My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars
Descendant of the Crane By Joan He
A high fantasy mystery in the Kingdom of Yan as it stands on the brink of war.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He follows Hesina, the daughter of a recently slain King, who is determined to find his killer and bring justice to her kingdom and people. This book is Joan He’s debut Young Adult novel.
When Princess Hesina’s father, the king, is murdered, she sets out on a mission to bring the case to trial and get to the bottom of his murder. Enlisting the help of a soothsayer, Hesina discovers someone who might be able to aid her in her quest. In a kingdom where soothsayers are a hunted and diminished people and working with them is considered treasonous and punishable by death, Hesina risks everything to find clues to answer this mystery. Will Akira, the man the sooth tells her to find, be the answer to solving this murder? And how will Hesina hold her kingdom together when it stands on the brink of war with a neighboring kingdom?
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Albert Whitman & Company through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
This book was riveting! There were so many twists and unexpected reveals, I was kept guessing through the whole story.
I love the world that He has created, drawing from historical Chinese culture and creating a sumptuous, beautiful fantasy world. Though some of the elements of that fantasy aren’t, in my opinion, fleshed out enough, especially in terms of the Sooths, I still felt I knew enough to grasp the plot and the reasons for characters making the decisions they did.
I liked the character development for the most part. There are times when Hesina is a little too much. She often decries her useless and it made me wish that she had been given at least one skill she felt totally confident in, to give her a bit more strength (though she claims she’s good at lying, she often doubts her skill in the moment, anyway).
I thought the action sequences were really awesome and well thought out. I could really picture each as they happened in my head. These fights, coupled with the gathering of clues, the courtroom drama, and the bartering with neighboring kingdoms to avoid war all equaled a thrilling plot that kept me turning page after page.
Some of the book felt a bit rushed, but otherwise the plot really clips along quickly, sweeping through a very complex and intriguing plot. I was deeply invested and I was disappointed at the cliffhanger ending, but I understood the reason for it. I will be greatly anticipating the next installment in this series.
Literary Value: 4/5
I would loved to have seen a glossary included in the book, for there are italicized words, but no further explanation for them, leaving me to look them up out of curiosity as to what I should be picturing. Hopefully in the published version there will be one?
Otherwise, I think the writing was good. He gives a clear picture of the kingdom she has created and her descriptions of the people and the rooms they inhabit are told beautifully. I didn’t find the writing too flowery, nor was it too dry. Her descriptions of the emotions her characters were feeling were good and felt very real.
Hesina’s reactions were the most relatable, which is why I think she shone as a character. Not every main character can be a badass, and there were plenty of badass characters surrounding Hesina anyway. I felt she carried herself well, despite often feeling out of her depth and her perseverance despite of all the obstacles she encounters makes her a true heroine.
Entertainment Factor: 4/5
I really enjoyed this book. The mystery provided several plot twists and I didn’t guess all of them! There were times where I felt certain exchanges between characters was clunky and unclear, but these moments are few and far between, so they didn’t really ruin my enjoyment of the book.
I think what I enjoyed the most was that I was reading a book about a female in power, and one that was molded from Asian culture. I love how many awesome diverse books in YA are coming out, and this book is a part of that. I loved that this fantasy book is presenting a world using culture unfamiliar to me, exposing me to something new. It’s an exciting read and so beautiful and different to what I’ve seen so far in fantasy books I’ve come across.
Cover Art Rating: 5/5
This cover is gorgeous. I was immediately drawn to it and felt like I had to read the book it contained, which is all you can ask for from a cover.
I think the cover really sets the tone of the book, and it really presents the culture being drawn from to build the world it contains. It’s also very mysterious and draws you in, because you’re not quite sure what it means, which parallels nicely with the mystery part of the book itself.
I love how this cover looks like a painting or something you would find embroidered on silk. It’s fantastic! I think it certainly does the book justice.
Overall Rating: 4.25/5
I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly as advertised and I was so drawn in by the world He built. I love fantasy books that surprise me, that break the mold, and I feel this one did. It wasn’t anything I had ever encountered before and I really liked getting to know the Kingdom of Yan and all its characters. I especially like Hesina, who, despite being a princess, and later a queen, is very relatable and not overpowered. She’s an interesting character and I enjoyed seeing her grow and struggle to solve the mystery of who killed her father.
I also enjoyed He bringing Chinese culture to this fantasy world. It brought more diversity to the genre and it taught me new things. It was a gorgeous, twisting mystery/action adventure and I highly recommend it to any fantasy fan or those who just love a strong female YA heroine.
Open discussion below!
Let me know what you think! Have you read Descendant of the Crane? Heard about the book and want to read it? Let’s talk about it in the comments?
Most of all, I hope this review has inspired you to pick this book up. If you’re going to read it, I’d love to know!
Let’s all continue to dare to read dangerously 😉