Book review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Title: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Publication date: 9 April 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult | Political

Page extent: 416 pages

Goodreads blurb: 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.

So I think I’ve only now realised that political fantasy might be one of my favourite genres to read. As a genre it produces slow and detailed, powerful and emotional books – and Descendant of the Crane was all of these and more. 

What a story! What an ending! What an everything! I was in shock at the end of this book, just in awe of what I’d read. What an incredible debut from He and what I hope is the start of many more books from her. 

Descendant of the Crane follows Princess Hesina in the wake of her father’s death – or murder. Hesina, convinced her father has been murdered, goes to see a seer, someone with magic who are vilified in the kingdom. If she’s discovered, she’ll be branded a traitor and sentenced to death. But Hesina’s loyalty to her father and her own desire to discover the truth lead her betray her kingdom and find a seer to help her uncover the murderer.  

With the information from the seer, a trial is held to investigate the King’s death. But as the investigation deepens, scapegoats are found and lost, a war is brewing on the edge of the Kingdom, and Hesina no longer feels she can trust those closest to her – they were after all, also closest to the King. 

In an absolutely stunning tale, this intricate political fantasy weaves an exciting and intriguing murder mystery. The prose is absolutely stunning, and was everything I wanted. There is so much detail put into the world building. I loved the quotes from ‘One’ and ‘Two’ at the start of each chapter, the two individuals who overthrew the old empire. They provide such an amazing lead up and hint into one of the biggest reveals in the book and after it happened, it seemed so obvious and of course nothing else could be! 

I loved all the characters! Hesina is such a great lead: she’s so strong and determined, and she finds herself having to go against her own morals time and time again for her kingdom. It slowly breaks her as she gives up all of herself and what made her her, to this unappreciative kingdom. I loved all of the sibling relationships, the complicated and stormy Sanjing who’s never really felt loved by Hesina after he did something awful to their adopted brother Caiyan when they were younger. Caiyan, oh my beautiful Caiyan I adore you. Seemingly so principled but willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of his sister. And Lilian, strong fiesty Lilian who is always there for Hesina and getting her hands dirty to help her. Each relationship is so different and interesting in its own right, and I loved all their interactions with each other. 

Akira, the representative of Hesina’s for the trial, was so mysterious and dangerous. I wish we’d seen him a bit more on page and were able to see his relationship with Hesina develop. He seems like such an enigma and I wish there’d been just a little more attention on him.

This book was just absolutely incredible. That ending is not just an ending: it’s a series of ending upon endings upon endings which twist and turn and destroy you so thoroughly you don’t quite know what happened. This was an absolutely marvellous debut and I can’t wait to see what He does next! 

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

2 thoughts on “Book review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

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