The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He ★★★★★
Okay. There are so many things in this book and I’m trying to organize my thoughts so I can give a coherent review of this story. (lol good luck, Ashley)
This book is not fluffy. Every word included is deliberate and weaves together a story that will keep you guessing all the way until the very end. There are twists. There are untrustworthy (so many!!!!) characters. And there is a story about a girl who is lost and is trying to save her kingdom while trying to find herself along the way.
I freaking loved the main character Hesina. She was so complex and so far from a perfect character. She has flaws. She makes the wrong choice, but throughout the entire book you understand why she made her choices even when they lead her astray.
We find her at the beginning of the novel after the passing of her father. His death was ruled death by natural causes, but Hesina believes her father to be murdered. She seeks out the help from a sooth to help her find her father’s killer. As magic was outlawed centuries ago, Hesina’s act is considered treasonous and is punishable by death. Hesina is willing to do almost anything to find the truth even if it might ruin her in the process.
I loved almost every character in this book (yes, even the horrible ones.) They were so well thought out and they went freaking l a y e r s deep. From the beginning its apparent that anyone is a suspect. Anyone could be an enemy. Each character has an agenda, and you really don’t know who is trustworthy until after they cross you. I feel like so many of these characters would be in Slytherin? It really has a ambitious, ruthless Game of Thrones vibe. Yes, please.
I never really know what a book means by “political intrigue” but I think this book may be the perfect example? Hesina is always strategizing. Her moves must satisfy her own people, her confidants, and even at some points, her enemies. This plays in to the “trust no one but yourself” thing again, and that could not be anymore true than in this book. Everyone has So! Many! Secrets!
I loved the importance of family in this book. There are friendships and a little dash of romance, but the main relationships that play throughout this book are ones of family. The main catalyst of the entire story is the death of her father and how she comes to terms with him being gone. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother, and it’s obvious that has affected Hesina as she’s grown up. She has two adopted siblings, one brother and one half brother. She has a complicated relationship with each of them and how they interact with each other creates tension throughout the entire story. I love how complex these relationships are and I think this book is that much better because of them.
I pride myself on spotting plot twists from miles and miles away, and this book freaking got me. The book is pretty slow for the first half (but not in a bad way imo.) You get to know the characters and where exactly they lie on the line of friend or foe. We learn about the political climate and what exactly is going on in this kingdom. The writing is so intricate and descriptive, and I think if there were too many large plot points it would get confusing real fast.
The second half, however, hits you with a BANG. After the first reveal you start rolling down a hill and the twists just keep hitting you left and right all the way until the very end. There is no time to breathe. There is only time to read and be surprised. *my mouth was literally hanging open at some points lmao*
If you came for romance and romance only, I think you might be a bit disappointed. It definitely exists and is very cute, but it is not the base of this story. It is the perfect sprinkle on top of this plot, and pairs nicely with the familial relationships throughout. It’s also a nice break from the paranoia you’re experiencing due to all of the backstabbing and plot twists. (bc they are aplenty)
I really really want another book. I need to know what happened to my little bb characters at the end. This story is definitely a full arc and most of your questions will be answered, but there is definitely enough left open to allow for more. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t say any more than that.
A must-read if you like:
- twists and turns that you will not see coming
- Chinese-inspired fantasy
- tense political intrigue (like wow)
- interesting magic system
- complex family relationships
- imperfect characters
Thank you to Edelweiss and Albert Whitman Company for the eARC of this book!