Cover Image: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane

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Member Reviews

This was an interesting book!

I enjoyed the overall themes, and became enveloped in the story and in the life of our main character. I did find that it got pretty hard to follow at points, though. There was a lot going on all at once, and a lot of characters to keep track of. I think if I picked this up a second time and gave it my full focus it might get a higher rating as I come to understand more and dont have to struggle so much to keep up.
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I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange of a review. All opinions my own.

I am easily convinced, I see that cover and it has my attention to go on reading the synopsis. This was a breath of fresh air in terms of setting and background in YA novels.

The background for me was one of the strongest points, as is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, and from my point of view, makes this one stand out from the masses of “middle ages inspired fantasy with political plot and treason”. Many readers may fear a slow developing plot and history, due to the Chinese influence, but to me it felt dynamic, compelling and it got my attention even if I had some issues with the plot.

This book is much more focused on the political and palace life, so to speak, than in the magic system. One of the downsides is that, as a magic system lover myself, I wanted to see much more from this whole system. Not only from the magic point of view but the history and theology surrounding the world. I felt it was a part of the book that could have given so much more to the story, but I am under the impression that this book is more character focused. There is always that complicated balance between world building and story, and telling and showing.

Probably the pace was the characteristic that I struggled the most with while reading. It felt strangely intermittent: journeys took place in a couple of pages and an evening could develop through four chapters. Please note, I am talking without the book in front of me so this is not exact. This lead to feelings of rushed and dragged scenes at some times.

I absolutely enjoyed the characters of the book. Although there is a couple that are not developed enough and i felt them relying too much on tropes, I overall enjoyed the protagonist, Hesina’s character. She is not one of those who become queen and instantly knows how to do everything and she succeeds at each and every try. There is a lot of room for morally grey characters, as the lines between right and wrong start to blur, and it takes on the reader to involve themselves and develop their own judgement on them. Each for different reasons. Although briefly, we can see their intentions and reasoning, and understand their actions just by the context and I find that absolutely delicious.

Finally, although I can’t see any dates, this is going to be a series with companion novels and I will be here for the rest of the books
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Determined to find her father’s killer, Princess Hesina of Yan does the unthinkable. She seeks out the help of a soothsayer, treason under her own country’s law. Using the information provided by the sooth, Hesina frees a convicted criminal and names him her defender. The future of Yan now lies in Hesina’s action to make her stake and defend it well. As Hesina’s journey for justice grows darker, finding the truth maybe be complicated when everything she knows may well be all lies. 

My first thoughts when I finished this book was indescribable. I cannot get over how blown away I was with this book. This is a new forever favourite. We are barely a month into 2021, and I feel like I should already be making my Favourite Reads of 2021, with this book at the very top of the list: the story, the characters, the world, like damn. The way the author writes had me on my toes for quite a decent amount of the journey. The sheer twists and drama in this book had me incoherent and for once actually shocked. Joan He really said, I’m going to write a book that will put any book you will ever read to shame.

Hesina is soon to be named Queen of Yan, but the nagging feeling that her father’s death was not natural haunts her. Knowing her actions could get her killed, her attempts to bring her father to justice will also shine a light on her country’s own past. Centuries before, the relic emperors were overthrown by a group of outlaws called the Eleven. The emperors of the past used soothsayers for their biddings, but when the Eleven defeated them, their people were immediately expunged, now in hiding across the country. The Eleven gathered their philosophies into the Tenets which have continued to be followed centuries later. And for Hesina, any hope for a better world means bringing down everything before her. 

The story was just one big sucker-punch after the other. Only when you think you know what was going on, another twist, another secret comes crashing in, throwing Hesina off her trajectory. The court dramas, both law and royal, was fantastical. Everything was just unique and brilliant. I loved how determined Hesina is from the very start, and that headstrong attitude does not give up, even when the story takes a much dark turn. She is Yan’s queen, and she will defend it so. Even when she’s given the easy way out, she pushes through in pursuit of knowledge and truth. 

