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 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.
*I received an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Descendant Of the Crane is an intricate fantasy novel which is heavily laden with political intrigue, mystery and an understated but very powerful writing style. The novel follows Hesina, the heir to the throne, as she tries to unravel the mystery behind her fathers suspicious demise. With the help of a mysterious sooth, Hesina is guided towards a convict who is meant to help her, but hides his own dark past. The further she goes to seek the truth however, the less she is certain of. Until Hesina is forced to reconcile the fact that she may not have known her father at all, as well as those around her…
One of my favourite things about this novel as well, was the unrelenting tension and sense of political intrigue and danger. This novel felt like a game of chess where the pieces are constantly moving and for every move one character makes, there’s another character waiting in the shadows, anticipating their demise. I loved how Hesina navigates this world, a world which she has been shielded from up till now due to her doting father. She is given no reprieve and she makes decisions that could be considered foolish but that’s the point, it felt more realistic to me than her immediately being Cersei Lannister, you know? The tension feels so very real in this novel and you know that saying? fall from grace? more like plummeting. No spoilers but this took me on a wild ride for sure.
I also appreciated the unexpected, but very important exploration of Hesina’s relationship with her mother, who neglects her and is emotionally abusive. I thought this was quite profound and the parts where these two characters have a scene were so painful to read, at least for me, but I think that it added a lot to Hesina’s backstory and adds some more layers. I think this fraught relationship is even more striking because of Hesina’s comparably strong and loving relationship with her father, and the fact that her mother showers her brother Sanjing with attention. I read a post once which mentioned the complex relationships between mothers and their daughters and this novel certainly speaks to that complexity.
The writing itself is very pretty and there are quite a few bits I highlighted and found poetic so I enjoyed the way Joan He writes a lot. Particularly there are some bits about the moon that were A+. I also think He is great at concise, clear writing which I’m such a fan of, although I enjoy lengthy paragraphs as much as the next person, it just fits with the tone here for it to be more stripped back and have more clarity. I don’t know whether that makes a lot of sense but if you’ve read this book, perhaps you’ll know what I mean.
Overall, Descendant of the Crane is an excellent addition to the growing and incredible collection of diverse Y/A fantasy and it deserves all the love and kudos because it’s genuinely such a clever and well crafted piece of work. While the door is left open for a sequel, I couldn’t find any definitive proof suggesting it was in the works? Either way, I’m glad to have read it and will happily be recommending it from now on!
Until next time,