Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

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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Rounding up for this review but in terms of personal enjoyment, it was probably less. The story and pace were uneven, there was no real depth to the characters and I couldn’t really care about any of them. I found the blend of fantasy/ legal/detective mash up confusing. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
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I received an ARC of this from Albert Whitman & Company through NetGalley.  All opinions within this review are my own.

To begin with some general thoughts on the novel, I found it immensely enjoyable!  It was incredibly well plotted, and truly read as if it was a labor of love.  There are some books that look as if they were written in a day and never touched again, and then there are treasures like "Descendant of the Crane" that took actual years for the author to write (according to the Acknowledgments at the end of the book), and truly showed.  

To dive into my version of the synopsis: Hesina’s father is dead, and while most believe that it was natural causes, she believes he was murdered. After consulting a magic wielder, against the laws in her kingdom, she has even more reason to believe this.  The wielder tells her to find a convict with a rod, who will help her in finding information and the truth about her father’s death.  But in finding this information, Hesina brings up many secrets about her beloved kingdom, and they make her question her very position within it and her place in the world.

The overall plot of this story was well-paced and intense for me.  Many times throughout my reading, I would keep think that I was nearing the end of the story, but it reality, I wasn't.  I find that so satisfying for this kind of a book, because every time I looked down my percentage of my book, I kept thinking, "This can't be near the end of the book.  This just can't.  I need more."  Needless to say, I found the overall length and pacing of the novel to be wonderful for the kind of story this is.  

I will say this about the book: It is loaded with politics.  If you are a reader and lover of George R. R. Martin's ability to create political ties and intrigue, then you will also enjoy this novel, as it plays on the same ideas.  While this is a kind of fantasy novel, it is more focused on the kingdom than anything else.  There is magic, and is brought many times and seen many times in the book, but it is not the sole focus of it, which I found to be refreshing.  I like seeing things that differ from the norm, and this differed in a lot of ways.

There is a small romantic interest in this novel, but it is incredibly minuscule compared to the rest of the novel.  It doesn't even really get started until about 75% of the way through the novel, but you can see the bonds start to form earlier.  Slow burn romances like this are really great, and I liked how the ending set up for how this romance will likely be played out in the future.

As far as the magic system goes, there isn't much of one.  The only "magical" things associated with this novel is the fact that there are magic wielders, called soothsayers.  Throughout the entire novel, the history of the soothsayers and the humans is interwoven into the everyday things associated within the world.  It is not info-dumpy, and each kernel of information that we get about the soothsayers, their history, and their abilities is digestible and makes sense with the story.  

Along with that, the world itself is not much of anything, except that it has a kind of Asian influence.  There are four rival kingdoms that are mentioned, but the story mostly focuses on one, Yan, and brings in another at important moments, Kendi'a.  The story essentially takes place in Yan, so there is not much movement throughout the story.  However, the novel played at some mention of possible kingdom-related politics that may come into play more in a future novel.  This made the world more compelling, and kept the story more grounded as there was a shift between the isolated kingdom to what surrounds it, and how it differs from the other kingdoms, even if there were minor details shared.  It made an impact on what is possible to come in the future.

Hesina as a main character was by far one of the most compelling and complex characters I have ever met, mostly because of the kinds of relationships she had with other characters.  Some were strained for different reasons, others were more tight-knit.  Her emotions towards those characters and the events of the story felt real, raw, and each emotion and thought to me felt warranted and important to the story.  I truly felt that she was a real person, and I was watching as her world seemed to be falling apart in front of her eyes.  

The other characters in this story were so well developed as well, even though the reader never sees a scene from their perspective.  Each character had a distinct voice and perspective that separated them from the others, and their interactions with Hesina made them more compelling.  I almost wanted stories from their perspectives because I wanted to know more about what they thought about the events that were taking place.  But I knew that with the book being already large by itself, that would have been WAY too much to ask, and I was immensely impressed with how He was able to construct each of them with their own nuances and characterizations.

Overall, I found the novel to be more intriguing and entertaining by all accounts.  While not filled with extensive amounts of magic, it was enough given the fact that the story is not so much about the magic itself, but about a character trying to find justice for her father's death.  I look forward to a possible second novel in this story, and to other stories by He.

Rating: 5/5 stars
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“But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.”

Friends, this book gripped me from the first page to the very last. Descendant of the Crane is a stunning debut fantasy that delivers on the “Chinese version of Game of Thrones” comparison that I’ve seen. This is a fast paced and action packed book that you cannot miss!

The plot of the book seems simple enough: the king died mysteriously and his daughter launches an investigation because she’s convinced it was murder and is determined to uncover the truth. But it is so much more than that. It turns out the truth is more than just with the king’s death, but the 300 year history of the country following the revolution against the previous empire. The oppressed rose up to make things more equal for everyone… except for the sooths. I appreciated Hesina’s sympathy for the sooths and the moral dilemma she faces while having to also not increase tensions and fear for her people.

“A dead king. A deceived populace. A truth seeker. Sounds like a story that could end very well or very poorly, and I want to spectate.”

The thread that runs throughout this narrative is essentially the philosophical debate on whether the ends justify the means and how far we are willing to go in order to fight for what we think is right. Hesina’s dogged pursuit of the truth causes her to commit treason by seeking the guidance of a sooth, and in a court where everyone’s motives are questioned trust is hard to come by. A friend of mine said in her review that she “suspected herself, and she isn’t even in the book” — if that isn’t the most accurate representation of the unease and stakes that Hesina faces, I don’t know what is.

