Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

First, this cover is amazing. One of my favorites of the year. I love the illustration vibe and the green just pops in a way that I don’t see green used enough for. Ahhh.

Descendant of the Crane is a YA fantasy from debut author Joan He. I was lucky enough to be granted an ARC and the writing blew me away.

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

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.

Goodreads Summary

My mother and I love watching various Asian dramas, and Descendant of the Crane gave off such C-drama vibes that it was so easy to sink into the world and feel familiar.

Hesina is plucky and takes gold star worthy action throughout the series of events. Her internal struggles echo the fate of anyone struggling to find autonomy within a political landscape with many players. There is a central struggle where you wonder just what exactly is motivating her, what society and family pressures tell her to want, or what she actually wants and then is she even aware of these things pressuring her? it was fascinating in a way I hope others find fascinating as well. I would love to see this concept explored in more ways in YA fiction.

The relationships she has with her family made this book for me. Each one is balanced and nuanced in a way that just boiled tension. I loved it. 12/10 here for that. It seems typical, especially in debuts. to see characters have tension with the villain and the romantic partner, but hardly anyone outside of that.

Character cards from Joan’s Pre-order campain.

In the case of Descendant of the Crane though the family ties are what shine. Tension between adopted and blood, tension between the balance of love and purpose, and ultimately tension between taking action that may hurt a loved one and the delicacy of such a choice is rampant.It is masterfully done.

I am a reader who loves a good, steamy romance. My only complaint with this story is that I found the romance very light. The romantic subplot is very much a subplot and while it does get some screen time it is not where much of the dramatic tension comes from. If you prefer your fantasy with romance lite, this will 100% be the book for you.

A surprising turn of events for me was instead of tracking the romantic tension in this story I more followed the relationship tension. I loved seeing characters who disliked one another in the same room together (HELLO CAIYAN AND SANJING). I also liked seeing Hesina deal with her siblings tension. I think this was helpful as a reader, and makes me eager to find more books like this one.

I truly appreciate a novel that can trick me, and this one definitely did. I just kept waiting for a certain twist to happen and it kept… not happening. It dragged me on, and for the sake of spoilers I will tell you that the way it happened instead blew. me. away. I was gripping my kindle so hard in those last few chapters.

Rose Gold Pre-order Campaign Bookmark of awesome.

This REALLY excites me for Joan He’s sophomore novel. I’ve heard there is a large mystery and twist in the story that is wonderful, and it makes me ready for the challenge.

This book has been marketed as a Chinese Game of Thrones. I don’t think I agree with that. Only by the way of court intrigue does it comp to that title, instead I would much prefer it compared to the scheming found in C-drama’s. I can’t decide why that comp sits so negatively with me, I almost feel it does a disservice to Descendant. I have to explore this sentiment more and perhaps I will update the review. I think it boils down to the fact that people find it hard to comp diverse books? I’m not sure. I’ll sit on this thought awhile.

I cannot recommend this one enough and would highly encourage anyone with teens who love fantasy and are looking for something without mature content. It’s beautiful and an amazing addition to non western YA fantasy. It joins a great debut 2019 class and I can’t wait to see more from Joan.

Hey! I’m a member of Hesina’s Imperial Court!

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