta talk about Akira. He's mysterious and morally-gray like Hesina, but I love how he wants to help her with her trial. I feel like their relationship wasn't really developed, although I'm also glad it wasn't the main focus of the plot, which is so refreshing to see. I thought he'd be more developed as a character, but I see the point of this and I'm perfectly content with that. All of the characters express their love for Hesina in different ways, and I think that's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in a book. There also isn't this one antagonist that Hesina must kill or defeat in order to "live happily." I love the ambiguity of it all, and how the bad guy isn't so physical. 

This book will be known for the plot twists, and believe me, they're not just your regular old plot twists. I've read some books where the twists seem out of place and not that important, like pulling things out of a hat, but Descendant of the Crane contains huge secrets that carry so much meaning. This is partly due to the setup and payoff the book has pretty much mastered. I was actually able to predict some of the twists, but I still think they're satisfying. Every event in this book has its meaning, even the ones that don't seem that important. They will have consequences. 

He's writing is beautiful and complements the events in the book so well. The tone is dark and rightfully so. The worldbuilding is the exact right amount and I love all the aspects of Chinese culture in it. I will admit, the formatting of the ARC was weird, so I'm anticipating seeing the actual format when the book finally releases. Oh, and I never buy books, but I had a gut feeling that this book would be amazing and preordered it.
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It's so odd to me that half the time I was reading this book, I was stopping to think about why I was still reading. In the end, I'm very glad I stuck through the stiff bits in order to see the wonderful twists. But it was really hard for me to slip into the narrative.  

I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this book. The cover itself is a work of art, and I do love me an Asian-influenced world with a strong female character and great murder mysteries. But something was missing, and I can't put my finger on it. it might have been a case of 'it's not you, it's me', since so many people absolutely love this book. 

After the death of a king, his daughter is convinced it was murder. Hesina is determined to learn the truth, though now that she is a queen, solving a mystery comes with a lot of red tape. Quickly after the exciting beginning, which I was excited to read as I needed to know what happened, I found myself losing interest. I became less invested in it due to the one-dimensional characters and... the slow, slow plot.  

The characters slowly grew, but I never connected well with them. There were moments when the story started to get really exciting, but then the event was over and it slugged again. But then there came the twists: every one was brilliant and showcased just how skilled the author is at leading us on. The twist at the end made me excited for the sequel, despite all those slow moments. 

The worldbuilding was pretty brilliant as well, though there were little nitpicks that drew me out of the tale. it was the names: the "Investigation Bureau," for example, just had a weird ring to it. Maybe it was a direct translation of something that actually exists? But then the characters themselves had names that didn't fit the world, some being rather western. I mean it's fine, but when so much effort is put into crafting a world, it really sticks out. 

I'm honestly interested to see where book two takes us - I just hope it's a little faster paced than book 1!
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oh my....
this 
this book....
this was beautiful and so so captivating I was hanging onto each page like it was going to be ripped from my hands at any moment. Read this book, you won’t regret it. 
I’m still processing so that’s about all I can manage but I think that’s all you need to know—just read it. 

ARC kindly provided by publisher via Netgalley 
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**Thank you NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.**

Descendant of the Crane is an absolute must read for 2019. It's a melange of complex characters, fiery story line infused with Chinese history and culture. The descriptions are so vivid and pay homage to the Chinese culture.

The plot is so complex, and the character development even more in depth. From one plot twist to the other, readers are left sitting on edge until the very end.

As a Chinese Canadian, I found this an interesting read that really made me realize the necessity of more Asian representation and authors. Joan He astounds reader with her amazing debut.
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Poised to ascend the throne after her father's sudden death, Princess Hesina of Yan suspects that his death was in fact a murder. Desperate to find more information, she consults a soothsayer - an act considered treasonous in Yan - who tells her that there is a convict who can help her find the killer. Meanwhile, even as she opens an investigation into king's death, the kingdom is much more unstable than Hesina realizes. The neighbouring kingdom of Kendi'a appears to be preparing for war, and there are traitors in her own court who might be working to incite conflict. As the investigation unfolds and some surprising and shocking facts begin to come to light, Hesina realizes she has opened a whole other can of worms that challenges everything she thought she knew about her father, her family and the very foundations upon which the country is built.

