Book Review: The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

book review

The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co./Titan Books

Publication date: 02 April 2019/16 June 2020

Genre: YA fantasy

Page count: 400 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.


I’ve been struggling with YA fantasy for the past year or so, however I wanted to give it another try while in quarantine. I dusted off my copy of The Descendant of the Crane — one of my most highly anticipated 2019 releases that I never managed to read (oops), which is coming out in the UK in June. It turned out to be the perfect escapist read filled with gorgeous world-building, fun characters, and more twists and turns than I could have ever anticipated!



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.


This book is a funny one for me because I think it was a fairly generic YA story with fairly generic characters, but there’s something about it that worked so well for me! After some consideration, I think the thing that drew me into this book and kept my interest was the wonderful world-building. The author does an incredible job of creating an intricate world with lush imagery, interesting politics and government system, an in-depth history, and fascinating mythology. As someone who loves world-building above all else in fantasy, I absolutely devoured every single gorgeous detail. The plot itself is fun, but a bit of a mess — throwing so many twists and turns into the reader’s path that felt almost overwhelming — but the amazing setting and culture absolutely made this book work for me.

I didn’t find any of the characters particularly outstanding or memorable, but I did enjoy Hesina and her incredible determination to find out what happened to her father. Her strained relationship with her blood brother and mother, especially in comparison to her close relationship with her adopted siblings, was really interesting to read about, especially as the story unfolds and you learn more about this history between family members. You get the sense that Hesina wants to be a good queen, however she’s left a little in the dark, despite the training her father gave her, and she spends most of the book struggling to keep her head above water. She has a very classic reluctant ruler story, but it was one that I enjoyed reading nonetheless. 

The Descendant of the Crane is a fun and twisty YA book that might not work for everyone, but lovers of beautiful fantasy worlds should consider picking up! It was a great quarantine read and was the perfect escape! I am seriously hoping we get a sequel in the future.


Want to pick up a copy of The Descendant of the Crane for yourself? You can find a copy at the following sites (affiliate links): 

Book Depository | Blackwells


Have you read The Descendant of the Crane? What did you think? Is it in your TBR? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

  1. Great review! I enjoyed this one as well, wasn’t perfect, but I really appreciated how much it went “Just because you’re empress doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want.” And that trial was a lot of fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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