Review: DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by Joan He

Publisher: Albert Whitman Company
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019
Page Count: 416 
Series: Standalone
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

Note: I was provided a free ARC of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.

descendantofthecraneforweb

Seventeen-year-old Hesina is about to ascend to the throne as empress of her kingdom, but under less than ideal circumstances.  Her father has died mysteriously, and a mysterious gas that emits from the corpse convinces Hesina that he was murdered.  Determined to find the killer, Hesina breaks her country’s most sacred law: she finds and consults a sooth, a human who can see the future, a gift that is feared by all as sooths used their gifts for centuries to oppress the people on behalf of the emperor until a rebellion three centuries ago.  Consulting a sooth is punishable by death, but Hesina risks it, learning that the key to finding the truth is the aid of a convict in her prison.  Hesina pursues a murder investigation while also wrangling ministers who want to to use the inquiry to further their own political agendas and dealing with rising tensions created by encroachments on the border by a neighboring country.

Let’s just get this out there: DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is a tragedy. If you’re looking for a happily ever after, you are forewarned now to skip ahead to the next read in your TBR.  For the rest of you?  DESCENDANT is a tragedy, but one that earns every stab of the knife.  Much of the emotional weight of the book comes from the struggle Hesina faces as she realizes that how she wishes the world operated is a far cry from how it actually does.  Hesina wants to end the persecution of the sooths, given that the country is three centuries removed from the people who actually committed horrible oppression, but the merest suggestion that she sympathizes with them could cause the capitol city to riot.  Hesina constantly must weigh her personal agenda against the effects her decisions will have on the country, and she doesn’t always anticipate correctly the fallout of her actions.  The juxtaposition of Hesina’s supposed role as the most powerful person in the country and the helplessness she feels in the face of public sentiment really helped ground the character.

It’s interesting to note that while DESCENDANT is being marketed as a standalone, the author has stated that’s largely due to the fact that she has only sold this first book.  She has more story to tell, but is satisfied with this installment standing on its own if that’s what fate decides.  For those who worry about a cliffhanger, I will say that I found this a satisfying conclusion, even if not everything is tied up neatly with a bow. This story is a snapshot of a particular series of events in a young woman’s life, and where the author chose to end it worked for me.

This is going to be one of those four star reads where I have very little to complain about.  One or two plot points I saw ahead of time, but some key motivations and reveals were kept hidden until the very end.  There were a couple moments in the final pages where I was mildly annoyed at some information that continued to be deliberately held secret from the reader, given that this is potentially a standalone.  But overall, DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE was a great read I definitely recommend, just shy of earning a spot on my closely guarded five-star shelf.

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