Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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,...

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Title:Descendant of the Crane
Author:Joan He
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Descendant of the Crane Reviews

  • Vibur (Partial Hiatus)

    The words take root, sometimes growing. Sometimes sprouting others and more—sentences and paragraphs blossoming together.

    And sometimes not. Sometimes refusing to break through, through the grit of grammar and barrenness of diction, through the concrete blankness of my mind—as is the case now.

    How do I put to words everything that was

    ? I feel as if anything I write would be a disservice to this novel. To all that it encomp

    The words take root, sometimes growing. Sometimes sprouting others and more—sentences and paragraphs blossoming together.

    And sometimes not. Sometimes refusing to break through, through the grit of grammar and barrenness of diction, through the concrete blankness of my mind—as is the case now.

    How do I put to words everything that was

    ? I feel as if anything I write would be a disservice to this novel. To all that it encompassed and to all that it brought out.

    The thing is, I like to nurture what I’ve written over time—tending to the words like a gardener tending to the garden. Always trimming. Always refining.

    And yet, those words are not enough for

    .

    I admit that after reading, I didn't know what to write. Because the truth is,

    In which case, I feel inclined to refrain from what I’ve always done. No more trimming. No more refining. Let the words nurture themselves. Wild. Untamed. Phrases snarling, sentences tangling.

    In Chinese legends, cranes are said to bear the spirits of the departed to heaven. And that was what

    was for me—

    And how to describe the writing? Perhaps it was a painting and each word a brushstroke, a vibrant dab of colour across the paper; or perhaps it was a tapestry, the words woven into a mosaic of mesmerising patterns—I'd like to continue waxing poetic, but what point would there be in that?

    Imagine the acrid aromas of incense coiling through the air. The autumn wind as it whispers sweet secrets to the

    leaves. The scarlet haze of paper lanterns smeared around the edges of silhouettes.

    was a story about human people in an inhuman world—

    , its hurts unhealed and cutting deep, its bitterness and hate festering together like rot.

    It was a story about a queen who sought to stitch her kingdom back together, to sew its wounds shut and soothe its hurts—a queen who, in the end,

    It was a story that left me with no words.

    And you know what?

    To the Ten Courts of Hell with waxing poetic.

    I loved it.

    Beyond words.

    5.0/5

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    I've had enough of cliffhangers...

    What an ending! Such a succession of shattering revelations that sent a wave through my room so strong that I felt its ripple and was rocked on its mooring. Such was the churn and whirl of my thoughts and feelings that I was genuinely incapable of putting two ideas in a row, let alone come into any kind of conclusion—other than that I desperately need a sequel.

    I've had enough of cliffhangers...

    What an ending! Such a succession of shattering revelations that sent a wave through my room so strong that I felt its ripple and was rocked on its mooring. Such was the churn and whirl of my thoughts and feelings that I was genuinely incapable of putting two ideas in a row, let alone come into any kind of conclusion—other than that I desperately need a sequel.

    Hesina finds herself thrust into a tale she hardly understands when news of the king’s death—her father’s death—burst wildly and messily into Yan. Then, too soon, it is neatened, pressed and cast away without a slight crease in it. But the truth of it had already sunk into the center of Hesina and broken open, flooding her with a new certainty:

    With the rage and terror in her heart, the limits of her knowledge and her experience so miserably evident, Hesina turns to a Soothsayer who puts her on the path of Akira, a convicted criminal whose past and motivations are cloaked in secrecy.

    But in doing so, Hesina risks treason. Some things, it seems, run too close to the bone to change no matter how much you want them to.

    See, centuries before, the gnarled hand of oppression loosened its grip on Yan’s throat when the relic emperors were overthrown by the Eleven—a legendary group of outlaw saviors. The Eleven, later, gathered their philosophies into a book they called the

    and etched them into permanence. By then, the fear of Soothsayers—the relic emperor’s henchmen—and their magic had knitted itself into the bones of Yan and seeped through generations, and so the Eleven expunged everyone with Sooth magic in their blood from existence.

    Now, one truth unleashes another and another and having torn open the vault of secrets her father took with him into the ground, the hope for a better Yan, that had leapt in Hesina’s chest, crashes all at once. And all that is left is the plaintive specter of a child who had loved and trusted her father so wholeheartedly, her illusions now forever dashed and broken.

    The premise Joan He lays out in

    isn't shockingly original, but the relatively familiar contours of the plot do not make it any less elaborate. I had hardened myself to wonder before I started this book, but my knee-jerk skepticism was quickly knuckled under by my admiration for the way He has craftily drawn on several familiar tropes and recast them into something altogether fresh and memorable.

    does flounder somewhat until it settles into a groove. I think the novel could have been better curated, as it sometimes feels less like a story and more like a haphazard sequence of things happening. The characters could also be more deeply realized—the purpose for existing in the story for some characters is merely the degree to which they advance Hesina's arc without settling into one of their own, and they barely have enough personality to make that existence worthwhile, others start with interesting arcs but are eventually reduced to cogs in a jarring plot twist that almost flattens them as characters.

