Rating: (4.5 out of 5)
Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.
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? (Goodreads)
Descendant of the Crane was completely different from what I expected, and at the same time so much more than what I could have imagined. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to read this book prior to publication, as I was lucky enough to receive an eARC from the author.
Due to the eARC being a PDF with no way to change the font type or size, I was only able to read it for about an hour at a time before I had to rest my eyes, but all in all it only took me three-ish sittings to finish it and I feel like I might have been able to fly through this in one sitting if it had been in a more accessible format. I’m not bringing this up in order to complain, only to say that I read this at what for me was unusual speed. It always took me a couple of pages to get back into the book after taking a break, but as soon as I was drawn in again, I was utterly entranced.
Hesina, the main protagonist, is a no-nonsense, at times even brash character, but she is also kind, very human, and very relatable. I enjoyed her narrative voice, and the way she viewed the world around her. Descendant of the Crane takes place in a Chinese-inspired setting that Joan He brings to life with her lush world-building without ever overburdening the narration with detail.
For a book whose premise is primarily based on political intrigue, Descendant of the Crane is very accessibly written, which really surprised me. The plot is complex and full of unexpected twists and turns, but the author effortlessly guides the reader through the story without being patronising. There is a natural flow to everything which makes it hard to put this book down.
The only thing I was disappointed by was the final plot twist, as it felt a bit anticlimactic to me, but I don’t think it takes away much from the story. I would love to see a sequel in which the author gets to expand on the possibilities she opens up in the epilogue. As it is, Descendant of the Crane remains unique and engaging, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a dose of politics, and even to those who don’t because Joan He’s writing might just be your gateway drug.
Thank you so much to Joan He for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review!
Preorder or library request Descendant of the Crane by Joan He to receive some swag from the author! (Here’s how.) Also because you really want to, believe me. Have you read Descendant of the Crane yet or are you still eagerly awaiting the publication date? Let’s chat in the comments!