A Queen is not without her court, and I am in awe of her brilliant the rest of the characters were. Especially the dynamics between Hesina and her other siblings. She has her brother, Sanjing, their relationship tense due to her close companionship with her adopted siblings, Caiyan and Lillian. There is also her half-brother, Rou, who she has kept distant from because it reminds her of her parents’ distance. Akira is our convict turned ally who has more secrets than Hesina could count. No one knows what to expect, but I expected more from him. I loved his character and presence, but it felt a little out of place within the general story, mostly because he’s hidden from us for so long. The way they all interact and come together in the story was so captivating. 

If you take anything from this review, let it be putting this one on your TBR because it genuinely is worth the time. As of writing, there are no plans for the author to continue the story but what we have here is more than enough. Hesina’s journey for justice is hauntingly beautiful. The book pushes through its rocky start, and He’s creativity knows no limit as the story continues. Descendant of the Crane does not give up, and you’ll enjoy every moment of it.
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DNF @ 155 pages.

This book was beautifully written and I will definitely be looking out for more of Joan He's work. However this was a bit slower paced and more political intrigue focused - not a criticism of the book itself, but it didn't work for me personally. Have still recommended to my friends who prefer this type of book!
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DNF @ 50%

I really tried to get on with this book and commit to finishing it but I honestly just found myself so bored with it and just skimming pages. My main problem with this book is that I just did not like the main character of Hesina; she seems to have too character tropes - wants to find her father's murderer (but gets constantly sidetracked) and constantly fails to learn. I found myself so annoyed with her character and the way in which she just never learnt from her actions. Yes she didn't expect to become queen so quickly but it was clearly always her destiny but she just seems so unprepared. The plot could have been enough to keep me intrigued but it just felt so slow paced and honestly nothing seemed to be really happening with either plot, so I just accepted the fact that I wasn't enjoying it.

But thank you to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read the eARC.
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i had my eyes on this book for a long time, i was really intrigued by the cover and the story did not disappoint. sometimes, it felt like watching an historical tv show, i loved the details of the world, especially the life in the palace and all the obstacles our MC Hesina had to face.
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Unfortunately I no longer wish to review this book as the first few chapters did not reel me in. Thank you for the opportunity.
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Loved everything from the Chinese-inspired fantasy world, the intricate detailing through a beautiful writing, the shocking revelations and twists, and a plot that keeps you so very invested to the emotional themes of anxiety and character-focused development.
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This debut novel had so much potential, but failed to deliver. I didn't care much for the characters and the writing, that other people rave about, was sub-par for me.
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A reluctant ruler must face up to her responsibilities in order to discover who has murdered her beloved father, joining up with a charismatic con man in the process. 

Set against a Chinese inspired fantasy world, one of the best aspects of Descendant of the Crane is the setting mixed with the political intrigue. Our heroine Hesina is not cut out to be the heir of an unstable kingdom. She's a bit too soft, a bit too humane to deal with the grey morality needed to make something of herself. Or at least that's what her mother thinks. She views her father through rose tinted lenses, as this ruler who managed to control a kingdom through wisdom and benevolence alone. However the more she digs into his murky past in order to uncover his murderers the more Hesina realises that he might not be the man she knew at all. I enjoyed seeing Hesina grow into her role, learning from her mistakes and making difficult decisions. I also loved her relationships with her adopted brother and sisters, as well as the devilish Akira. He adds some welcomed tension and intrigue to what otherwise could have been a rather bogged down drama. 

I will say that the pacing for this is a little slow. With so much political drama, there's little in the way of action and it takes a lot of time to get any kind of pay off. At times I did struggle to return to this world, as it requires a bit of effort to power through the quieter moments. However, I did enjoy the fact that such a politically driven fantasy novel was told from a YA perspective. Too often, YA fantasy relies too heavily on flashy magic and romance to sustain a rather weak plot. This was refreshingly different. 

Great setting with slow build political plot that is not going to be for everyone. If you enjoy strong characters and drama with YA characters, I think you'll enjoy this.
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Descendant of the Crane is an amazing book and I can't believe that a sequel does not yet exist!

The way that the book pulls you into its story line is very admirable. It gives you crumbs of the mystery and holds them over your head while you jump and jump to get just a taste. I was really taken with the way the story began and the fact that it continues to pull the rug from under your feet every time you think you are on solid ground.

