Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

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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I'm sad that I'm not able to give this one more stars. I'm very grateful for the ARC and was so excited to read Descendant of the Crane, but I just had a difficult, unengaging reading experience. I think the author has great potential and I'll be looking for more from her in the future.

Here's a condensed version of my review:

I was so excited when I was approved for this one. I saw a bunch of glowing reviews come across my feed, and it really sounded like exactly my jam–YA fantasy, complex and badass teenage Queen! There was a lot of potential to the world, and some of the settings were marvelous. I loved the Chinese-inspired but still totally original world. 

My biggest problem is this: with such an engaging setting and exciting story, how can this book be the blandest thing I have ever read? This was a book about power and murder and romance… and friends, I was bored.

I think the best word for it is flimsy. The whole thing was so thin… sure, the settings had beautiful and interesting imagery, but the bottom of the cultural iceberg just wasn’t there. I didn’t really understand how this society was any different from mine beyond aesthetics. The characters all have creative names and wild backstories, but they’re paper thin. They all felt like slightly tweaked stock characters. I didn’t feel that any of them, least of all Hesina, were real. 

Hesina baffled me until the very end. I still can’t really describe her as a person. From the first chapter, her choices made no sense to me (not in a “what a stupid teenager way,” in a “how does A lead to B” way). There are glimmers of hope in more interesting characters (like the King’s consort, for instance) but they take a backseat to the love interest, an inexplicable teenage outlaw-turned-attorney that I am still so confused by.

This book had a lot of potential, and I’ll be interested in more from this author. She may write some amazing stories when she gets over the debut hump. For now, I’m just not a fan. Joan He seems to be trying so hard to be poetic that the book ended up a choppy, confusing, strangely-paced mess that felt like work to read.
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This was a stunning read, and it's something that I wish my younger self had the opportunity to see on library shelves when I was looking for books that reflected the mythology and culture that I grew up with. Filled with politics and plot twists that had me gasping, I truly rooted for the protagonist, Hesina, on her mission for the truth.
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It's really surprising how much this book made me cry and sob. I was crying for practically the last half of this book.

Other than that, it's no wonder I loved this. I mean, how can't you love a story all about political intrigue, betrayal, sibling love, deceit, old gods and much more? Plus, I got attached to these characters because they're all wonderfully written and they surprise you at every chance the get.

Joan He's writing really elevated this book to a whole other level and I couldn't get enough of it. One thing's left to be said: where's the sequel?
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This book!!
I am so lucky I got to read an early e-ARC and I DEVOURD IT. 

Everything in this book is so original, from the world building to the magic to the twists that just hit you out of nowhere. Also THAT ENDING--I'm still reeling from it. Just when you think you've figured it out, something else surprises you. 

If you like:
- a confused queen trying her best 
- complicated and wonderful sibling relationships
- an immersive world
- political intrigue 

Then this book is for you!
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Wow, what a ride! Descendant of the Crane is a fantasy, murder mystery set in beautifully written ancient East Asia.. Each character was compelling and well developed by the end of the story. I was constantly surprised throughout the book and could not predict any of the twists and turns. I loved Hesina and her development, flaws and all. I would have liked more explanation on Akira's backstory, however. Hopefully we will learn more about him in the next book. I can't wait to keep reading this series! I would recommend this to all YA fantasy lovers.
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I'm not sure how I feel about this book. The writing is great, the story line is full of twists and turns that you don't see coming, and the characters are fleshed out. On those alone I'd give this book a five star rating, but as I sit here thinking about it, I just don't relate to the characters. None of them stood out and left a lasting impression for me. The story as a whole though is great. Ms. He has woven an intricate design of intrigue and corruption into her tale that the plot comes off the pages and is like a movie inside my mind.
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(I am super excited to disclaim that I received this free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review).

 "I'd like to think that my choices are my own, but how many truly are?" 

I will definitely be in the minority for saying this, but I found  Descendant of the Crane  to just be okay. I was honestly expecting to fall in love with it due to the description and other reviews I have read - an historical fantasy murder mystery with world building influenced by Chinese history/culture? Yes please, sign me up. I love, love, love fantasy worlds inspired by east asian cultures. This novel, however, fell short of my expectations.

I think the biggest knock that I have against this book is that I did not feel invested in the characters or storyline at all. I was disconnected the entire time, right from the first chapter. My mind kept drifting from the page. The mystery and political intrigue were subtle and quiet, which will appeal to many readers, but I found myself getting bored. I wanted something to pick up so I would feel more involved and empathetic for the characters. I do not think that this is necessarily the author's fault; perhaps politically based novels are just not my cup of tea. I encourage others to give it a shot, however, because I may be one of only a handful of people who feels this way on this one - it would be best to form your own opinion!
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Descendant of the Crane by Joan He is a beautifully written novel about a princess who wants justice for her father’s murder.

Princess Hesina desires many things but being Queen isn’t one of them. She wants an ordinary life, not a life of the crown. All of that changes when her father, the King, dies unexpectedly. Thrust into power, Hesina takes on the role of Queen willingly–maybe even eagerly–, believing that power will aid in her quest to find her father’s murderer.

