Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.
Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
Thank you to Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Descendant of the Crane gets ALL MY STARS. Everyone else can GO HOME. This is the only political fantasy I want to read for the rest of my life, and I need the next one STAT.
First: That cover. I left the image huge so you all can see the gorgeous detail in the artwork. That color palette, the crane's beak intersecting the N, the Chinese-inspired style, ugh! It's so atmospheric and matches the book perfectly. Look, I'm not an artist, but even I know this is DAMN GOOD.
Let's talk book! To put it bluntly, there's not a thing I didn't love.
Characters: All so real! So, so fleshed out and I cared about all of them. I didn't know the pitch was Chinese Game of Thrones, so when someone got hurt, I was genuinely surprised and sad. Caiyan, Lilian, Akira, Sanjing: I MUST PROTECT. Excellent side characters, and usually I hate side characters, but these ones found their way into my heart. Their relationships to Hesina, each other, and to their kingdom were great to read about.
Hesina was an amazing main character. I respected her so much as a queen and as a daughter, and reading from her perspective was such a treat. The most important part about Hesina, though, was that she isn't righteous. She seeks justice in ways that bend laws sometimes. This whole book was an excellent exploration of morals, and how nothing and nobody is black and white.
Plot: The political intrigue and mystery aspects were incredibly well-done. I loved the courtroom drama, and how clever everything was. Also, the plot twists! I was constantly surprised by the plot, and I was just along for the ride. I loved it. Predictable fantasy is the worst, and Descendant of the Crane is so inventive and refreshing. It sped up towards the end, and the beginning-middle is a bit slow, so that's my one quibble, but it doesn't affect the storytelling that much. Otherwise, it's a fantastic read.
World: I want to read so many stories about these kingdoms. I liked the foundation on the Tenets, which made the legal system super interesting, as well as social dynamics between the sooths and everyone else. Speaking of, I'd love to see more exploration of the sooths' powers. I found what was in the book fascinating and I think it'd be awesome to read a book focused on a character who was a sooth. I'd also like to see different kingdoms! I don't have a physical copy of the book (yet?), but a MAP would be fantastic. Basically, everything explored in Descendant of the Crane gave me twenty more questions and a burning desire to read everything by Joan He.
Overall: Descendant of the Crane is in the running for my favorite fantasy of 2019. I love everything about it, and it hits 5/5 stars for me.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.