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Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

“Tyrants cut out the hearts of dissidents. Rulers sacrifice their own.”

Descendant of the Crane Cover

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Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

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? 

DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.



TW: gore, graphic injury, death (including parental death), torture, slavery, suicide

If you’re looking for a mystery that’s going to leave you wanting more of EVERYTHING, submit an order for Descendant of the Crane right now. Trust me. I’m not kidding when I say that this was incredibly satisfying in almost every way, and that I’m already itching for the next book, which is going to come out NOT FAST ENOUGH (but also in its own time because writing is hard and a lot of stuff goes into making a book happen and I respect and can conjure up some patience for that).

There’s been so much hype around this book that I wasn’t sure if I’d have the same reaction, but I’m so glad I did. I made sure to eat lunch before starting the book, and thank goodness I did, because after I got rolling, I didn’t want to stop.

One of the things that most jumped off the page for me were the descriptions. The sights and sounds and smells of Hesina’s world were brought to life so fully. I can only imagine how beautiful the ruquns the characters wore were, and the smells of the palace and the city proper were in their own way vibrant enough to nearly fly free of the page. You can tell that the world as Hesina sees it was constructed with care, meant to be as lush and full as possible.

And Hesina! She is complicated, and I loved her. On the one hand, she wants nothing more than truth and justice. On the other hand, as the new ruler of her people, and as a girl of seventeen under immense pressure, she slides so easily into roles that don’t live up to the ideals she so desperately wants to hold to. She’s between a rock and a hard place most of the time, trying to make the best decisions she can with the information she has, and it means that she messes up, sometimes worse than other times. It’s absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t help but love Hesina for all of her efforts.

She had equally complicated relationships, too, all of which I think strengthened her character and got me attached to the others. Sanjing is an interested, pragmatic foil to Hesina’s optimistic nature, Caiyan is a logical, grounding force, Lilian is all kinds of vibrant and emphatic, and Akira is whip smart and mysterious. This doesn’t even take into account other characters in the story who feel so alive; these are just the five who are closest to Hesina throughout the story.

Akira surprised me most of all, though, since I’m not normally fond of the mysterious broody loner type. Typically, that ends up making me want to give up on a book completely. But his character was handled phenomenally, grappling with issues of morality and redemption in ways that felt very reasonable and captivating to me. Not to mention there was that one scene that was so tender and vulnerable and I feel ATTACKED by the slow burn quality of it (if you know the scene, that one with the ointment jar, let’s talk, because I AM DYINGGGGGGGGG).

And turning to the plot, oh, it just keeps getting more intricate. This will not be the last time we visit this world, not at all, and there’s so much at stake, so much more happening behind the scenes that I could have possibly imagined when I first started reading.  Now and again (and perhaps I just wasn’t reading closely enough, or I was going too fast), I sometimes got lost and had to backtrack a little to re-situate myself in the proper context of the scene, which was frustrating. Ultimately, though, the plot unfurled with a level of detailed I hadn’t anticipated, and one that made rereading passages well worth it.

Plus, there was something that caught me by surprise, and if you’ve read  a number of my other reviews, you probably know by now that I’m pretty good at predicting plot twists, and enjoy doing so. This time, the plot twists won, and in a way that made a delightful amount of sense.

All in all, Descendant of the Crane was beautifully written, intricately plotted, and also sucker punched me with some subtle slow burn that I want more of. It’s so alive in the telling, so captivating, and promises so much more political intrigue and danger in future installments. It’s also coming out April 2nd this year, so now’s the time to get your pre-orders or library requests in. You’re not going to want to miss out on this one in a thousand years, trust me.


Have you read Descendant of the Crane already? If you have, we should DEFINITELY talk. And if you haven’t, think you’ll pick it up now? Let me know!

0 thoughts on “Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

  1. AHHHH I am so glad you loved the book! I have an ARC of this and was supposed to start a group read on Friday but, ha HA, joke’s on me and my slumpy butt! Excited to read it once the mood for reading returns though, and your enthusiasm has me feeling more confident about pre-ordering it. 😀

    1. I’m glad you feel better about your pre-order, and I really hope you like reading it! I was definitely blown away by how good it was (obviously), and I definitely need more, so I hope you end up feeling the same! 😁

      May your reading slump end soon!

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