Descendant of the Crane, Joan He

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This fate had chosen her. It was only now, seventeen years later, that she chose it back

When Princess Hesina of Yan’s beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. 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.

* * * * 
4 / 5

I love books like Descendant of the Crane: rich in political intrigue, soft, and beautiful and strange. Books full of myth and legend and mystery. Books with a main character that is somewhat unusual; Princess Hesina of Yan is willing to take up her crown, rather than being a rebellious and slightly bratty teenage girl, and she takes the advice of her advisors and trusts in her friends and siblings. It was a refreshing read.

Her, against a seasoned court. Her, against the tides of war. Her, against the king’s assassin

The country of Yan has an interesting history. It used to be a land of magic, populated by soothsayers who can read the future and, when their skin is cut, their blood burns into flame. Then the Eleven came. Men and women who changed the country, who brought religion and order and rebellion and outlawed the existence of sooths. They wrote their tenets that dictated how society should operate and created a religion of sorts. The King of Yan was wise and beloved and then suddenly dead in a flowerbed, leaving behind Hesina, her younger brother, her half-brother, and two other children plucked from poverty and raised on the orders of the king.

Hesina valiantly and passionately believes in the processes of Yan and she seeks the truth via a court trial. But she also does something desperate, seeking the help of a sooth who leads her to the dungeons and a man called Akira to present her case in court. The trial leads us on a wild and peculiar journey to the truth and the truth itself is bizarre. At one of the big reveals, I put my Kindle down and just thought: “what”. It was clever and unexpected and straight up whack and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’d never been about her. Not all stories were hers to narrate

Descendant of the Crane is a slow read, ambling through political intrigue, murky truths and half lies, through the difficulties of family and loyalty, through the pain of betrayal and a desperate need to know the truth and the shock of realising that nothing is as you thought. It is steeped in myth and felt like a new, original take on a classic YA fantasy trope.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an ARC of Descendant of the Crane.

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