Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs in her veins. And on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain – no matter what it costs.

I can proudly declare I’ve found one of my favourite reads of 2021, if not my absolute favourite! I adored this book and cannot sing its praises highly enough. 

When Princess Shiori flees the public announcement of her arranged marriage, and almost drowns in the process, she ends up discovering a world of magic and myth beyond what she could have ever dreamed, with dragons… and a dark sorceress for a stepmother. To silence Shiori and her brothers, their stepmother curses them: Shiori can no longer speak and is made unrecognisable, while her brothers are transformed into cranes, and all are banished far away. The siblings must overcome the challenges their curses present to free themselves, their father and the kingdom, since with the heirs to the throne gone, opportunistic rebels threaten to attack and darkness vies to be unleashed. 

”Find the light that makes your lantern shine.”

Six Crimson Cranes is a full bodied tale with an enchanting mystery, lovable characters, multiple antagonists and truly wonderful world building. I was completely swept up and away until the very end, and even then, the temptation to start all over again was remarkable.

The world building was flawless and incredibly immersive. From dragons and demons, to curses and sorcery, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to discover more and seize the feeling of magic-made-real that this tale evoked. Lim weaves everything in such vivid and lyrical yet comforting prose, which I found similar to Laini Taylor’s style. I truly felt like I journeyed across the land of Kiata to each provenance ventured. It was such a joy to envision wintry landscapes, beautiful gardens, and the lively celebrations and finery worn, then a furious dragon giving chase across the sea. All of this coupled with the burning questions of how Shiori and her brothers were going to break their curses, and what their stepmother was up to, made this unputdownable. 

The characters were fun and so easy to love, and equally so, teeth grindingly loathsome where appropriate. We essentially follow Shiori’s fall from grace, where she’s the only girl of her siblings, and subsequently the only princess, and as a result, had a privileged and beloved upbringing. This turns on its head when people no longer know who she is and she has to survive like anyone else. It was rough to see Shiori brought so low, at times it felt too much by how grim it all felt, but Lim pulled it back before it became too off putting. I loved that Shiori never entirely surrendered her gentle nature and kindness in spite of everything she faced. 

Alongside Shiori, we have her sidekick, Kiki, an enchanted paperbird, who was supportive, humorous and courageous. Gosh how I loved Kiki.
Then there’s Seryu, a charmingly cheeky water dragon. His character so reminded me of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy but more energetic. I was actually a little disappointed by how small of an appearance he made as he was so interesting, but it looks likely he’s going to play a larger role in future sequels. On the point of little appearance, this was the same for Shiori’s brothers, as they spend the majority of the book separated from Shiori as cranes. 

The romance! Six Crimson Cranes has a friends to budding romance set up, that was so sweet and pure, I’ll be distraught if Shiori and Takkan aren’t together and married by the sequel’s end.

Oh my gosh how badly do I want the sequel now! The book ends with enough questions answered to leave you satisfied, all the while laying the foundation of the next chapter in this world. In other words, there aren’t any large unresolved questions, but there’s enough crumbs to make you curious for more. 

All in all Six Crimson Cranes was charming and unadulterated escapism that provided much appreciated respite from the wider world, partly from the wondrous world illustrated and partly from how delightful Lim’s writing was. It’s took a piece of my heart as one of the best YA fantasies of its kind. I’ll happily reread this again and genuinely can’t wait for others to experience this beauty of a book. I have a feeling people who enjoyed Raya and the Last Dragon will enjoy this too. I’ve preordered my signed copy!

Buy It Now

Thank you kindly to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review. 🌸

On a side note, for anyone who loves SCC and wants to read a similar story that is darker and more hardcore, check out Rena Barron’s Kingdom of Souls.

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