I found the protagonist, Hesina, to be this complicated and intelligent girl who is desperately trying to hold on to something as it crumbles in her hands, and it definitely made her much more interesting to read and decipher. She displays immaculate strength and vulnerability throughout the book, which makes her a very good protagonist to me because she has so many layers even by the end of the book she has many more of those left

I think, one of my favourite part about the book was how it handles relationship dynamics. The way that the relationship of Hesina with her mother, her brother, her adoptive siblings and her father are explored in a web where each of them affect each other was really fun to read. Which is what makes her interactions with her love interest interesting as well, although I do believe that I would have liked to see more of those to find their relationship to be more believable. Another thing I liked in these dynamics was how the Hesina's culture (which is inspired Chinese culture) is woven into her relationships, and not just the customs of her world. You could see that culture reflected in the way all of these characters interacted with, addressed and expressed themselves in front of each other.

The worldbuilding of this book is amazing. It draws from different aspects of Chinese culture and customs which definitely makes the world richer, but even with the way that certain elements of the world are presented and the reasoning that is given behind them makes the book really exciting because you can see that a lot of effort has been put into making this world, no part of which has been left unimagined and all of it is intrinsically connected to each other. The book really dazzled me with the importance it placed on culture, customs, clothing as well as the magic system and the way that this world's societies function. None of it was a straightforward statement of 'this is just how things are in this world', instead it gave us the reasoning and the explanation behind each of those things, which is what made me utterly fall in love with this book.

The way this book mixes elements of mystery, fantasy, political intrigue and betrayal is so thrilling that it is a sight to behold. It continuously layers all of these elements onto each other, never leaving one behind and just keeps the writer tightly wound up into its cocoon. I would admit that the pace definitely picks up halfway through book but I think that is because of the way that fantasy books have to spend a considerable amount of time setting up the world. I never had a problem with pacing in this because I was really invested in it and just couldn't wait to see what happened next.

What made me irrevocably fall in love with this book was the way it constantly surprised the reader (and Hesina) with revelations that I definitely did not see coming. I really loved how the premise of the book is based on a society that hates and shuns magic user, but it's not written from the point of view of a magic user; and yet gives us all the emotion and experiences that come with that from the eyes of sometimes naive but highly intelligent protagonist.

In conclusion, this book is amazing. Please read it, hype it up because I NEED A SEQUEL! I cannot live with the ending of this book hanging over my head, it's too much. Also, I love Hesina and need to see more of her! Especially with how the book ended, it will make for the most exciting sequel ever and my soul is hungry for it.
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Thank you NetGalley for sending me a copy of this eArc. 

I really loved the premise of this book, and it was a good mystery and the plot reveals were crazy! The king is immortal? What? One of the Eleven? What?!!

But other than that..... there was next to no world building. We were in Hesina’s head the entire time and so I felt I learnt very little! And very little time went past at all! To the point where nothing was happening! We were just reading her insufferable thoughts! And, the romance with Akira was going to be the obvious choice, but it was not natural nor needed. 

The way the book finished frustrated me. Caiyan? Like are you serious? And having his own epilogue so that the author could explain exactly what she was thinking? None of it made sense! Yes Hesina was going to have a very tough time as Queen, but to completely take her out of the situation, blame everything on her, instead of watching her work through her kingdoms problems and helping the very long healing process they needed? I call this lazy. The author couldn’t figure out how to make it work, so she didn’t. 

It took me months to read this book because it was just not flowing at all well and the storyline did not make sense. If there is a sequel, I will not be reading it.
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This was a weirdly late approved ARC on NetGalley – I don’t know if this is the paperback release, or UK release, but I thought it had been released ages ago. I was so pleased to get approved for it though – just look at that cover!

This story features such a rich setting – you get to appreciate the history of the country, as well as its relations to its people and neighbouring nations, and the struggles that come with such a history. There are snippets of the knowledge that the entire government and way of life is based on, which if done well really builds that legacy in a way which I appreciate. I really liked the sibling and family interactions, which is sometimes lacking in these stories. Not only does Hesina have to deal with a younger brother, but also an absent mother, and two adopted siblings – who might just be my favourites. Akira was actually very palatable for me – I expected the typical stoic male protagonist we usually see, but he was refreshingly different.