The answer to her father’s death isn’t easy, and she’s led astray more than once. People close to her aren’t always what they seem, and she turns her eye to a director that seems a little shifty. Along for the ride are her adopted siblings, Caiyan and Lilian, and her chosen champion, Akira, a man who has secrets of her own. Will she uncover the mysteries behind her father’s death, or will she be left with even more questions? 

I had such high expectations for Descendant of the Crane, based off the rave reviews of fellow book bloggers. Unfortunately I didn’t love it. It was beautifully written, but I thought it was slow, and I struggled to connect with the story and characters. Overall, it was still a decent read, but I walked away disappointed.

One thing I found baffling about the book was Hesina’s role in her kingdom. As Princess, she had few guards and seemed to sneak away whenever she pleased. As Queen, she seemed to have very little power at all. She continued to roam around places at will, and she never seemed to accomplish much of anything at all as a ruler. Her father had power–why didn’t she? For all appearances, she was a figurehead as Queen and little else. Why make her queen at all?

While I struggled with parts of the book, I absolutely loved the idea of being a sooth and the story around the Eleven. I hope these concepts are explored even further in the second book!

The ending was interesting. It was appropriately dramatic, sad, and surprising. I think the book’s ending sets itself up nicely for the sequel.

The characters in Descendant of the Crane were well written but not very deep. I wanted to know more–so much more–about the characters! Again, hopefully there’s further development in the next book.

While Descendant of the Crane didn’t blow me away, I know so many people have loved it! I’m just one voice, so if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, give it a read! I definitely plan to read the second book. I’m crossing my fingers that the second book hooks me.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was by far the most amazing, engrossing, and overall best-written books I've read this year. The plot is incredibly intricate and well thought out. Characters are so relatable and enjoyable, we are able to see them grow so much throughout the story. Speaking of the plot and characters....there are some amazing plot twists revolving around certain characters, making the reader unsure of who to trust. 

I loved that the Chinese culture was not simply mentioned int he book, it was woven throughout every aspect of it...including the use of paper lanterns. I wish I could be more conscious with my review but I need time to recover from this amazing journey. All in all, you will love this book!
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I liked this book but I’m not sure why I liked this book. I don’t like courtroom dramas too much. I’m not a big fan of mysteries; I can always see the end coming. Court intrigues, for me, are meh.  This book is all of them and none of them at the same time; it will lull the reader into a catatonic state in which he or she will not care to try to figure anything out—only continue reading it.  
Character development here tends to seamlessly integrate with the plot.  The writer does not use extra words to do either, which I feel is a mark of a budding master storyteller.  At no time did the characters or the plot feel predictable.  This is a definite recommend for readers of fantasy who are exhausted with overused devices and character/plot gimmicks.

My thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, for which I give my own opinion.
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I received this free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“…we fear what we don’t know.”

Princess Hesina of Yan finds herself thrust into a tricky political world after her father dies and she takes the throne as queen. In an act to discover more about her father’s death, she seeks help from a soothsayer- one who practices magic. In a kingdom where magic and the people who practice it are outlawed, this action pushes Hesina down a path where she discovers that much of what she thought she knew might not be true. With the help of her remaining family and Akira, a mysterious convicted criminal, Hesina strives to make sense of her father’s death while also exposing the flaws within the court and the prejudices of her own beliefs.

Joan He knows how to take readers on an emotional roller coaster. Throughout the twists and turns in Hesina’s story, I found myself switching alliances and trying to guess at the mysteries sprinkled into the story. There were moments where I was genuinely shocked about a well placed plot twist. Though there were plenty of surprises as characters showed their true nature and plots were uncovered, none of it felt forced or untrue to the story that we were being told which made for an enjoyable read.

Hesina was a believable and likable character, her reactions and actions made me want to cheer for her. The characters all felt fleshed out enough that I found myself imagining their goings on after the book ended. My one critique would be the pacing. The beginning of the book seemed to drag with pockets of action that had me picking it up again after having abandoned it for a few days. I often found myself confused about how much time had passed between scenes. Once I reached the halfway mark, however, I wasn't able to put it down. It also wasn’t clear when a new scene was beginning but this was most likely a formatting issue that has more to do with the fact that this is an ARC than the author’s writing.

I would definitely recommend this once it is released (April 9th 2019)! Joan He mentioned that there’s a possibility of companion novels told from different points of view which I will be picking up as they are released.
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3. 75 stars

I was initially  drawn to this book based on the cover (I mean look at it, it's beautiful), the description and the fact that it was a Chinese-inspired fantasy, something I have not really had the opportunity to read.. Although the book went in a completely different direction than I thought it would, I still really enjoyed it!

Descendant of the Crane follows Hesina, and her rise to power after her father dies in a mysterious fashion. She decides to investigate the death of her father. She goes to see a sooth, a person who can see the future and is an outcast in this society, who told her to find a convict with a rod. From there she finds Akira, who she works with to discover not only the truth of what happened to her father, but also ancient secrets and treachery that has been hidden for centuries.