Despite the blurb, courtroom drama was about the last thing I expected from this book, but it was a pleasant surprise, just like the rest of it. It is far more sedately paced than the plot would suggest and consists of a lot of political maneuvering and court intrigue in a welcome departure from the action-packed fantasies that seem to have become the norm. Descendant of the Crane manages to build a complex world in a limited timeframe without taking away from the story itself. The background and history is beautifully crafted and it's clear how much thought has gone into the world building in particular which is largely inspired by Chinese culture.

Due to us getting only Hesina's POV, the element of mystery is enhanced as we try to figure out who can be trusted and where things are going right alongside her. The trial scenes in particular, were very well done and surprisingly intense. It was also very interesting to see Hesina try to balance her personal need for justice along with the task of being the queen the people need. I do want to point out though, that this might have been better off as an adult novel. It's a very heavy story in general for YA and in such a setting, it feels a little unrealistic to have seventeen year old generals and queens. I would have also liked to see more character development for Caiyan and Lilian, Hesina's adopted siblings. What little we got to see of their dynamic, I really liked, particularly how they are always there for and so supportive of Hesina. Finally, there was something missing in that romance, especially since the story revolves around Hesina, and Akira, despite being such an intriguing figure, has limited character development. It just didn't click and hopefully that changes in the sequel.

Overall, I was very impressed with this book, more so considering that it is a debut. The unexpected turn of events at the end completely took me by surprise - there had better be a sequel because it can't be left hanging like that! Descendant of the Crane is a wonderful debut with a very interesting setting and fascinating characters. The unexpected plot twists will keep you guessing right until the end in this refreshingly different fantasy novel.
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An absolutely breath-taking debut, Descendant of the Crane is a book that tugged at my heart-strings. Joan He doesn’t pull any punches at all, and just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it does. Not to mention, her writing as absolutely gorgeous. She is definitely a talent to watch in the coming years. 

The world-building is incredible, and even better, Hesina’s core beliefs are tied in so completely to the world-building. And then to watch every thing that she thought she knew challenged. To see her brought literally to her knees, and then keep trying—it was an unforgettable ride. 

The characters were larger than life, especially Hesina’s father. Though he is dead throughout the book, his legacy and the mystery around his death are just so larger than life that it is impossible to not think of him as a main character, even more as you learn just how much his character is filtered through Hesina’s perceptions of him and how that breaks down over time—masterfully done. 

Anyway, this book is stunning and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy and likes a little bit of court intrigue, and of course needs an unforgettable and incredibly tenacious heroine in their life.
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This has got to be one of the best fantasy books I have ever read! The world building is so vivid that it’s easy to picture the details in my mind. The characters so life-like that I’m sure if authors could create real people, these would easily leap off the pages of this book. 

The chapters flew by as I had a difficult time putting this book down. At times, I was disappointed that work interfered with my reading time, and I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the pages during lunch breaks. There is so much going on here, and going wrong, that I couldn’t help but worry about the main character, and hope that she would figure out what to do. It seemed like all her plans, while sounding good in theory, ended up thrusting her deeper into  the problems that went along with helping the wrong side. 

All I can say is, if you love fantasy books, read this one.
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This book would be good for adults who want to give their readers a new cultural perspective. I love China and historic fiction that draws on that culture, but I could never find myself engaged in the book or caring what happened. The plot never picked up enough for me, and while I understand that the culture and royal position would create a careful distance between the protagonist and everyone she speaks to, even those she felt intimate with were cold and disengaged. There were a lot of threads in this novel which never really came together for me.
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Descendent of the Crane started off extremely strong but finished very flat. I was really looking forward to this book but sadly it wasn't for me. I rated this book 2 stars because despite its strong start I found myself really bored and pushing through to the end with grim determination. 