I got such The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco vibes, with the political machinations along with magic, as well as the family and friend group that slowly collects around Hesina. The writing was rich, but not too flowery and it was very difficult to put down – I may have taken a while to finish and review but that was all me. The story feels very fast-paced despite there being few moments of high action.

As the story wove on I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. That twist was more than surprising enough, though I wish the end would have been left more unresolved. The epilogue explains too much for me, I would much rather have been wondering until certain motivations and revelations were able to be addressed in the sequel, until I realised that this is a standalone! The end does read like it would have a sequel... Ah, I want more in this world! The author has said there may be companion novels, with different protagonists, so maybe I'll be able to!
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Firstly... I want to point out the obvious, look at that STUNNING cover, hands down beautiful, and I'm very pleased to say that the cover is just as good as the story!

The culture, the writing, the overall plot.

I just wanted more magic.

 can't wait to read more from Joan He!
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Descendant of the Crane is one of those book everyone and their mother was hyped for. I mean, "Chinese Game of Thrones" is very far up the coolness scale. Luckily for this book, I also never quite understood the hype around GoT/A Song of Ice and Fire, so I didn't go in with massively high standards that are impossible to reach.
Still, even from my non-hyped standpoint, aside of there being a throne, I don't get a lot of GoT/ASoIaF vibes. Anyway, let's start with me talking about this book instead of another one I read and didn't even like.

After her father's sudden death, Asina suddenly finds herself on the throne to the kingdom of Yan. But she suspects that her father didn't just die on his own, but that someone poisoned him. With bringing this suspicion to court, she starts noticing just how much intrigue and corruption the elite of Yan contains. What a surprise, I know.
To be completely honest, while this was enjoyable to read, it also was very average.
I mean, sure, I love the setting and all, but Hesina probably couldn't be more average as a YA heroine. She makes stupid mistakes (which are forgivable, she's like 16, sixteen year olds don't do particularly smart things), seemingly falls for the same trap like three times and falls in love with some random ass dude for no reason. 
While that's all believable, as I said, sixteen, not enjoyable to read when you can see the treason coming from five miles away.
Other than that, I can't really say much about this book. It feels like a chinese, better written version of Ahdieh's Flame in the Mist, which I also wasn't a fan of.

@Netgalley and the publisher: Thanks for the ARC!
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I found the characters well developed and fleshed out in Descendant of the Crane. They were easily distinguishable from one another and had clear defining traits. I particularly liked Hesina as a protagonist. I loved seeing her strength as well as her vulnerability. In the beginning of the book she was so unprepared for her role as queen. It’s refreshing to see her voice her insecurities and lean on others for support. I wish we had found out more about Akira. By the end of the book he was still very mysterious and because of that his connection with Hesina felt a bit flimsy. I’m hoping that will be expanded upon in future books. Overall, I loved the characters and felt truly connected to their story.


This book really lacked in atmosphere. There was very little description of the surrounding area, the landscape and the fantasy world the characters live in. A more detailed map would have helped flesh out the landscapes of the different regions in this book and I would have loved to know more about Yan’s neighbouring countries. I expected to get to know Yan and it’s people more on the journey to Kendi’a, but the journey itself was cut short to make more time for other important plot points. The Kendi’an landscape and its people were also not described fully and all I can remember from that section of the book is a lot of sand and fighting.


Writing Style
Joan He has a wonderful way with words. She’s a very skilled writer, there’s no denying it. She described the clothing in rich detail and the dialogue flows effortlessly off the page. I would definitely recommend listening to this book on audio. The narrator does such a great job with the pronunciation of the characters’ names and other terms used throughout the book.


In my opinion, the plot was excellently crafted and I was so immersed in Yan’s politics and court procedures. I loved how each chapter started with quotes from the Tenets. It really brought the story together perfectly. The pacing was a bit slow in the beginning but really picks up speed in the last few chapters, keeping you on the edge of your seat.


