title: Descendant of The Crane
author: Joan He
genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (AW Teen)
release date: April 9th, 2019
source: Publisher via NetGalley
❝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?❞
recently i’ve been reading and reviewing a lot of asian-inspired fantasy books, and there’s so many more on my anticipated releases list, which brings me so much joy! to see all these new voices tell stories from their own cultures and have their characters be heard and seen by the world, especially by those who can finally see themselves in fiction is truly wondrous, and i’m so glad this is happening. i, myself, am not of asian descend, but i still really appreciate this small but important step in the publishing world and i hope that it continues to make way for more and more new voices to emerge and tell their histories and stories for the world, because it’s what they deserve.
i really wanted to include that in my review, because i’m not often so vocal about the topic of diversity, but i feel like i, along with everyone else, should be speaking up. there’s a long way to go, and i know that i also can be doing a lot more to support books by authors of colour, so i will continue trying to do better.
anyway, this blog post is about my humble onion (opinion, for those who are not on twitter) on joan he’s debut novel – descendant of the crane. it is a chinese inspired fantasy novel that comes out on april 9th and you should hurry up and pre-order it because it’s amazing.
descendant of the crane tells the story of a young princess, hesina, whose kingdom is shaken after the sudden death of her father, the king. hesina is certain that it was murder, not a natural death, thus, she pursues the truth through legal actions by opening up a trial. during the course of the trial, she uncovers devastating truths about her kingdom and her family, and her notion of truth and justice are thrown into a whirlwind as hesina struggles to regain balance with her emotions, and her unstable kingdom.
i know that description sounds pretty generic, but trust me on this – there is so much to this story that no synopsis can ever capture. i truly did not do it justice, as the book truly unfurls and blossoms as you’re reading. joan he has an incredible talent to keep your eyes glued to the page by providing you with just enough bits of information to tide you over while simultaneously teasing you with what’s to come.we’re thrust into hesina’s world straight away, which was quite shocking at first, but it is done really well i must say. the way the author hands out information feels natural and everything is revealed gradually as we explore more and more of the world instead of it all being dumped onto us as a giant landfill of information. there is some confusion, at first, as there is with all fantasy books where the world is unfamiliar for the reader, but what’s important is that it does not appear unfamiliar. personally, i much prefer being thrown into a world with no context whatsoever, and then gradually learn what’s happening – which is exactly the case with descendant of the crane.
characters are all introduced in the same way – gradually and well spaced-out. as we’re at the mercy of hesina’s navigation, we meet the cast through her whenever the need arises for her to meet someone new. none of them felt flat or one-dimensional, as everyone had their own purpose to serve and own gains to pursue, which is quite important for a character – just because they’re not the protagonist of this story, does not mean they’re not protagonists in their own. we are slowly introduced and acquainted with all the people that hesina crosses paths with, and despite the third person limited, we see them grow and transform throughout the novel.
the same can be said about hesina herself – she changes radically from the beginning of the book, yet still manages to be true to who she is. i have to admit, at first she felt very detached and quite passive as a narrator, but as the story progresses, hesina, too, relaxes into the page. if at the beginning, you’re being kept at a distance, by the end the walls have crumbled and you’re allowed to step inside through the rubble.
another thing i really want to mention is how refreshing it was to finally see a princess who isn’t a rebellious teenager whose dream was never to rule a country. despite what the official synopsis says, hesina accepts the weight on her shoulders and accepts the responsibilities of the crown – something not often seen in ya fiction! she is unapologetic in her title, which i’m so here for.
supporting characters are usually not my forte and for the most part remain underappreciated by me, but i have to say, i fell in love with lilian. she was bubbly, but also sharp when she needed to be. her strength was subdued; joan he masterfully shows it through her clothing, which was such a nice touch – it teaches you that power is not only how you yield your swords, or your words. i just loved her character so much.
let me take this opportunity to also subtly hint at my intrigue by the crown prince of kendi’a and poorly concealed hopes we see more of him. if there is more. there has to be. (please)
the writing in this book is gorgeous and so well-done? i’ve mentioned previously how everything is revealed gradually, and the same applies to the writing style itself. it also manages to be quite straight-forward and incredibly poetic at the same time, which made is all the easier and more enjoyable to read. i sped through this book in a week – in between lectures and assignments, otherwise it would have been a day or two at most, it flowed that well. i don’t usually bookmark anything other than angsty ship moments, but i’ve so many highlights of truly amazing quotes from this book, just going through them makes me want to quit university and go beg joan he for writing advice instead.
as a political intrigue ho, i have to say i fell for all the complex threads of plot. honestly, a surefire way to make me like your book – make it angst and political. hesina is one bad b*tch when it comes to this, and i loved how she handled her court – especially xia zhong, that rat. akira, too, was awesome in his prosecutor ways that it almost made me want to pursue a law degree instead. joking aside, i really really enjoyed how joan he handles the politics in this book; it’s clear she has a knack for threading intrigue.
(i’m not going to talk about all the plot twists, i will need at least fifteen to thirty business to even begin the recovery process.)
overall, descendant of the crane is an incredibly powerful debut with a strong voice that is sure to take your breath away. the world is lush with richness, culture, politics, and compelling characters you’ll be able to connect and empathize with. i cannot recommend it enough, honestly, it’s real good. trust me on this and go add this book to your collection.