The cover is absolutely stunning and the synopsis sounded amazing. The story and characters were well written until about 1/4 of the way through, which is where my enjoyment started to fade. I kept reading because I thought it would get better but it didn't. I'm sorry to say the book lost its magic 1/4 way and then did not recover. Overall the characters were poorly developed, the romance was so shallow (and seemed SO forced) and the plot completely fizzled out. The writing was jumpy and at times very confusing. It was hard to like the characters or engage with the story when it started to fall apart. I wasn't invested at all. 

Hesina, the main character, went from strong and pretty awesome, to whiny and very annoying. Her romantic interest is just there purely to be an attractive love interest. The romance was forced and not reciprocated for most of the book (awkward). I did not enjoy reading about it. 

I'm not sure if I read a different book to everyone else, who seem to be giving it 4 or 5 stars. Personally it wasn't enjoyable. It felt like a chore to me and that is not want you want. 

If you have similar tastes to mine I wouldn't recommend this book but I can certainly see how many others enjoy it. I think the characters and plot could have been developed more.
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"I wonder . . . if you will go down as a villain or a hero."

I... don't even know what to say or how to process all that went down, but the one thing running through my head is just "hell yes." This was such a refreshing start to a YA Fantasy series, and I am dying for the sequel.* Based on the premise, it honestly sounds fairly run-of-the-mill, but holy crap is it not. I was almost certain of the traitor(s) the entire time but kept doubting myself. This is such a juicy book, with so many twists and turns. SO GOOD. 

*although on the book's Goodreads page the author says it's a standalone with potential for companion novels and I'm... ???

Thank you to Albert Whitman & Company and NetGalley for the eARC! This review will be posted on Goodreads, and on Barnes and Noble's and Amazon's websites at the date of publication.
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This book is rather difficult to review because I thought of setting it down several times, as some parts were boring, but other parts were so amazing that I would expect this to be a 5 star read. I think my main issue is that I didn't feel much of an emotional connection to the characters or story, but the book's plot is so incredible that it should definitely be given a chance. This isn't a novel to be devoured quickly like I am used to as a book blogger, but rather it should be slowly savored so the true implications of some of the plot twists can really shine through.

I found the main character Hesina hard to relate with. I think part of the reason she was difficult for me to relate with is because there were many times where her actions were different from her internal thoughts, so I felt like she was a hypocrite. Since I felt such a disconnect there were times that I couldn't bring myself to care what happened to Hesina or the other characters. For most of the first two thirds of the story I found myself bored and waiting for the next exciting thing to happen. There were some really exciting scenes sprinkled throughout the book and they drove the entire story for me.

The plotting was incredible. There were so many great plot twists that really blew my mind. Some of the scenes were written so well and kept me reading throughout the first two thirds of the book. Once I hit the last third of the book I couldn't set it down, where in the first two thirds I had to push myself to pick it up. Once the pace finally picked up the book became absolutely mind blowing. I was glad that I had pushed myself to the end because all of the sub-plots came to fruition and the plot twists were revealed. The plotting aspect of this book was the best part and if my rating was purely based on the plot it would be 5 stars.

I had so many mixed feelings that made this book really hard to review because I really didn't relate Hesina or even like her that much despite the fact that she had a great character arc. I didn't feel very emotionally invested in the story and almost set it down at points. I'm glad that I continued on through because the plot twists and the climax of the book made the boring parts worth the read. A lot of this book dealt with political plotting, betrayal and issues of the country which I think is part of what really bored me, but all that plotting was necessary for the way the story was laid out. It is certainly worth powering through dull parts because the end was really worth it. 3.5 Stars

This book is rather difficult to review because I thought of setting it down several times, as some parts were boring, but other parts were so amazing that I would expect this to be a 5 star read. I think my main issue is that I didn't feel much of an emotional connection to the characters or story, but the book's plot is so incredible that it should definitely be given a chance. This isn't a novel to be devoured quickly like I am used to as a book blogger, but rather it should be slowly savored so the true implications of some of the plot twists can really shine through.