From the beginning I had a bad feeling about someone. I was never sure where the story would go next and what this person’s next move would be. The last few chapters were unexpected and thrilling. It paid off in the best way. I do think the epilogue was unnecessary since it tries to over-explain the ending. I’m hoping that there’s a second book coming out soon because that cliffhanger is way too much to deal with.


The story was immaculately constructed and by the end most of the loose ends pertaining to the murder mystery were tied off (except for the glaring cliffhanger). I thought the trial proceedings were cleverly executed and I enjoyed reading all about Yan’s legal system. Joan He explored Yan’s politics in great detail and it was very interesting.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It took some time to really sink my teeth into it but once I got going, I couldn’t stop reading. I’m really hoping a sequel is in the works. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves asian inspired fantasy books with murder, intrigue and a little bit of forbidden love.


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I honestly thought that I was going to love this, but sadly it just didn't work out.

Following the sudden death of her father, Princess Hestina of Yan finds herself being made queen. However, her beginnings as queen are made difficult due to plots against the crown, threats of war, and potential foul play. 

On paper, this book sounds like a perfect match for me. The premise is fantastic and I loved the Chinese-inspired world. Yet, I feel like it wasn't delivered to its full potential. 
The story started strong, albeit a tad chaotic, and I was invested in the characters, but it all became a little messy. I thought the pacing was off, as there would be parts filled with loads of action but would plateau off suddenly, and the characters didn't have much substance to them To make a story stand out and grab hold of my attention, the characters have to be well-developed enough to make me invest in them. Sadly, this didn't happen in this book, which is most likely why I failed to connect to the story. 
There were glimpses of world-building, but I still wanted more information/details about the world and magic. I think with a little more careful sculpting, a fantastical society with epic magic could be created. 

Overall, I feel that this holds a lot of potential, but it just wasn't quite there for me.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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If there’s a rating higher than 5 stars, I’d give it all to this book. Even though this is a Young Adult Fantasy, my go-to genre, Descendant of the Crane is totally different from what I usually read. Don’t let the synopsis fool you. The plot took me to yet the most jaw-dropping adventure I’ve ever experienced. The lyrical writing turned the words into beautiful images in my mind. The characters were as interesting as they are suspicious. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book, you’re missing a great deal.

In the first chapter, it felt like I was being thrown into the story with no warning and explanations. The fast pace swept me right into the middle of the problem. This wasn’t an issue for me because I was able to catch up real quick. But if you’re not sure whether or not you should continue reading because you don’t understand a thing, just trust me and keep going. All the secrets will be made known in the end. Yes, the plot twists were dizzying but it made me crave for more and I couldn’t stop reading!

This book is action-packed and I must say the story is darker than what I expected. There were so many moments that made me questioned and reflect on my life because things that happened in the book are also what’s currently happen around us. It may not seem as deep as I described it but if you look closer, the state of the world in this book is also the state of our world. Corruption thrives, people with position and money get to do whatever they want, there are people who are not being treated as human, and other sickening truths. We live in such a terrible and ugly world.

Quoting King George III from his song What Comes Next from Hamilton: “Do you know how hard it is to lead?” and “It’s much harder when it’s all your call”, being crowned queen at the age of 17 is no easy task. Throughout the story, I was made aware of how cruel and difficult it is to be a leader in a court full of snakes especially when your kingdom is built on lies. Hesina was too young to be involved in such things but she proved to be a strong, independent, and capable young woman.

The politics in this book is no joke. Each character has their own agenda thus they were not what they appeared to be. But that’s what made me more invested in the story. From the beginning, I could see how there was so much more in the story than the synopsis let on. Betrayals, secrets, history, despair, and heartbreak. I’m totally stunned by how amazing Joan He crafted the court intrigues. Be very careful of who you trust.

Those mind-blowing twists were not going to work well without the awesome characters. Aside from Hesina, there were also two other brilliant women, Lilian and Mei. Both of them were fantastic and smart, my heart was theirs from the start. Akira was the mysterious one, Rou was the sweet one, Sanjing was the brave one, and Caiyan was the one with a big brother role. They have great characterizations and they certainly grew on me. Each of them has a special place in Hesina’s heart and I love every moment I got to see their relationships and interactions developed.