    Moreover, when it comes to Akira, the love interest, my list of likes decreases dramatically. There’s something about him that doesn’t quite synchronize with the rest of this world, like his character had been spliced in from a different story. Akira appears so infrequently that it feels like the novel is frustratingly adamant on keeping the reader at arms’ length from him. His inclusion in the story scarcely makes sense, and Akira quickly loses the thin, undefinable edge that made him interesting to begin with. It made me want to poke at him until he gives me something more, something more exciting, something—at the very least—worth rooting for.

    Nevertheless, the book successfully breezes past many of its flaws, and He’s own boundless creativity eventually finds its footing. Once it does,

    doesn't let go. As Hesina’s investigation into her father’s death deepens, so does the book's scope. I had not managed to organize my puzzlement into a question before the plot begun eddying around in a speedy, gasp-out-loud, page-flipping style—each new certainty leading not to the next steppingstone but into a quagmire. Revelations were so laden with dread and dismay that they fell into the novel like a rock into a quiet pond, and my astonishment quickly turned to horror. The climax was a virtuoso performance, leading to a poignant epilogue with just enough bread crumbs to set the ground for future installments.

    I really liked Hesina’s arc. I love how nothing in this story yields resignedly to her desires despite her many effortful attempts. The court is not some simple engine that applying pressure here, pressure there, could propel in the direction of her wishes. Hesina realizes that she can no longer grasp after the tail end of her father’s memory, clinging doggedly to his teachings; she needs a lot more foundation stones before she can start building this tower. At the same time, Hesina must reconcile with the river of spilled blood between her forebearers and the downtrodden Sooths and find a way to lead her people out of their fear and hatred. Most of the time, the task feels like trying to run up the side of an avalanche, and the novel doesn’t elude the reality of the weight residing on Hesina’s shoulders.

    I also love how He mercilessly probes her characters’ underlying motivation, and explores the lines between good and evil, who monsters are, and what makes them so. By the end, her antagonists’ villainy illuminates the morality of each character, and the reader is still a long way from sundering villain from hero.

    Overall,

    is a lovely, assured debut and a formidable addition to the growing body of diverse teen literature!

  • Melanie

    RTC! <3

    I talked about this on the live show for

    on

    !

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  • Emily May

    was a really pleasant surprise. It's actually one of the better, more creative YA fantasies I've read, taking influence from Chinese culture and exploring morally grey areas in a story full of political machinations and twists. I hope this book doesn't get buried unde

    was a really pleasant surprise. It's actually one of the better, more creative YA fantasies I've read, taking influence from Chinese culture and exploring morally grey areas in a story full of political machinations and twists. I hope this book doesn't get buried under the pile of generic YA fantasies with flashier covers and dramatic names like "Queen of Blood/Ash/Shadows/Fire".

    It's a quieter book than I had first imagined. The promise of a kingdom in turmoil and a ban on the magic once practiced by soothsayers sounds familiar in this genre, not unlike other action-packed fantasies. However, it is much more focused on political maneuvering and a young woman's bildungsroman as she discovers that not everything is black and white, and sometimes you are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

    Oh, and there's also

    .

    avoids dropping characters into "good" or "evil" boxes, allowing the villains (both the obvious ones and the not so obvious) to be multilayered and have realistic motivations for their actions that go beyond "Muahaha, I'm evil". As Hesina adjusts to her new power as queen, she finds herself relating to her enemies and questioning the purely benevolent view she always held of her father. I like how the author doesn’t stop at the surface, but instead explores complex emotions.

    The story begins with Hesina illegally visiting a soothsayer for information about her father's - the former king's - death. She knows there was foul play and wants to find out who was responsible. The soothsayer cannot tell her the culprit, but she can point her in the direction of someone who will help her find out.

    What follows is Hesina's attempt to get justice for her father and prevent war at the same time. Along the way, she uncovers secrets and betrayals. The murder mystery aspect - plus the thrilling courtroom scenes - were done so well here. So much better than the recent

    .

    I really enjoyed it when Hesina was forced to play a role as queen. Part of her story arc is learning how sometimes, unfortunately, it is necessary to lie or do "bad" for the greater good. It's a hard pill for her to swallow.

    I have a couple of minor quibbles. The first is that sometimes the pacing needed work. Overall, I appreciated the slower, more political plot, but there were parts of the book that went on too long and felt dragged out, but truthfully this could be said for about 95% of YA fantasy debuts.

