Book Review

Book Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Rating: ☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 416 pages
Author: Joan He
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


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 engages 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.


Ugh, y’all. I get so sad when I read a book and your expectations are not met at all.

Hesina desperately wants to be Queen after she finds her father was murdered so she can avenge him. Lofty goals I’m cool with, but she was obsessed over doing this. And once that was taken care of, did she grow and become a solid, stunning Queen? No. Instead she continually remained naive, annoyingly stubborn, indecisive, and blindsided by every single thing. The main character alone had me questioning a DNF.

I had a hard time emotionally connecting to any of the characters. Nobody had a background. I got bits and pieces for some of them, but nothing that made me want to cheer for them or hope they get stabbed. No emotions. When a few died, I realized I wasn’t shocked whatsoever.

The plot twists were seen from miles away, while this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, what did annoy me was what came after. For instance, one of the characters was clearly shady. But when all that came out it it turns out that they were doing this to protect Hesina. WHAT. I was ALL FOR THE VILLAIN, and when that sputtered it sealed the deal for my rating.

The Chinese inspired themes were the best part of this book. The descriptions of the beautiful clothing and the other pieces of influence were amazing. I loved the different breath it gave young adult fantasy, I was just wishing for more overall.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Romance: none
  • Language: a** a few times
  • Violence: poison, knives, torture, fire, murder
  • Trigger warnings: attempted suicide, and suicide

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15 thoughts on “Book Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He”

      1. Completely agree and I say that all the time. Like especially with certain books where I know it’s probably more me not the book and some people may really like it and I dont want anyone to take it out on the book… Sky without Stars is a great example of this. I never read a space opera before. I thought it sounded awesome. I learned an important lesson but I thought that people who liked that genre would really like it so I was really clear about it but the there are some where I’m just respectful but really clear- point by point about what didn’t work and people can make their own judgement call.


      1. Candle and the Flame was definitely more of it’s a me not the book kinda thing so that review is more nuanced… We Hunt the Flame was a multilayered issue. I’ve been relieved to see others come out with mixed reviews. To be honest, and I’m not saying this for the views but it would be an incoherent mess if I tried to go through then here.


  1. It’s a shame this book was a disappointment, I’ve never read a fantasy novel with a culturally Asian backdrop (I don’t tend to read fantasy that much in general, admittedly) so this sounds like it had an opportunity to be really cool and different. Fantasy books that are racially and culturally diverse are in big demand right now and I’m sure there are plenty that are great, but it certainly doesn’t sound like this is one of them. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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