review: descendant of the crane

TITLE: Descendant of the Crane
AUTHOR: Joan He
SYNOPSIS: 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?


SPOILER-FREE REVIEW:

First off, that cover is literally way prettier than I am, but that’s fine. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

As someone of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, I don’t often see proper representation of Asian main characters in young adult novels. That, as well as the stunningly gorgeous cover and promising premise (okay, and the fact that it was on the syllabus for my young adult literature class this semester), motivated me to pick up Descendant of the Crane—and I loved it!

It was dark, twisty, and nasty in all the right places. The intricacy of imperial court politics really drove the plot forward, but the novel also does an amazing job of tackling the fundamental question of morality. Hesina has a lot on her plate. She has to learn that the path to the truth she craves so badly involves choosing between the lesser of two evils and possibly doing something “bad” for the greater “good.” She’s pushed into her role as the queen of Yan at the young age of 17, and her constant pursuit of the absolute truth about the circumstances surrounding her father’s death ends up causing her to tunnel vision, crash, and tumble.

One of my absolute favorite things about this book is the fact that the author, Joan He, avoids defining her characters as simply “good” or “evil,” allowing for the development of multi-dimensional, complex characters with believable motives. The vivid writing also brings to life the familial relationships between the various characters without emphasizing romance. Although I think that the focus on coming-of-age, morality, and political court maneuverings was ultimately a better move for the overall tone of the book, I do wish that the relationship between Hesina and Akira, the ex-convict-turned-defense-lawyer, had a stronger presence throughout the novel. Akira is definitely the most mysterious character after Caiyan.

Speaking of Caiyan…I won’t spoil anything but he is my favorite character in this novel. I know this book was marketed as a standalone, (???why??? is the publisher just waiting to see how well this debut does???) but you can bet I’ll be reading the companion novels.

If you’re looking for a Nirvana and Fire, Chinese-inspired fantasy infused with forbidden magic, court intrigue and bildungsroman, Descendant of the Crane should definitely be your next read!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

“What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good Kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.” 

books recommended by you

What’s a book you’d recommend to everyone? 

About three weeks ago, I asked my Instagram followers this exact question. There were so many great responses and recommendations, so I decided to compile a list of diverse and interesting reads for those of you who are hunting for your next book to devour read.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Recommended by Violet (@girl_with_the_third_eye), this autobiographical comedy written by a South African author urges one to question the status quo while delivering smart humor.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Gabi (@ourworldofwords) steadfastly maintains that this is her favourite novel of all time! A Finalist for the 2018 William C. Morris Award, this emotionally poignant debut novel about a biracial teen who struggles with social anxiety and dreams of attending art school delves into the importance of understanding self-worth.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book comes highly recommended by Ana (@bujowithana) and Yylen (@booktopsleeper).  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is pegged as psychological fiction and LGBTQ+ literature full of old Hollywood glamour. It unfolds the fictional life of a Cuban actress in a cinematic fashion.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

@buttons.studies says that this is the best book she’s ever read! Nominated for the Carnegie Medal and Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, Rooftoppers weaves elements of fantasy and historical fiction together to tell the story of a girl who discovers a secret rooftop world.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Martina (@marty.reads) and Clarissa (@wavypages) both recommended this young adult, fantasy fiction novel about a lost city and its sinister past. Full of lush, descriptive writing and intricate world-building, Strange the Dreamer has long been on my own to-read list! 

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

This novel is one of Ciara’s (@cyra_bear) favourites! First published in 1987, Norwegian Wood is a beautiful, bildungsroman tale of loss and romantic relationships. 

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

A contemporary young adult novel recommended by @bookhuggerreviews, Radio Silence is a story about two teens who start a podcast together in an attempt to find their own voices without conforming to the expectations of society.

There were so many more great recommendations, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with a long list! I am eager to read all of them myself, and I hope that you can find your next read in this short list of interesting, diverse books. 

birthday book shopping list

Hello, my lovely friends! As some of you might already know, my birthday just passed not too long ago. And naturally, I had to compile a list of books I reaaaally want to buy and read. My to-be-read (tbr) pile is crying from the stress of bearing too many books—so I narrowed it down to…*drumroll please*

ONLY!

FIVE!

BOOKS!

