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?
Descendant of the Crane is all about the hotbed of problems the Kingdom of Yan is facing after the death of its king. Next in line, Princess Hesina, is prepared to step up and take the throne and the responsibility that comes with it, such as finding the person who murdered the king, and dealing with potential war with a neighbouring kingdom. This story is full to the brim of twists and turns, tests of trust and loyalty, political turmoil and interesting characters, that leads to a dramatic cliffhanger that I suspect will make most readers yearn for another instalment to conclude the story.
This was incredibly entertaining and got me invested within in the first couple of chapters. The story delivered what was promised, and I was not disappointed. The author’s ability to reel me in with her writing style was awesome. Honestly, I lost count of how many chapters ended with a baiting sentence that demanded me to keep reading.
The thing that took me by surprise – a pleasant surprise – was the political and bureaucratic underpinnings in the story. In the Kingdom of Yan, there was a revolution which brought imperial rule to an end, and introduced a new form of governance that’s heavily influenced and regulated by a sacred text. However, regardless of what type of political system is in function, corruption is always going to play a role, and it does indeed here. The way this developed across the book was really interesting, especially in regards to the exciting courtroom drama for the trial of the king’s death. The theatrical events of the courtroom were thoroughly engaging, I loved how it all went down and wished there’d been more (but that’s a personal preference!)
The handful of characters are interesting, complex and on the whole likeable. The main character, Hesina, is a little naïve, stubborn and too reliant on the opinions of other characters. But she cares deeply for her people and her family, making it easy to root for her. Beyond Hesina, I felt the book was more like an introduction to the other characters. I’d say my favourite character was Akira, due to his mysteriousness and role in the courtroom drama. I wish there had been more focus on this character, as I feel his potential wasn’t fully used here *cough, sequel, cough*.
I’ll mention here that the author has not explicitly confirmed there will be a sequel to Descendant of the Crane (I will update this if there is any change). I hope there is a sequel, as the book does end on a cliffhanger, and it would be disappointing for this story not to be explored more, because the climax of this novel was super intense and game-changing. Plus, I really would like to see some character confrontations that I imagine to be EPIC!
Overall, I read this over two days and I’m rating it 4 stars. It read like it was something that had been years in the making, and I hope the author is proud of her debut. It was terrific, a little predictable here and there, but that’s no massive matter. Sadly, I did think the subtle romance that blossomed was exactly that, too subtle. I’d recommend this to readers who love stories involving volatile politics between Kingdoms and inner court members, challenging yet passionate family dynamics and gripping murder mysteries. I’d like the story to be continued, to explore what happens next and how characters end up, and if it will be, I’ll definitely continue reading.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Published April 9th 2019
Genre: fantasy, general fiction, young adult
*Thank you kindly to Edelweiss and the publishers for providing me with an e-copy, in exchange for this honest review.