    The second is that this is one of those books that I think would have been better as an adult novel. There is something a bit off by all these rulers and military leaders being around 16 or 17 years old. As it is, the novel is mostly chaste, despite the inclusion of such as brothels. It feels almost deliberately cleaned up for a younger audience, and I think it is a shame that a sexy character like Akira is wasted on a romance lacking in steam.

    I still enjoyed it a lot, though. I have to point out that this is NOT a standalone and is left set up for a sequel. You can bet I'll be reading it.

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  • jessica

    oh, thank the literary gods that the beauty of this story matches the gorgeousness of its cover. there is no greater relief, im telling ya.

    this story is everything everyone is saying it is. its culturally rich, stunningly written, masterfully plotted, and cleverly wrapped up. i really enjoyed reading this! with all the twists and turns along the way, it is quite the adventure. its a very high-quality debut and one i hope the author is extremely proud of.

    so if this is so great, how come i didnt

    oh, thank the literary gods that the beauty of this story matches the gorgeousness of its cover. there is no greater relief, im telling ya.

    this story is everything everyone is saying it is. its culturally rich, stunningly written, masterfully plotted, and cleverly wrapped up. i really enjoyed reading this! with all the twists and turns along the way, it is quite the adventure. its a very high-quality debut and one i hope the author is extremely proud of.

    so if this is so great, how come i didnt rate it higher? its because i wanted more magic! this story is overwhelmingly heavy in court politics and war, so much so that my interest began to fade after a while. i understand their importance in creating a complex storyline, but their presence in a story shouldnt mean that the

    components of a

    novel take a back seat. if anything, it should be the other way around - magic as the main focus with the politics and war plots as support. in this book, there is an entire population of people who have magical abilities and its never really explored. such a shame.

    i know this is a stand-alone and that most of the questions are answered but, with that epilogue, i really hope a sequel is a possibility down the line!

  • Hamad

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found

    🌟 I have read this book months ago as I had an ARC. This of course does not affect my opinions on this. I don’t know how much this review will be helpful in the first place because I remember only bits of it!

    🌟 The story takes place in a Chinese inspired cou

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found

    🌟 I have read this book months ago as I had an ARC. This of course does not affect my opinions on this. I don’t know how much this review will be helpful in the first place because I remember only bits of it!

    🌟 The story takes place in a Chinese inspired court where the king is killed and Princess Hesina becomes Queen. Hesina wants to find her father killer and then much drama ensues. The book is dark, it gave me trust issues and it was brutal. I can see why it is called a Chinese Game of Thrones. But for me, they were two different entities.

    🌟 The characters are well written and what I really like is that as in GOT, the author does not put the characters in molds of good and bad. The characters have motives and there are both sides to all characters. By the end, I couldn’t trust myself even because what the hell were everyone doing????!!!

    🌟 Joan has a beautiful prose that worked very well with the story, it actually exceeded my expectations. For a debut, this was more than well done! I think the pacing was slow and some places even slower than slow. If this was faster and shorter, then it would definitely have been a bigger hit (it is a big hit so it would have been perfect).

    🌟 The world building was OK, I wanted more to be honest and some questions were left unanswered. I am such a hypocrite when it comes to politics. I hate real life politics because it is all lies and games and shit. In fantasy, I love politics and court drama since I have all the information and can play judge and choose by myself! There was also the who done it part and the investigation of that which I enjoyed very very much. It was extremely smart and I would like to read more fantasy mystery books if there is such a thing!

    🌟 Summary: Descendant of the Crane is such a great book and does not feel like a debut. It was smart, it was dark and brutal. I still have some questions and the pacing was slow which made me enjoy it a little bit less. I am still recommending this to anyone looking for an fantasy with an Asian setting.

  • Chloe

    DNF at 50%.

    • Read for

    I thought I was going to love this one but unfortunately it just didn't work for me. It had a really strong start and I absolutely loved the Chinese inspired world, but the writing didn't flow well, the pacing was off, and I couldn't connect to the characters. The premise sounds amazing but unfortunately I was bored reading this.

  • Clemlucian (🏳️‍🌈the villain's quest)

    ⭐⭐

    |

    Buddy-read with the wonderful

    or attempted to. I, unfortunately, DNF'd it at 75% because I couldn't take the abuse anymore.

    I think the YA fantasy genre is saturated with average books that are blending in my mind. I stopped reading the Descendant of the Crane and already, I'm mixing it with multiple, similarly plot

    ⭐️⭐️

    |

    Buddy-read with the wonderful

    or attempted to. I, unfortunately, DNF'd it at 75% because I couldn't take the abuse anymore.

    I think the YA fantasy genre is saturated with average books that are blending in my mind. I stopped reading the Descendant of the Crane and already, I'm mixing it with multiple, similarly plotted fantasies. And no, my head isn't the problem here.