I found the main character Hesina hard to relate with. I think part of the reason she was difficult for me to relate with is because there were many times where her actions were different from her internal thoughts, so I felt like she was a hypocrite. Since I felt such a disconnect there were times that I couldn't bring myself to care what happened to Hesina or the other characters. For most of the first two thirds of the story I found myself bored and waiting for the next exciting thing to happen. There were some really exciting scenes sprinkled throughout the book and they drove the entire story for me.

The plotting was incredible. There were so many great plot twists that really blew my mind. Some of the scenes were written so well and kept me reading throughout the first two thirds of the book. Once I hit the last third of the book I couldn't set it down, where in the first two thirds I had to push myself to pick it up. Once the pace finally picked up the book became absolutely mind blowing. I was glad that I had pushed myself to the end because all of the sub-plots came to fruition and the plot twists were revealed. The plotting aspect of this book was the best part and if my rating was purely based on the plot it would be 5 stars.

I had so many mixed feelings that made this book really hard to review because I really didn't relate Hesina or even like her that much despite the fact that she had a great character arc. I didn't feel very emotionally invested in the story and almost set it down at points. I'm glad that I continued on through because the plot twists and the climax of the book made the boring parts worth the read. A lot of this book dealt with political plotting, betrayal and issues of the country which I think is part of what really bored me, but all that plotting was necessary for the way the story was laid out. It is certainly worth powering through dull parts because the end was really worth it.
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Wow what a beautiful cover. I began this book with high hopes of a great read. The author does a wonderful job of describing the setting and world in which it's taking place. Unfortunately, I wasn't at all invested in this beautifully discussed world. There is supposed to be danger and court intrigue and risk of death for treason but ..... I wasn't feeling it at all. I was being told this but I just didn't buy into it. None of the characters were that fleshed out either. After an interesting start it just sort of settles down into mumbling along without seeming to go anywhere. I set it down a few times and had to remind myself to pick it back up again. 

While I'm delighted to see more fantasy books utilizing worlds other than European ones and with protagonists who aren't somehow The Chosen who then rescue the world along with their ragtag band of outcasts, this just isn't the book to grab me by the hand and pull me into it.  

Thanks Netgalley  and the publisher for the arc but this just wasn't the book for me.
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Wow, this was fantastic!  A book I could not put down. The ending makes me want to go back and read the entire book all over again, a great debut!
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This book was a stunning combination of all the things that I love in a YA fantasy--intrigue, humor, mystery, friendship, love, family. It's like a love letter to sibling relationships. There are so many variant and interesting interactions between siblings and so many sacrifices that are made. I think students would really respond to those relationships and seeing how they influence the plot throughout the book. The book has plot twist after plot twist (I'm not going to give any away, don't worry!) and none of the smaller twists leading up to the end prepare you for what's to come. 

Hesina is a strong female character, which I love, and she grapples with any number of internal and external conflicts throughout the book. While the murder of her father is a major point on which the plot turns, I was actually just as interested in her evolving leadership and her evolving relationship with her brother, Rou. Seeing their connection grow was really interesting, particularly as she starts to examine (and reexamine herself and her role). 

Hesina is far from the only complex character in the book. Her cold and remote mother, while seemingly one-dimensional, gains layers as the story unfolds. Her siblings and half siblings and adopted siblings (it's a court book, with courtly family intrigue) are each unique, with their own personalities and conflicts and machinations behind the scenes. Akira, the love interest, is holding secrets close to his chest, as YA love interests tend to do, but what I love is that rather than his secret turning him into someone potentially unlovable from someone who initially seemed soft, his secret works in reverse--he has built up walls, and his revealed secret breaks them down and turns him into a softer character. 