“Justice was her only way to say thank you. To say goodbye. To say I love you too.”

He manages to weave lush descriptions and heart-warming character development alongside this story. I fell in love with Hesina, Caiyan, and Lilian immediately and their sibling banter brings me to life. Her close friendships with them, and a budding friendship with Akira, acts as a foil to the tough relationship that she has with both her mother and brother Sanjing. The complex relationships and emotions all play into the decisions that Hesina makes and feel very authentic.

We all know that I am all about worldbuilding, and I was not disappointed here! There is a complex backstory and hundreds of years of history but it is given to us in small doses, never really leaving the reader in the dark for long. While we dive straight into the story from the beginning, my hunger to read more was out of intrigue rather than confusion. One funny anecdote that lies SOLELY on my own lack of reading comprehension is that I thought someone died that wound up alive and well several chapters later. 😂😂😂 I went back and clearly saw that I missed the word “messenger.” I am glad I was wrong!

I think the reason this book spoke to me so deeply is that it deals with the very real anxieties of seeking truth and justice, and just how far we will go to achieve those ends. It’s the anxiety-ridden coming-of-age story that translates really well to my life presently. (Of course, I am not ruling a kingdom and trying to avenge my father’s death.) Hesina’s story parallels well with my own loss of idealism and my internal struggle to buck against these structures to fight for what’s right.

Overall there are not enough positive things that I can say about this book: it’s fast paced and captivating from the first page with intricate worldbuilding that is doled out in just the right doses and characters that you cannot help but love. The twists and reveals will keep you guessing and gasping until the very end, and then have you craving more of this story. I sincerely hope that He gets to share more with us, and I will be anxiously waiting to read it & anything else that she writes.

Many thanks to Albert Whitman Company for sending me an eARC via NetGalley for my honest review! Quotes are taken from an unfinished ARC and may not match final publication.
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This plot was incredibly well woven, incredibly gripping. I was left guessing right up until the end. I loved the characters, I loved the dynamic between everyone, I loved the friendships.
The only thing that left me a little dissatisfied was the ending. I still can't believe that this was a standalone novel because I was just left with the feeling that this was unfinished.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a digital copy of this book. Wow! This book is stunning. It is not your typical YA novel of cliches and Katniss type characters. This book is well written and plotted. The setting is beautiful. I was drawn into the story from the first sentence. I will definitely be purchasing it for the library and actively sharing it with students.
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Descendant of the Crane was not a bad or a good book. I just think it was not a book for me, I had a hard time getting into the story and characters.
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Between my evolving taste in books and feeling like YA is inundated with fantasy these days, I have to admit I approached Descendent of the Crane with trepidation. I knew I wanted to love it (I mean, look at that cover you guys) but within the first few chapters I knew how I’d most likely feel about it by the end and I was right. Princess Hesina becomes Queen of Yan when her father is found dead but while others decree it a natural death, she believes it was murder and opens a formal investigation to prove it. Doing so opens up a pandora's box, especially when she turns to a soothsayer for help in spite of magic being outlawed and enlists a criminal named Akira to be her investigator. She’ll stop at nothing to get the truth but what price will she and others have to pay for it? A solid premise was there, which is why I wanted to read it in the first place, but unfortunately nothing wowed me. The characters were underdeveloped and the catalyst poorly introduced, and yet there was this expectation for the reader to immediately latch on and connect to Hestina’s journey for truth. Due to the lackluster writing and world plus character building, I never once felt connected to Hestina, nor anyone else in the book for that matter, and as a result I cared little for her ordeal. The second half does improve pacing-wise but it still wasn’t enough to raise my opinion.
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After her is father poisoned, Hesina will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. But as she claims her throne as the new queen, and has to deal with the nation being on the verge of war, as well as her own duplicitous court.

I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This book is beautifully written, and follows Hesina, who has lost the father she loves dearly. She is determined to bring his murderer to justice, and will even stoop so low as to visit a sooth (reviled magic-user), who sets her on the path to truth.

Have I mentioned this book is beautiful? It starts very simply with a girl, who grieve for her murdered father, and is supported by her adopted brother and sister. It slowly builds layers, with Hesina's strained relationship with her only blood relatives - her mother and brother Sanjing. How she has to fight for her right to the crown, even though she is the obvious heir.
And more graceful layers still, as the royal court is brought into focus, along with all the expectations and traditions that way young Hesina down.

Alongside her unlikely new ally, Akira, Hesina starts to see her kingdom through unfiltered eyes. She sees the unrest, the ongoing prejudice and hatred towards sooths, and the enemies snapping at her heels.

I loved how things unravelled, going in a completely different direction than I expected, as her kingdom's history still played a heavy hand, in this new queen's future.

There were a few minor blips, I found some of the sacrifices made on Hesina's behalf to be overly-dramatic and detracted from the unforgiving storyline that had been carefully established. Hesina's reaction to said sacrifices was realistic, but her numbness and inaction at a vital time felt suddenly against her character, and I lost a lot of respect for her.

Altogether, this was an intriguing and elegantly-written story, and I will definitely be continuing with the sequel.
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