Review: “Descendant of the Crane” by Joan He


Release Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy


“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?”


My Thoughts

DescendantCrane-coverWhere Descendant of the Crane truly shines is in description and setting. He takes “Chinese-inspired fantasy” to new heights. Everything about the setting is rich and vivid. In particular she delves into fashion, language, and culture. He plays on what Hesina wears or doesn’t wear, and when and why all have deeper meaning. Even the parts of her clothing Westerners might not even notice get highlighted in meaningful ways. With a language based on characters rather than letters, He can explore all the ways characters form a phrase, and how complex or simple those characters are might affect the plot. I can’t really go into more detail without spoiling one of the subplots, but it’s pretty cool to watch it all unfold…

Read the rest of this review at

No night was perfect for treason, but this one came close. The three-day mourning ritual had ended; most had gone home to break the fast. Those who lingered in the city streets kept their eyes trained on the Eastern Gate, where the queen would be making her annual return.

Then came the mist. It rolled down the neighboring Shanlong Mountains and embalmed the limestone boulevards. When it descended into the bowels of the palace, so did the girl and her brother.

The emerged from the secret passageways the girl knew well – too well, perhaps, given her identity – and darted between courtyard compounds and walled wards, venturing toward the market sectors. When they arrived at the red-light district’s peeling archway, an ember sparked in the girl’s stomach. Some came to the seediest business quarter of the imperial city to buy warmth. But she?

She had come to buy justice.

Thanks to Albert Whitman for sending me a review copy.

Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or get it from your public library.

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