Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
ARC received via Edelweiss for a fair review.
Publish Date: April 2, 2019
This was a book for all of you out there who love a strong political side to your books. I went into this thinking that it would be a murder mystery “who dunnit” type of story but was surprised by how much it was driven by the political system in the Imperial Court. There isn’t much fluff to go with all these politics either, it is very straight forward and detailed in how the plot is told through the trial to convict someone for the murder of the King. In books like this, I have to really push myself to keep reading and find the parts of the story that grab my interest because I’ll admit, I’m not one for a lot of politics in the books I read. I get that they are a large part of how kingdoms and society works, but do I find it interesting? Not so much. So when I found myself nodding off every other paragraph for the first 40% of this book I know its because it was all the set up for everything else to take off in the last half of the book. That being said, the ending was much better than how it started. Things finally started to happen, the characters weren’t just being led from one trial day to the next with almost nothing interesting happening in the meantime. Towards the end of the book I actually started feeling like the author hated her characters from all the crazy plot twists and betrayals! I’ve never felt so bad for a main character as I did for Hesina. I started out thinking that this was a stand alone novel, but after the ending, I’m hoping that there is a sequel because it ended in a way that sets the reader up for a continuation of the story and I’m hoping that’s the case. If not, be prepared to not have the resolution that you would hope for.
Descendant of the Crane is a book about a Princess named Hesina who becomes a Queen after her father’s untimely death. Set in a world where magic has been banned, and those who have magic are either killed or imprisoned, Hesina does the unspeakable and seeks a soothsayer to find answers to how her father died. But as all magic in stories goes, its never as straight forward as we’d like and Hesina is given a vague description of a person who will find her the answers she seeks in the form of a convict with a rod. From here it is a mess of a trial held by the Imperial Court with corruption and betrayal at every turn. Hesina doesn’t know who to trust and who to be wary of while seeking the truth on her own without the help of the lawmakers. But through her search for the truth, Hesina finds more than she bargained for and her life is turned upside down in the blink of an eye. Only she can choose which path she takes and no matter which she chooses, it won’t be an easy one.
I have seen a lot of comments on this book saying that it gives them trust issues and honestly its the truth!!! I closed this book thinking, my gosh that poor girl. I felt so frustrated for poor Hesina throughout the book and how no matter how she tried to find truth and justice, she was thwarted at every turn. It was almost like she was cursed from the beginning to never succeed. Its hard reading about characters who keep getting knocked down, you want to be able to connect with the character and cheer them on but after so much wrong, there comes a point when you don’t want to invest any emotion in the character because you’ll only be let down or heartbroken in the end. And no one wants to feel that! Reading should be an escape, that lifts you up and takes you to other places that you wouldn’t normally be able to experience in real life, and let me just say, I do NOT want to experience Hesina’s life. That poor girl deserves so much redemption.
I’m also a big fan of some romance in what I read to give it those heart tugging moments when you want to find this kind of love for yourself. Not saying that I’m all about the mushy moments and smut, but something to root for is always welcome in my mind. And this book lacked this sorely. There were hints at maybe a romance, but it was all so awkward and flat and practically non existant. I wouldn’t even consider it a romance. If you hate romance in your books then this is the one for you, all politics and no love story does not make Rae a happy reader. I wanted to connect with these characters more but it was like all their feelings and emotions were hidden behind this drive to betray and kill. I couldn’t handle it after a while. I found myself wanting to like the side characters as well but they were so one dimensional that they were almost forgettable.
Once the half way point passes in the book though, they do finally leave the court and the trial aside for a moment and we get to see more of what the land is like as the characters travel to meet with a neighboring kingdom. This is the first glance of what life is like outside of the walls of Hesina’s domain is like. And its at this point that I finally started to enjoy what I was reading. I wanted to see more of this type of world building as small as it was, and character development as Hesina saw how the sooths were treated elsewhere and how she wanted to fight for their equality instead of oppressing them further. The fight for their freedom is where all the passion lies from that point on and that is what I connected with most. I would like to have seen more of that aspect of the plot in the story.
I can’t say that this wasn’t a good book because it was very powerful and written with strengths in areas I don’t normally go for so that could be why it wasn’t as exciting of a read for me as it might be for others. I tend to steer clear of the drier politically driven stories and that’s 100% what this book was all about. I can see this being a really wonderful book for someone with those interests at heart, but unfortunately that wasn’t me. I can’t say that I would continue on with this story if it does end up being a series just because it isn’t my jam. But I highly recommend it for those who like this type of book!
If you liked this book:
Descendant of the Crane was a definite power struggle for poor Queen Hesina. I think that if there ever was a book to mirror that same struggle of one woman to become Queen or in this case Empress, it would be Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. While Xifeng didn’t start out as royalty, she always knew she was meant for something more and she fought with all she had to get there. I think that this is similar to how Hesina fought to keep her title even though there were so many who wanted to strip her of her royalty. So needless to say, if you enjoyed Descendant of the Crane, or hell, even if you didn’t, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns would be my follow up suggestion and I think that you will love it!
Is there something that you always look forward to while reading? For me its a love story, I’m a sucker for romance be it small and sweet, or big and smutty.. I can’t help but be driven by a love connection between characters. Luckily most books have this in the plot somewhere but most of the time its not a deal breaker if there is an interesting plot to make up for it. What is your deal breaker? I’d love to know what you all think!