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Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane
Joan He

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About Descendant of the Crane

In New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He’s debut novel, Descendant of the Crane, a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggles to do right in a world brimming with deception. This gorgeous, Chinese-inspired fantasy is packed with dizzying twists, complex characters, and intricate politics.


For princess Hesina of Yan, the palace is her home, but her father is her world. He taught her how to defend against the corruption and excesses of the old kings, before revolutionaries purged them and their seers and established the dynasty anew.

Before he died, he was supposed to teach her how to rule.


The imperial doctors say the king died a natural death, but Hesina has reason to believe he was murdered. She is determined to uncover the truth and bring the assassin to justice.


But in a broken system, ideals can kill. As the investigation quickly spins out of Hesina’s control, she realizes that no one is innocent. Not the heroes in history, or the father she thought she knew. More blood will spill if she doesn’t rein in the trial soon—her people’s, her family’s, and even her own.

My Review

This book has been on my reading list for SO. LONG. I’m so glad I finally had the chance to read it.

DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is about 400 pages, which is pretty near the high side in terms of my preferred page count. However. I devoured the story in two days. Every time I picked up the book, I couldn’t stop reading it.

The pace of the story moves quickly– right away, we know there’s been a murder, and Hesina, the new queen, is committed to discovering who killed her father, even risking her own death to ensure the truth is revealed in a trial.

She’s also just become queen of a country on the brink of war with a fierce neighbor. And queen of a country internally torn apart by fear and prejudice against people called sooths, who have the ability to perform magic or read the future.

Add to that all the usual new, young ruler court machinations, and you’ve got a pretty good idea where the story begins. And the stakes only get higher.

One of my favorite characters is Akira, a prisoner that Hesina has been told she needs as her representative in the trial to convict her father’s murderer. He’s mysterious, sardonic, and sometimes turns out to have inside information that Hesina needs to survive. There’s a very, very slow burn romance happening between them, so of course I was all in on that.


I feel like this was a really ambitious story to craft. It’s partly a history-inspired fantasy, partly a murder mystery, and partly a commentary on prejudice and the way that we shape people’s views and values through our telling of history. Which is a lot to tell in just 400 pages!

Not only do I feel like Joan He succeeded in her storytelling, but she also crafted a cast of engaging characters caught up in this compelling drama that I couldn’t stop reading. I think readers who love Elizabeth Lim absolutely need to check out DESENDANT OF THE CRANE.

Content Notes for Descendant of the Crane

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Characters are Chinese-coded.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between a boy and girl. Brief references to sex (A man hastily summoned to court complains that he hates to leave a partner unsatisfied.).

Spiritual Content
Some characters, called Sooths, have the ability to do magic that has to do with time. Some can see the future. Others can influence an object’s state by making its future state present. For example, sooth could turn a rock to sand by changing the rock’s current state to its state in the future after it’s been crushed.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. The court investigates the murder of the king. A couple scenes include battle violence. A violent mob attacks citizens, cutting them and executing more than one. A bomb explodes, injuring several people.

Drug Content
The king died by poison (before the story begins). A man drinks poisoned wine and becomes violently ill.

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