Descendant of the Crane by Joan He was released in North America on April 9, 2019, and promised to be full of twists and treachery. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He is also the Teen Staff Pick of the Month for Indigo Books and Music Inc., so I was certainly quite excited to pick it up – I’ve never been disappointed by an Indigo SPOTM before!
Thank-you to Indigo Book and Music Inc. for providing me with a finished copy of Descendant of the Crane by Joan He in exchange for an honest review.
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 enlists 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 spent quite a long time debating how I felt about this Descendant of the Crane by Joan He, and as best as I can determine, I feel that it was quite disjointed. I really struggled with the first half of this book – it felt like a hot mess, with not direction, bouncing all over the place as the author tried to establish a voice and purpose. Then (thankfully), Joan He found her stride, and the plot, characters, and writing fell into place.
Descendant of the Crane had a lot going on – especially in the early half of this novel. From its lack of direction, to pointless scenes, and a plethora of info-dumping, I wasn’t hopeful I’d end up enjoying this book early on. That being said, it should be evident that Descendant of the Crane‘s biggest weakness was its pacing. There were some elements that moved quickly, that I couldn’t page through fast enough. Then there are other parts that move very slowly and/or feel almost repetitive. Unfortunately, Joan He wasn’t quite able to handle either scenario as deftly as hoped, especially early on in the novel, resulting in fast-paced scenes that were befuddling, and slower sections that were sleep-inducing. However, once Descendant of the Crane and Joan He settled in, I did quite enjoy the twists and turns of the second half of the story. Really, once I was about halfway through this book, I found myself looking forward to seeing how the mysteries in this book would be resolved and eager to see how the once directionless story would unfold.
I also found it difficult to like Hesina’s character – though I absolutely adored Akira and found myself wishing I was reading his story more than once. Hesina is a flawed but compelling character with an understandable motivator – uncovering her father’s murderer. Despite this, I found myself increasingly frustrated by her decisions, which were (generally speaking) foolish and misguided, resulting in the creation of more problems than solutions. Akira, for his part, remained an enigma for much of the story, but was compelling all the same. He is a foreign man, imprisoned in the Royal Prison – but he is also brilliant, powerful, and mysterious. His past, his skills, and what motivated him were all intriguing mysteries, and as each secret was revealed I found myself pining for more of his story. Honestly, Akira was the most intriguing of everything in this book. The other significant characters are nearly all Hesina’s siblings – in one way or another. Caiyan and Lillian are twins, adopted by her father during her childhood; Sanjing is her full brother; and Rou is the son of her father’s favored mistress. Sanjing and Rou were perhaps my favourite of Hesina’s siblings, as Caiyan and Lillian were far to predictable in their actions.
Overall, I can’t say that I disliked Descendant of the Crane by Joan He – but I didn’t necessarily love it either. Really, the best I can say of this one is that it was good – but it certainly won’t be memorable. With a disorganized beginning, and a flawed protagonist, Joan He failed to dazzle with this one – though she didn’t completely flop (2/5).