Book Review: Descendant of the Crane

Book Review: Descendant of the Crane

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.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Descendant of the Crane

Series: Not announced yet
Author: Joan He
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Page Count: 416
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Cover Artist: Feifei Ruan
My Rating: ★★★1/2

Descendant of the CraneDescendant of the Crane by Joan He
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.


All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

I’ve let this book marinade and simmer for a while before writing my review. To be completely honest, Istill don’t know how I feel about it. While I did enjoy Descendant of the Crane, it simply didn’t resonate with me as I hoped it would. There were definitely magical elements throughout, but not represented as prominently as hoped. Moreover, Descendant of the Crane is really centered around solving a mystery–a murder mystery.

But nothing squelched childish fantasies quite like inheriting the throne. Learning to rule was an all-consuming pastime.

Princess Hesina is the daughter of the King of Yan (a state in China during the Zhou dynasty in the 11th century, BC). After her father is suddenly passes away, Hesina immediately believes there is foul play involved and is drawn to investigate his death further. Her investigations, however, force her to seek a soothsayer’s help–which in this fantasy realm, is treasonous–especially for someone in her position. Still new to her station as queen, Hesina quickly learns that politics are ugly. Nothing is a simply, monochromatic, or entirely un/just.

Upon Hesina’s secret meeting with the soothsayer, she learns that the person who will help her uncover her father’s murder is a criminal himself. This attachment obviously poses issues for Hesina, seeing how she is the queen. But what would a YA story be without a love-interest, and a forbidden one at that!? Akira, the criminal, also happens to be a handy investigator. With his skillset, the unlikely duo delve into the events of the past in order to uncover the truth. This investigation, however, comes with many difficulties. The more that is uncovered, the more vast and deep the plot dives.

What is power? Hesina had thought it was wielding the knife, or getting someone to wield it for her. Now she realized it was neither of those things. Power was yielding. It was taking the bloodstained knife out of a thousand frenzied hands and making it hers alone.

Since magic is illegal, Hesina is caught in a dangerous web. She realizes that those who have power easily have the power to hurt others. This aspect of the story is pivotal in Hesina’s growth as an individual and queen. It is the root that feeds her blossoming. I think this is one of the strongest points portrayed throughout Descendant of the Crane.

In general, I liked the way Hesina’s character was portrayed. However, I found that she felt reduced, along with pretty much everything else in the plot. The age of the characters was a bit unrealistic, and is a big reason why this book would be so much better as an adult fiction instead of YA. I felt the plot was held back by YA-level qualms–like the “ironic” love interest. While I liked Hesina, there were definite inconsistencies in her character due to the way she was placed in the story.

When they forded streams, redcrowned cranes, rumored to be the animal counterparts of immortal sages, crossed alongside them. With every gasp and glimpse of beauty, Hesina found it harder and harder to accept this fertile, dew-crowned land as hers. Rather, it became easier to accept it hadn’t always been hers. In ancient times, cranes had been the size of horses. Now their heads only came to her stallion’s chest. The relic emperors, believing the blood of the birds to be an ingredient in the elixir of immortality, had hunted them to near-extinction.

One huge issue that I had was that the crane itself was barely discussed! I feel that if a book’s title, cover, and brief lore is going to include such a symbol, more of the actual crane needs to be included. Let’s be honest here–this cover is just gorgeous! But, I wish the story represented it more.

Despite its areas of difficulty, Descendant of the Crane has a great plot when it comes to creativity, along with beautiful writing. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel swept away by this story as much as I had hoped. I simply couldn’t invest myself in the story. I may check out the sequel, and will hope for something more to grasp my attention.

Vulgarity: Minimal.
Sexual content: Minimal.
Violence: Moderate.

My Rating: ★★★1/2

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I am the author behind Foals, Fiction & Filigree. An all-encompassing blog about horses, books, and my art.

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