Descendant of the Crane, Joan He – Book Review

Hello Humans! I know that Christmas feels like an age away (because it was) but I’m writing this in early 2019, having read Descendant of the Crane during my break from work at the end of the year. I first heard about this book in one of those ‘books I am excited about’ threads on Twitter and knew that I had to give it a go. This is a wonderful Chinese-inspired fantasy that combines elements of a murder mystery, a political drama and a fantasy novel.

Descendant of the Crane Joan He

Goodreads Summary:

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 and alluring 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.

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This book hit on a lot of the things I love in fantasy, and in books in general, and ended up being one of the stronger books I read at the end of last year. I loved the characters and I enjoyed the story and I’m excited to read more of Joan He’s work in the future.

Forbidden Magic. This is one of those things that I absolutely adore, partly, I think, because it adds to my fantasy that magic is in fact real and is just being hidden from me and I will one day discover my magic powers – just me? Ok. But I enjoyed the way that this played out as part of the narrative, the idea that Hesina needs to use magic to find out what to do but is aware that to do so could cost her the throne and the good favour of her people.

Law. I could just as easily type ‘lore’ because the two are very much one and the same in this book. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from ‘the Tenets’ written by one of ‘the Eleven’ and treated as the law books for the kingdom. Not only did I enjoy how that element of worldbuilding played out in the book (no spoilers), but I also enjoyed how the characters twisted and manipulated the tenets throughout the story. Quite often, particularly with books that concern royalty the law is something that is often ignored with the justification of ‘I am the monarch and I can do what I want’. In this case, Hesina has to learn to use the law to her advantage and it makes her place as a piece in a wider game feel so much more powerful and interesting.

Detective stories. I haven’t read a good detective story in a while (though I’ve watched quite a few) and I’d forgotten quite how much I enjoy them. Akira is a great character who I think many readers will delight in. While this book isn’t a detective story in the traditional sense, there are a lot of elements of that in there, the overarching plot is driven by Hesina’s desire to find her father’s killer. Again, I enjoyed how this played out, with many twists and turns throughout the story. I will say that the addition of fantasy elements makes this even more fascinating.

I had a wonderful time reading this book, and I have no doubt that many others will feel similarly. I have (shamefully) read very few Chinese-inspired fantasy books and this has definitely encouraged me to seek out more of them. If you’re looking for something new to read that has heaps of politics, dodgy dealings, royal conundrums and a dose of magic then I would suggest you order a copy of Descendant of the Crane.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

What say you? Will you be reading Descendant of the Crane when it comes out on April 2nd? Let me know in the comments below!


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