Series: Descendant of the Crane #1
Publication date : March 19th, 2019
Publisher : Albert Whitman & Co
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 416
Synopsis : Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.
Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high? (From Goodreads)
*I received an Arc of the book from the author in exchange of an honest review*
CW: Cruel mother, systemic racism, talk of genocide, slavery, slurs.
I decided to pick this book up when I was going through an existential crisis, wondering if I’ll ever rate another book 5 stars. Then I read it and IT BLEW ME AWAY. I am dead. Deceased. Gone. Listen, I was warned, every friend of mine who read it before I did told me that this book will scar me, that I will not recover from it, that I was not ready for what it will deliver. Did I believe them? Yes. Did that prepare me for what was about to happen? Absolutely freaking not. Anyway, I will stop yelling now (maybe) and get on with the real constructive review. Hopefully.
The writing is lush and atmospheric. It sets the tone of the story from early on and He has the ability of shifting it ever so slightly to match whatever is going on on page, and I was especially impressed with the difference in vibe between present times and the flashbacks, which has an almost nostalgic feel to them. The writing is also very descriptive when it needs to be, without ever taking away from the plot or feelings like filler text. That made grasping the world and visualizing the setting so easy to me that I never felt confused or like I had some catching up to do to understand whatever is going on at the moment or where it was happening, the setting almost jumped out of the page.
The only thing I could criticize the writing for is the heavy use of binary language, it exclusively uses man/woman and he/she instead of going the gender neutral route, and I think that’s a bit unfortunate.
Speaking of setting, Descendant of the Crane is a Chinese inspired fantasy with amazing and immersive worldbuilding that’s simultaneously intricate and easy to understand, a unique magic system that’s clear and well explained. I loved how it had this duality of if the Seers tell the truth about their visions their life is extended, and if they lie, it gets shortened, it was also really fascinating to read about how every power was linked to the future state of matter, and the people who possess them don’t change things as much as they simply transfer them into a future state. I’m shit at explaining things but that’s why the author wrote the book and not me, she explains it much better than I do. Really fascinating, I tell you.
Not as fascinating as the plot though, Descendant of the Crane has one of the most unpredictable and multilayered plots I’ve ever read. It takes a lot to truly surprise me or blow me away, but this book. THIS BOOK did just that, page after page, the more I read the more I realized how little I knew and how everything I thought I knew was false and how no one can be trusted and things aren’t as they seem. I WAS SWEATING FROM MY HAIR FOLLICULES at all the twists and trust me you won’t see them coming no matter how on the look out for them you are, because I knew they were coming but when they happened I was none the wiser and they destroyed me, I’m still suffering three weeks later *that meme of a shocked pikatchu*. This book is full of political and court intrigue and if you know anything about me you know that I absolutely LIVE for my political fantasies, they tend to be favourites of mine, so it comes as a shock to absolutely no one that Descendant of the Crane will probably make my Best of 2019 list.
Hesina is such an amazing main character to read about/from the perspective of. She’s smart, resilient but intimidated, scared and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities she has all of a sudden which makes her human and approachable. Yes, she’s a queen. Yes, she’s an excellent politician and a strong ruler but she also makes mistakes, miscalculates and has doubts. Also? I LOVE ME A REBELLIOUS QUEEN who wields lies even better than weapons, and who’s ready to go against her whole country for what’s right and to protect the persecuted minority. But I also appreciated how she’s not rash and knows that just declaring her support for them wouldn’t work and would just get her overthrown, especially with a traitor in her ranks.
One thing I did not expect from Descendant of the Crane is the great exploration of different sibling relationships. Hesina has one brother, Sanjing, she has a tense relationship with because of his jealousy of their other siblings as well as not always seeing eye to eye with her. She also has adopted siblings, Caiyan and Lillian who are twins and she’s the closest to them two, they’re basically her best friend, while Caiyan is the voice of reason and the one who protects her, Lillian is the fun one who’s always there to break the tension and make things light (on purpose, she’s actually super smart). Then there’s her half brother, Rou, who she doesn’t know that much because she resents his existence and what it means. So yes, I just love how different each relationship was from the other and if my memory doesn’t fail me, that’s kind of rare in literature.
Although I loved most characters, my favourite out of the bunch is probably Akira, mysterious and tortured kind of boy who has a lot of hidden trauma and compensates with humour and not taking himself seriously. He’s unpredictable and keeps Hesina on her toes, eventhough she trusts him, she never knows what to expect from him. He’s extremely intelligent, observant and wise beyond his years, pretends he doesn’t care when in fact he cares a lot. His backstory and the depth and care with which his character was crafted were so captivating.
The ending is HAUNTING ME. I am fully in denial about how long I have to wait for the sequel and I’m 100% blocking Descendant of the Crane out of my memory from now until I get my hands on the sequel. I just CANNOT handle the wait.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Descendant of the Crane? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.