Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.
I listened to this book for free on Spotify for my own pleasure. I was not required to write a review.
When Disney’s Frozen came out, one of the primary reasons why it was such a beloved story was because of how the story was centered around two sisters’ relationship instead of a love interest. Sure, there WAS a love interest in the story, but the plot itself thrived off of the two sisters struggling with their shattered and mended relationship, instead of a Prince Charming running to the rescue of a weakened dame.
Dynamic, sibling relationships in books and films have begun to spring up far more often since the release of Frozen, and I have to say, it’s a change in Young Adult fiction that I am embracing wholeheartedly. And in noticing that, I can confidently say that Descendant of the Crane is the most well-done, sibling-centered, Fantasy that I have ever read. I would say that it even rivals the dynamics of the Pevensie children in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
This family– broken to pieces, flawed beyond repair, estranged, and redeemed–is more than simply royalty in a fallen kingdom. There’s the two blood children, the two adopted, and the one half sibling. Five lives, connected only by their father, yet they unite, but also suffer. They get angry with each other, and sometimes forgive. They make mistakes, yet they also sacrifice for each other. These 5 siblings love so fiercely, that their love is blinding to their reason and choices, causing pain and heartbreak to trail behind them like shadows.
Descendant of the Crane is a journey of self-identification for each of the siblings (who range in ages from 11-I think– to about 17). It is the worst 6 months of their lives. It’s challenging. It’s life-altering. And it’s heartbreaking to watch them as they find themselves in ways that, as the reader, you’d never want. This book is unpredictable. Completely. Even though I had been able to guess one aspect of the book, it was just the tiny tip of the iceberg and even though I was right about that one thing, it meant SO MUCH more than I could have ever imagined.
I would classify this book as every bit of a drama. A political, Imperial China inspired, royal family drama. There’s the battle of racial discrimination against the magical beings called the Soothsayers (Sooths for short), which leads to “witch hunts”. We encounter corrupt politicians in the court of the law. But more than anything, there’s the challenge of determining truth from lies, and we watch our characters give up everything to learn the truth, many times, even their morality.
Descendant of the Crane holds the bar very high in setting my favorite read of 2020! If you get the chance to listen to the audio version (it’s free on Spotify!), I definitely recommend it! The narrator, Nancy Wu, not only does a great job of voice characterization, but she’s familiar with the Chinese pronunciations of names and words, and for this Texas hick, that was extremely helpful because I know I would’ve mispronounced every single thing in that book!
As for the additional content that might turn some readers away, I am pleased to announce that it’s a relatively clean novel! There are only a few mild curse words that are slipped in intense scenes (and I mean like, 4 total “d**m”s). There’s some mention of reading erotic books, and some sly sexual comments from one of the characters, but they’re not detailed at all and there’s absolutely no sex scenes (only two mildly detailed kisses). My main caution is on the intensity of the drama. The action and gore is very dark and medieval feeling, so you have the public hangings, which are described very well, the mobs going on “witch hunts” and killing anyone who fits their description, and lots of emotional and psychological drama as well.
So, if you’re like me and find that you’re more drawn to the “not-so-happily-ever-after” stories, then Descendant of the Crane should definitely be your next book! It’s not a series, but if I understand correctly, I think the author IS planning on writing a sequel, but even if a sequel didn’t come, I think a good majority of readers would still be satisfied with the way this book ended. It’s not a cliffhanger at all in my opinion, but it’s one of those open-ended endings that will probably draw a lot of fanfiction writers (which, if you have written a fanfic of this ending, drop a link and I will TOTALLY read it!!)!
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