Please, let me warn you, this is not a fairy tale. If you’re looking for something like Spin the Dawn, this is not it. The romance is slowly developed and isn’t the main part of the story nor the one thing that drove Hesina and her main goal. But, you will find other relationships that’ll surely melt and break your heart.

Also, can please someone tell me is this a standalone or the first installment of a series? Because I’d love to know what will happen after THAT ending! And I’m still not satisfied with so many things. And I want to know more about Siahryn because he charmed me with his cunning and manipulate way!

Overall, Descendant of the Crane became a book that is precious to me. This isn’t your ordinary YA fantasy. This book is a mirror to myself, to yourself, to the people around you, to the world, to everyone. It told our story through Hesina’s journey as a new queen. The intricate and breathtaking royal politics completed with astounding writing and incredible characters, Descendant of the Crane is undoubtedly a 5-star read for me. If you’re looking for the next fantasy masterpiece to be added to your TBR, this book is the best choice!
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Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Stars
What a debut. Descendant of the Crane was not what I expected; it was so much more. Joan He has written one of the most interesting female protagonists at the head of a very complex political drama with some strong mystery and fantastical elements. The Chinese-inspired foundations were an added bonus that I adored, and while I've dipped my toes into a range of Asian-inspired retellings/history I don't think I've actually read one based on China until now.

I had this feeling, while reading, that if I were to poke around the details of the politics or events it'd probably fall like a house of cards. But I didn't want to poke it. Hesina is so compelling and the story moves through the motions so quickly that I found it easy to just sort of let it go. And now that I've finished it, I don't want to interrogate either because it was such a fun ride. I feel like details and world elements are so well positioned they're almost like a standee on a stage: you only see one side of it, and you kind of know that the other side isn't painted, it hasn't been fully worked out. But the point of having it there is totally relevant, so you only need to see that one side to help the story flow. I'm not saying it's necessarily better than truly having those things worked out - but it's a darn sight better than info-dumping because you're self-conscious people won't understand what's going on. As it is, in a world I'm not super familiar with the formalities of, I got what was happening, the power status and duties of Hesina and the kingdom's tensions through the process of reading the story.

All in all, the actual plot was so engaging. The end twist was a bit hard for me to fully get with (and it's so obvious this is going to be a series, despite what GoodReads says), but there's so many twists and turns and all of them are so strongly rooted in Hesina and her growing understanding of her role as Queen. For some reason before starting, I was expecting a sort of adventure across the empire storyline, but actually Descendant of the Crane is very focused on the palace and the court, though we visit other places occasionally. While I would say it's probably more about relationships than straight-up politics, the tensions between what was right or wrong for a country, and the responsibility of choosing those wisely was explored in an interesting way.

As I've mentioned, Hesina is such a fascinating protagonist. When I began reading, I was struck by how quickly we got into the thick of things - her father is already dead, she is practically in power already, and the obstacles are quite clear immediately. And I think that's because He puts Hesina right in the middle of this story; it's her choices and her mistakes and her motivations that we're really exploring in the frame of this kingdom and its conflicts.

This, of course, would not be as effective as it is without the surrounding cast of characters who were undoubtedly my favourite aspect of this book. First of all, I do have a soft spot for fraught sibling rivalries and divided loyalties, so Hesina with her blood brother, half brother, and adopted brother and sister all trying to help her with very different perspectives was always gonna be a fun state of affairs for me personally. I will also mention I love the subtly of the romance, and the influence it had on Hesina without taking over her storyline - in fact, Hesina's priorities were a very sensible and engaging driving force for this book that you rarely get to see so eloquently carried out.

I thoroughly enjoyed Descendant of the Crance, and while there were holes in it and I debated what rating to give it, I was so impressed on a number of accounts that it would've been unfair to rate it any lower than five stars. While I far and away prefer stand-alones to series, I will happily read a sequel to this.
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This is a very description heavy book that can feel a little slow to start with but has you absolutely hooked by the halfway point. The World building and the magic system is well thought out and I love that there are rules to it and more importantly, that the rules make sense!

If you're a fan of fantasy novels i would urge you to pick this up, the rich and unique setting makes for a very interesting read.
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