All in all, I truly enjoyed this book, and plan to advocate for its inclusion on classroom shelves!
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This was an absolutely gorgeous book. This was the first time I've even read anything with Chinese influences to it and I REALLY enjoyed it. It took on a different feel than all the other fantasy books. More like a political intrigue, court workings book. But definitely enjoyable.
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Descendant of the Crane is exactly the kind of book that you inhale in one sitting, and then absolutely regret doing it because you never wanted the story to end. Where do I even begin to sing my praises for this fantastic piece of work?

This is easily one of the best fantasy novels I have read in quite some time - and why wouldn't it be? The story is so well plotted, set in some of the richest world building I've seen, with absolutely complex characters that keep me on my toes from the first page to the last. 

It is less a story and more a fast paced and confusing game of chess, one where you don't really know who the winner is until it's too late. I have a hard time keeping up with political plots unless they actively engage the reader. This book does such a good job of letting us become a part of all the dirty tricks and court ploys that turn the tides in the favour of the multiple characters.

And speaking of the characters, what a fantastic cast of them. I can't think of one single character who felt unnecessary, token or flat. Each and every person was well fleshed out, with a realistic story - no matter how big or small - and each one played their roles till the very end. A good story told by good characters is a winning point for me, and Descendant of the Crane took the trophy home.

By the end of the story, while I was aware of whom I was rooting for, there was no clear-cut hatred for any "villain" or "hero". There is nothing absolute about this series' characters and their individual stories. It is simply a group of people struggling to make the most of their sad lives, and wading through all the muck that comes their way. What impressed me are the difficult decisions the characters inevitably have to take, and the role it plays in their character development. What made it even better is the moments in which these decisions are taken, leaving the reader shocked with every new chapter, right until the very end. 

I think what ties it all neatly together is the gorgeous parcel it comes packaged in. The world-building is so intricate and intense, rich with real world inspirations yet unique in its own ways. If I could put an image to a tapestry, it would be the universe this book is set in. I am hard pressed to find anything I did not like about it.

All in all, I don't think I need to even say it: you absolutely have to give this book a shot when it comes out on April 9th. Although plot-heavy and full of conniving games, this is a fantasy story that talks about ordinary people in an extraordinary setting. There are morally grey characters who do the best they can with what they're given. There is history and oppression, war and bloodshed, painful truths coupled with lies and deception. There is honour and promises, and love and loss. Descendant of the Crane shoots itself onto the Number One spot on Anticipated 2019 Releases with a power-packed punch - one you cannot miss.
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This book came onto my radar simply because so many of my fellow bloggers loved this so much and were just so excited to talk about it. And then my two dear friends buddy read it too and they couldn’t stop gushing. That settled it and I had to pick it up next and despite it taking me three days to finish, it was such a fascinating book and I’m still reeling from that ending. 

I enjoyed the world building here a lot. I really like it when we get a little bit of history about the world throughout the story and the author does a great job of it here. We get to know a lot about the kingdom of Yan and how it came to be. While there are three more neighboring kingdoms and there is ongoing conflict with one of them, we don’t know much about them and I have a feeling that will be remedied in the sequel. We also get some details about the soothsayers and their magic, but because they are the oppressed class, we only get bits and pieces of how the magic actually works and more about their lives and the hardships they face. 

The plot is definitely the best part of this book. The author thrusts us smack dab in the middle of the story after the King’s death and it’s just twists upon twists after that. There are not a lot of action packed scenes but this book is full of court politics and intrigue at its best. You never ever know who to trust, what anyone’s motives are and I felt totally baffled when revelations happened. I’ve heard a lot about this book being called Chinese inspired Game of Thrones and it definitely has that feel to it. The pacing is actually quite slow throughout, with some very unexpected situations thrown in between, but I never got bored and felt very interested all through the story. The book also has a couple of intense and absolutely wonderful trial scenes and I thought the author did such a brilliant job in them. I also loved the usage of Chinese language words throughout the book and I always enjoy it when POC authors do this. And that ending —— wow did those two chapters stun me. Within the last few pages, everything that I thought I knew was upended and I was left flabbergasted. I never saw that coming and the direction the story seems to be going next is so unexpected, it’s just excellent plotting.