The premise of the plot was really interesting! I didn't realize how much the murder mystery would play into the plot, and I really enjoyed all the twists and turn it took. There were a lot of reveals in this book and most of them were really fantastic and really threw me for a loop. I also really enjoyed the commentary on blind hatred and discrimination. It was something that I felt was dealt with really well and is super relevant to a lot of situations today. The one problem I had with the plot was the pacing towards the middle/end of the book. I feel like the story started very quickly and had great pacing, then just slowed right down in the middle, which made it a bit of a struggle to get through at times. 

I really enjoyed Hesina as a character. I felt she was very complex and I like being able to see her thoughts on what was going on in her country. I enjoyed seeing her struggle with the moral dilemmas she faced quite often in the book, and how she wasn't a perfect queen for her country. She had to make a lot of moral sacrifices to do what was best for her people, and I really like how that affected her character throughout the book. A lot of the characters in this book fell really flat for me. We were not given a lot of time with some of them, and I found it hard to relate with them and empathize with their situations. 

Overall this was a really interesting mystery, and I am interested to see  what happens if a sequel is going to be written.
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Interesting read. I loved the unique plot line. It kept me entertained through the whole book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This world is intricate and lush and bloody and incredible and I love every character-- even a couple of the ones that I hate. The atmosphere was well crafted and the tension (interpersonal, romantic, political, familial) was palpable. The plot was twisty and intriguing. I sincerely hope there will be more books in this world.
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Descendant of the Crane has long been on my list of most anticipated releases.  From the synopsis and cover I was expecting a layered and intelligent book full of mystery, magic, and maybe some betrayal.  It is with absolute delight that I report that Crane is all of this and so much more.  Set in a world influenced by traditional Chinese and Japanese culture, Crane is a murder mystery cloaked in politics, betrayal, magic, and family; however, at its core it is a story about growing up, making choices, and realizing that no one is perfect and things are rarely black and white.

The world building of Crane is fantastic, as is the mythology and the magical system.  The world feels lush and full, and the mythology and magical system is at once familiar and unique.  Joan He puts her own spin on a world that most of us are at least a little acquainted with, and so I felt comfortable in her world immediately, but I never felt bored.  I also really enjoyed all of the descriptions in the book, especially of the luxuries in the palace.  I swear sometimes I could feel the silk beneath my fingertips and smell the persimmons in the air.

Most of this story is firmly within the realm of gray area, and the characters are no exception.  He does a magnificent job of allowing the characters (everyone of them flawed) to speak on their own behalf, which allows the reader to decide for themselves if anyone is “good” or “bad.”  I loved that there truly are few such easy distinctions, and that characters can vacillate between the two.  Few people in life are truly one way or another, and I think He captured that beautifully.  

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the main character, Hesina, is a capable, intelligent, and relatable person.  She is flawed, she can act rashly and harshly, and she is often torn between the world she thought she knew and reality…things that all of us have experienced.  What I enjoyed so much about her character is that she learns from her mistakes, she makes difficult decisions, and—despite the tremendous amount of turmoil she endures—she never feels angsty.  Her inner monologues were interesting and full of doubt, but, thankfully, never tiresome.  Hesina is strong, and fierce, but she relies on others.  She pushes herself, but knows her limitations. She makes difficult decisions, and she acknowledges when she’s made an error.  I found her to be so much more nuanced and layered than most YA heroines, and her arc was a joy to read.

There are a few small issues that I had with the book, but most of them come from needing just a little more finesse with certain aspects.  For instance, the beginning was clunky and I found it difficult to immerse myself in the story initially.  The pacing was a little off at the beginning, although the second half was paced well and flowed very nicely.  While I enjoyed Hesina and the other characters very much, I did keep hoping for a few—namely Akira, Lillian, and Caiyan—to be more fully formed so that they would have a stronger presence.  My biggest issue with this story (and, even though it is the biggest, it is still relatively small) is the two large exposition dumps in the middle of the story.  I won’t go into specifics in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say that twice I found myself wishing that information had been spread out more deftly throughout the story rather than in one lump in a few paragraphs.  Lastly, I realize this is YA, but I need a little more sex appeal in my romance than this book gave me, although I have a feeling the next installment will be a little heavier in that arena.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book!  The political intriguing is fun and not stuffy, the mystery is truly mysterious (I was guessing right up until the end), the characters are engaging, and the story is multilayered and intelligent.  The underlying message that He presents, but never shoves at you, is one of the dangers of paranoia and fear of the Other, and how quickly such fear can lead people—even good people—to violence and hatred.  It’s a message that has always been important, but is even more imperative now.  It’s obvious that He thinks highly of her readers, and she has written a book that’s so much more than the typical YA fantasy.  The cliffhanger left me clamoring for the next book, and I certainly hope He doesn’t make us wait to long to continue Hesina’s journey with her!
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