Kal ★ Reader Voracious's Reviews > Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
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"But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray."
Friends, this book gripped me from the first page to the very last. Descendant of the Crane is a stunning debut fantasy that delivers on the "Chinese version of Game of Thrones" comparison that I've seen. This is a fast paced and action packed book that you cannot miss!

The plot of the book seems simple enough: the king died mysteriously and his daughter launches an investigation because she's convinced it was murder and is determined to uncover the truth. But it is so much more than that. It turns out the truth is more than just with the king's death, but the 300 year history of the country following the revolution against the previous empire. The oppressed rose up to make things more equal for everyone... except for the sooths. I appreciated Hesina's sympathy for the sooths and the moral dilemma she faces while having to also not increase tensions and fear for her people.
"A dead king. A deceived populace. A truth seeker. Sounds like a story that could end very well or very poorly, and I want to spectate."
The thread that runs throughout this narrative is essentially the philosophical debate on whether the ends justify the means and how far we are willing to go in order to fight for what we think is right. Hesina's dogged pursuit of the truth causes her to commit treason by seeking the guidance of a sooth, and in a court where everyone's motives are questioned trust is hard to come by. A friend of mine said in her review that she "suspected herself, and she isn't even in the book" -- if that isn't the most accurate representation of the unease and stakes that Hesina faces, I don't know what is.
"Justice was her only way to say thank you. To say goodbye. To say I love you too."
I think the reason this book spoke to me so deeply is that it deals with the very real anxieties of seeking truth and justice, and just how far we will go to achieve those ends. It's the anxiety-ridden coming-of-age story that translates really well to my life presently. (Of course, I am not ruling a kingdom and trying to avenge my father's death.) Hesina's story parallels well with my own loss of idealism and my internal struggle to buck against these structures to fight for what's right.

He manages to weave lush descriptions and heart-warming character development alongside this story. I fell in love with Hesina, Caiyan, and Lilian immediately and their sibling banter brings me to life. Her close friendships with them, and a budding friendship with Akira, acts as a foil to the tough relationship that she has with both her mother and brother Sanjing. The complex relationships and emotions all play into the decisions that Hesina makes and feel very authentic.

Overall there are not enough positive things that I can say about this book: it's fast paced and captivating from the first page with intricate worldbuilding that is doled out in just the right doses and characters that you cannot help but love. The twists and reveals will keep you guessing and gasping until the very end, and then have you craving more of this story. I sincerely hope that He gets to share more with us, and I will be anxiously waiting to read it & anything else that she writes.

PRE-ORDER CAMPAIGN: Pre-order or submit a library request for Descendant of the Crane by April 9, 2019 to receive character cards! Open internationally.

Many thanks to Albert Whitman Company for sending me an eARC via NetGalley for my honest review! Quotes are taken from an unfinished ARC and may not match final publication.
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Reading Progress

November 29, 2018 – Shelved
November 29, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
November 29, 2018 – Shelved as: e-arc
November 29, 2018 – Shelved as: own-voices
February 24, 2019 – Shelved as: buddy-reads
March 14, 2019 – Started Reading
March 14, 2019 –
18.0% "Incoherent sobbing
This book is gripping from the first page and I'm hooked. And sad. And I know more will break me."
March 16, 2019 –
68.0% "omg"
March 17, 2019 – Finished Reading
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: fantasy
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: young-adult
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: debut-author
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: diverse-reads
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: asian-representation

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