Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
I read this novel for my own personal pleasure and was not required to write a review. Therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve had a special love for fairy tale retellings since Gail Carson Levine introduced them to me at twelve years old. Until recently, however, I didn’t think anyone could write them the way she could. This year, I’ve been proven wrong by Elizabeth Lim. With a similar writing style as Levine, but drawing inspiration from the Asian folktales of her youth, Lim’s novel, Six Crimson Cranes, can only be described as pure magic. Her descriptions and metaphors seem to have a golden touch and her characters are both real and inspiring. While Six Crimson Cranes was not my first Lim novel, it was the one that bumped her from intriguing author to an auto-buy author.
Shiori is the heroine of Six Crimson Cranes and a spunky one she is at that. Full of mischief and lies, she wants nothing to do with her betrothed at sixteen, much preferring to trick her older brothers and play outside. When she finds out a dark secret concerning her stepmother, however, her world quickly becomes more complicated than simply wanting to end an arranged marriage. Her stepmother, Raikama, curses her six older brothers to be cranes. Her curse on Shiori is different, however. Her curse involves a bowl on her head so no one can recognize her and that for every word she speaks, a brother will die. Unrecognizable and mute, Shiori is whisked away to a faraway shore, suddenly desperately alone. She won’t be able to lie her way out of this one.
This book had all my favorite tropes. Arranged marriage, brother/sister bond, family secrets, etc. I loved Shiori’s relationship with her older brothers and her paper bird, Kiki, that she brought to life with her magic. Throughout the novel, Shiori endeavors to find her brothers as well as a way to break the curse and understand her magic. During this journey, she befriends a moody dragon and meets her betrothed—who turns out to be completely opposite from who she had imagined he would be.
Without giving away too many spoilers, all I can say is my favorite part of this beautifully written book was Shiori’s character development. I loved watching her become aware of the world outside her palace, grow in understanding of her older brothers, learn how to interact/communicate with people using hand gestures and body language and struggle towards freedom. On her journey, Shiori learns that not everything is as it seems and that honesty is the only way freedom can last. She also learns the true meaning of selflessness and putting others before herself and her own desires, something we must all learn at some point in our lives in order to truly succeed. I also loved how steadfast her love for her family was and that she never gave up on getting back to them. The twists at the climax and resolution left me gasping out loud and near tears. As an avid reader, you assume there aren’t any plot twists left that will surprise you. Let’s just say Elizabeth Lim still has some new ones up her sleeve.
In conclusion, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It touched my heart and soul in a way that doesn’t often happen. I think it is perfect for readers of all ages. There is no cursing or sexual content. There are a few mildly violent scenes and no kissing. The romance is sweet and pure throughout. Highly recommend.