Book Review – Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Hi and welcome to my first book review on this site! I’m going to attempt to write a short review per book I read just for fun so stay tuned if this is your thing.

I started reading Descendant of the Crane in December but, due to the manic holiday season, I only finished it in January! For some that might not seem like a long time but for someone who likes to read a book in a week it felt really drawn out.

To be fair, I enjoyed the fact I took a while to read this as the story is so different to what I’m used to that it was nice to dwell within the pages, soaking up the atmosphere Joan created.

The Blurb:

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.

The Review:

As someone who loves reading about different cultures I loved dipping a toe into this historical Chinese-themed kingdom.

From the get go the world that Joan wrote about was alive in my mind; I could see the market place thriving and the palace walls rising up around the intricate structures.

Hesina, the princess turned queen, follows the stereotypical character arc of being thrust into the unknown, struggling with change and relying on those around her, only to be stripped of all her beliefs and support to come out stronger at the end. It’s predictable in that way but not to its detriment.

The surrounding characters and twisting plot add all the extra details you need for an entertaining read and whilst there were some obvious surprises lurking around palace corridor corners the fact that each character has such a believable storyline and drive (rather that just being a sound board for the protagonist to bounce ideas off) means that some of the bigger plot twists were shocking.

At around 3/4 of the way through the story does seem to dawdle, particularly when Hesina begins to help the Sooths in the city, however the finale ramps up to reveal some un-obvious choices for other character progressions which make the story seem more real and vibrant and definitely leaves me, personally, wanting to read more about this world. I need to know what happens next!!

As someone who loves a good ‘rise above the authority’ story this one really did hit the spot – it was different, creative and vibrant. The world building and characters were complex enough for me to really sink into it and, especially when reading over the winter months, the book whisked me away to a place the flowers bloomed and the sun shone. I very much enjoyed it!

Grade: 4/5 stars

Reason: It wasn’t a 5 star book for me because, whilst I enjoyed it, there were small things that pulled me out of the story – the overused phrase of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ was jarring and Hesina herself was annoyingly stupid at times. I would have liked a little bit MORE romance as well!

Published by Sam Cummings

Just a girl hell bent on carving a writing career out of an over-active imagination and a semi-firm grasp of the English Language.