There are so many interesting characters here and it was such fun figuring them out. We get Hesina’s POV, so she is the only one who’s motivations we are sure of. She unexpectedly becomes the Queen after her father’s death and she thinks she is prepared because of his teachings and his trust in her. However, as she sets on the path for truth and justice, so many of the truths that she thought she knew are shattered and she feels overwhelmed. She constantly has to battle her longing for her father with the revelations about his identity, she has to be the queen for the people who are seething with hatred for an entire community and hell bent on mob justice, and she has to learn who to trust every step of the way. What I loved most about her is the way she questions the oppression of the sooths that has been going on for three centuries and her desire to bring about an end to it, though she doesn’t know how. She is strong in her own way, compassionate and thoughtful, but definitely needs some more caution before trusting people - that’s her good quality but also her downfall. 

There are a host of other characters but they are not as developed as Hesina. Caiyan and Lilian are her adopted siblings - her constant companions and support systems, with whom she feels the most safe and wants to protect them. While Caiyan is stoic and reserved and very smart about political situations that Hesina never thinks through completely, Lilian on the other hand is feisty, bringing a little cheer to gloomy situations and always there whenever Hesina needs her. I loved their dynamic a lot. Hesina’s relationship with her brother Sanjing is slightly more antagonistic, owing to years of non communication and jealousy and just hurting each other with words. Akira is the mysterious stranger who is her representative at trial and while there is a developing romantic dynamic between the two, I would have loved to see them together more. There are also other players in the court and outside and it was very fascinating to know the intent behind each of their actions and betrayals. None of the characters are evil just for the sake of it and while it doesn’t erase their wrongdoings, it’s always interesting to know why they are committing those acts. 

Finally, I just want to say that this is a wonderful debut novel with an interesting world and fascinating characters and all the twists and turns that you never asked for. It’s slow paced and more of a political fantasy story than an action packed one, but it still packs a punch and will leave you wanting to know immediately what happens next. It’s not going to be an easy wait.
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I received and ARC of this book from Netgalley in return for a review.
I've been really in the mood for diverse fantasy books recently and Descendant of the Crane did not disappoint! It's a Chinese inspired high fantasy with forbidden magic and a female ruler - what more could you want!

First of all I loved the setting! I thought the author did an amazing job of describing the locations and the outfits and even the small pinyin phrases were such a nice touch (even with my very limited knowledge of Mandarin). I think this is the second Asian-inspired fantasy I've read and I really enjoyed it!

As for the plot, it always kept me on the edge of my seat - there were so many twists and turns and that last 20% of the book just absolutely threw me! There were a few things I predicted for example that the king was one of the Eleven but overall I was so shocked by the revelations throughout the book!

As for the characters, oh boy! You really just don't know who to trust! Joan He took almost every character I loved at the start of the book, and by the end of the book they were someone I had never expected them to be! In some cases I really liked this e.g Sanjing (I really loved his growth and development), and in others it destroyed me e.g Caiyan....he was maybe my favourite character throughout I can't believe what he did at the end!!!. 

The reason I knocked off a star was firstly because there were some decisions the characters made near the end of the book that really threw me off, and I don't know if I was just racing through the book too quickly, but I never felt they were explained properly for example why Lilian decided to kill herself for the cause at the end, I didn't feel that it was explained at all, and also because I just felt there was something missing - especially regarding Akira, I feel that he could have been fleshed out a bit more.

Overall, I really loved this book, though, and I really hope that Joan He writes the prequel and sequel that she hinted at because I need more of this world and these characters, especially with that ending - how could it be a standalone???
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