    Descendant of the Crane tells the story of Princess Hestina of Yan who's rushed into the role of Queen after her father's sudden demise. However, she has to deal with a plot against the crown, a war conspiracy, and romance, which doesn't make her beginning as Queen convincing for the aristocracy...

    Since I haven't finished reading Descendant of the Crane, this review will be short.

    1.

    didn't compel me at all. This book was presented as morally grey GoT style, and it doesn't deliver in that regard. I think the main character has the personality of a plant. She was an annoying, spoiled, brat who knows nothing and doesn't learn from her mistakes. She trusts people who haven't given her a reason to and antagonized the people who work in her direction. Reading through her narrow perspective gave me a headache. Hestina thinks one thing and jumps to the polar opposite in 2 seconds and I can't deal with that lack of character consistency.

    2.

    made me want to sleep. The decisions the characters took, made the plot go farther, yes, but at the cost of making thoughtful decisions that make sense. This book is so absurd, I swear. I honestly didn't understand half of the things that were happening. The politics in this book made no sense. The King is poisoned but he doesn't have a food taster. The queen can walk around without guards, she has no advisors, or councils and apparently does everything by herself.

    3.

    that everyone keeps raving about is nothing impressive. I felt like we were spending times describing a table and the love interest's weird hair instead of focusing on more important things which explained why I was so confused during most of the story.

    4. where was the

    at?? I know YA fantasy books in 2019 are lighter and closer to be medieval historical fiction but it's not an excuse to scramble two pieces of magic together and call it a day. Who the fuck runs this kingdom? I'm confused. How is this not anarchy?

    Anyway, I shouldn't have called this review short considering it's pretty long now. But apparently, I had things to say. It seems I haven't read the same book as everyone else, but I'm still glad some people are enjoying this. I'm just getting too old for this ;)

  • Joan He

    THE BOOK IS OUT NOW!!! Goodreads users, thank you so much for all your pre-release support. Thank you if you added the book. Thank you if you read and reviewed.

    All these things have made a world of difference in getting my smaller-pub book into the hands of readers <3

    Hopefully this is helpful! Please remember that some

    THE BOOK IS OUT NOW!!! Goodreads users, thank you so much for all your pre-release support. Thank you if you added the book. Thank you if you read and reviewed.

    All these things have made a world of difference in getting my smaller-pub book into the hands of readers <3

    Hopefully this is helpful! Please remember that some of these answers encompass my views only. Authors of colors are not a monolith, and like normal people we have a diversity of opinions. What matters is that the conversation--which is still sorely lacking--is on-going.

    I also wanted to take a moment to say that it's hard to convey everything a book is through a synopsis alone and I want to apologize if the previous one for DESCENDANT is misleading. I understand how much it sucks if a story doesn't match expectations, and so in the interests of full disclosure:

    DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE might be the book for you if you like political intrigue, twists, complex family dynamics, a roller-coaster type plot with a slow-build to the summit, and questions of morality in your fantasy. It may not be the book for you if you prefer more action, romance, and break-neck pacing from the get-go to your stories. I love a story of that type as much as anyone else, but DESCENDANT simply isn't that and neither do I want to pretend it is.

    eARCs are available to request on NetGalley and Edelweiss! Pleaseeee forgive any typos/awkward phrasing/wonky sentences in the ARC!!! Love you all <3

    We have a cover!! It's so very Chinese, and I'm really humbled that so many of you love it.

    I also wanted to clarify something about the accuracy of the story. China has an incredibly epic history. It's also an epically misogynistic one. The only time women's rights was really a (side) agenda was during the Cultural Revolution. The book addresses this. It's a fantasy, of course, so it's not going to be 100% historically accurate, but I wanted to acknowledge the true, non-romanticized history, because so few books do.

    That, however, is beside the point. My main point is that I wrote this book as a Chinese-American. Growing up over here meant that I was surrounded by narratives about strong women, women who got stories that were MORE than just fighting to survive in a world of men. I wanted to contribute to those narratives. That's why we have a Chinese-esque princess who becomes queen. Maybe it's not the norm to Chinese history, but it is the norm that I see (and hope to see more of) in the place I call home.

    tldr; Stories about concubines, wives, and daughters fighting tooth and nail to be considered worthy in a sexist society are valid. They are the status quo. But they are not the ones I set out to write.

    ---

    This book almost killed me and now I can finally share the pain and let it kill you.

    But seriously, I've been working on this book since 2013 and I can't wait to share it with you <3. It's everything I love in Chinese dramas (sprawling families, complex relationships, double-meanings, betrayal-for-your-own-good, gray morality) minus all the "meh" bits (girl on girl hate, harems competing against each other). To stay up to date on book news, you can sign up for my newsletter here:

  • Nick

    honestly, I can not wait

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