And they include:

CIRCE

by Madeline Miller

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world. (Amazon)

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

by Amor Towles

He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. (Amazon)

FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS

(Penguin Classic edition) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship. (GoodReads)

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

by Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy. (GoodReads)


All of the books listed above are different in plot and genre, and I want to make it my goal to finish all of them this May or June. I’ve been looking forward to reading Circe ever since I found out that Madeline Miller was writing it! I was a big fan of her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. I also love reading historical fiction novels, and I discovered A Gentleman in Moscow through a recommendation by Amazon’s shopping algorithm. And of course, how could I not want this gorgeous edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s collection of short stories?

Additionally, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone seem like promising young adult books. I’ve seen so many great reviews floating around on bookstagram, blogs, and GoodReads, so I’m really quite excited to read them!

What are some books that you’re looking forward to reading in the upcoming month of May?

fragilemyths, a story

You all know my name, but not my story…yet. You might be wondering how I came to settle on the name “fragilemyths” for my bookstagram and blog. In order to understand my story, my myth, simply take your time turner–three turns should do it!

Flashback to middle-school me, reading Fragile Eternity (the third installment of the Wicked Lovely series) by Melissa Marr.

That’s when I fell in love with the word ‘fragile.’ To me, the word itself was a sort of paradox. There was nothing truly fragile about it, because the short a sound clips the first syllable of the word, and the strength of the consonant ‘g’ sound both softens and augments the rather harsh sound created by the ‘r’ and the ‘a’ together.

Years later, I created what is now my personal instagram account, but I had the hardest time deciding what my username would be. Initially, I chose fragileeternity, in honour of the book I drew my inspiration from. But good lord, the double e in the middle of the name looked AWFUL! How then, should I change it? fragile_eternity? No. I didn’t like the underscore; it made the name lose its allure. fragile.eternity? Also no. I wanted my name to be seamless, connected on its own. I temporarily gave up on finding a name for myself, and went with my own given name.

Skipping a few years ahead to the end of March 2016, I created a second instagram account, soon to be inaugurated as my ‘bookstagram.’ Again, I faced the dilemma of what to name my account, or myself. I thought about how Beatrice Prior established her reputation in Dauntless as ‘first jumper’ and renamed herself Tris in Divergent. But who did I want to be known as? Who did I want to be?  Suddenly, I recalled a game of telephone that I played in my fourth year and came to the conclusion that the best myths, stories, and folklore stay aflame because the people who love them keep them burning brightly for the next generation. The cycle continues, and that’s how simple stories can secure spots in the libraries of classics and become so beloved. But there are also the more fragile myths, or combinations of words easily lost and forgotten into the oblivion of ages past.

I swore I wouldn’t become someone easily cast aside by Time’s capricious nature. I am not a casualty of Time. As cheesy as it sounds, I vowed to make an impact on the world, whether it be by spreading my love for literature or conducting research in a lab. (I’m a science geek, for those of you who don’t know yet!!) And now, I’ve found my name. I’m still writing my story, my very own myth, and you are a part of it!

#bookwormproblems

You know those ridiculous moments that only bookworms can understand?

You know you’re a bookworm when…

  1. You figure out the plot twist beforehand and when you’re right, you feel like Sherlock Holmes.
  2. You tell yourself “just one more chapter” at 10 pm and five minutes later, it’s somehow 3 am and you’re pretty sure you look like this:635832241272757072-1283116787_gif_460x284_2e015d
  3. Your book buying bans never work because once you see that new release you’ve been DYING to read (*cough* ACOTAR 3) every ounce of willpower you have will magically disappear.
  4. You loathe the ‘20% off!’ stickers on book covers with a deep passion.
  5. You’re constantly falling for fictional guys and tend to compare them to every real-life guy you know and think “nope, lol you’re not the High Lord of the Night Court.”
  6. “BUT MOM, I DON’T HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS. I JUST DON’T HAVE ENOUGH SHELF SPACE!”
  7. Your tbr (to-be-read) list is about 238 miles long and stubbornly refuses to be conquered year after year. And at the same time, you still don’t know what to read next.
  8. You feel the intense agony of cliffha-
  9. The last book of a series is finally released after like 23 years, and you have no idea what to do with your life after finishing it.giphy
  10. When this happens-

me: I ACTUALLY LOVE THIS CHARACTER WOW SHE’S SO BADASS AND HEADSTRONG YAAS YOU GO GIRL

character: lol

character: *dies*

me:

ahhh, I’d almost forgotten how much I love gifs. *insert 438 laughing emojis here*

so tell me, what are some of your #bookwormproblems?