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Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Young adult

Descendant of the Crane


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Joan He, on your first book!

by Joan He

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Quick take

A determined queen seeks justice for her deceased father in this Chinese fantasy story with serious Game of Thrones vibes.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit



Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

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Check out a preview of Descendant of the Crane.
Descendant of the Crane


No night was perfect for treason, but this one came close. The three-day mourning ritual had ended; most had gone home to break the fast. Those who lingered in the city streets kept their eyes trained on the Eastern Gate, where the queen would be making her annual return.

Then came the mist. It rolled down the neighboring Shanlong Mountains and embalmed the limestone boulevards. When it descended into the bowels of the palace, so did the girl and her brother.

They emerged from the secret passageways the girl knew well—too well, perhaps, given her identity—and darted between courtyard compounds and walled wards, venturing toward the market sectors. When they arrived at the red-light district’s peeling archway, an ember sparked in the girl’s stomach. Some came to the seediest business quarter of the imperial city to buy warmth. But she?

She had come to buy justice.

Her brother held her back before she could cross. “Milady—”

If he called her “milady” out here, he might as well call her Princess Hesina. “Yes, Caiyan?”

“We can still go back.”

Hesina’s fingers closed around the glass vial dangling from her silk broad-belt. They could. She could let her resolve fade like the wisp of poison bottled in the vial. That would be easy. Figuring out how to live with herself afterward…not so much.

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Why I love it

A young queen-to-be must navigate the high-stakes world of political intrigue, treachery, and murder in this magical debut that is the complex, smart YA fantasy novel I have been dreaming of. A heroine who thinks for herself! Flawed characters! Exciting plot twists! Not to mention exciting courtroom drama in a fantasy book. And it’s a stand-alone novel, which means no waiting to find out what happens next.

When the King of Yan dies, his daughter Princess Hesina discovers evidence that shows it was murder, not natural causes, like the court physician claims. But with no one backing her accusation except her siblings, Hesina must pay a visit to a soothsayer (secret, because the sooth are banned in Yan, and Hesina could lose her life just for seeking their help). But Hesina is so desperate to avenge her father and find his killer, she’ll do anything.

Get ready for hair-tingling twists and turns! In a kingdom where the king has already been murdered, can Hesina really trust anyone—including her own family? Spoiler: Probably not. This book thrilled me, it entertained me, and it moved me, which is everything I could ask of a book. I know you’ll love it too! (Pro tip: For another amazing YA novel that has to do with cranes, be sure to add The Astonishing Color of After to your box!)

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Member ratings (497)

  • Kayla R.

    Tilton, IL

    Plot, characters, rollercoaster of politics, love, betrayal from her father and Caiyan for the right reason but her not knowing of Caiyan’s, it all is beautifully written. I can’t wait for book two.

  • Gabriella V.

    San Diego, CA

    I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, wow. There are so many quotes and aspects of this book that really make you think and I love that kind of storytelling. Sequel please and thank you.

  • Jordan B.

    Allen, TX

    Such a refreshing plot in the world of YA, the political machinations and courtroom drama make for an entertaining storyline that isn’t often seen in the genre, and certainly not as well done as this.

  • Analicia T.

    Kenosha, WI

    Absolutely LOVED! A heroine who comes into her own strength: check! Badass, intricate plot with unbelievable twists: check! Amazing worldbuilding: CHECK! I urge everyone: read this. It’s breathtaking.

  • Holly A.

    Raleigh, NC

    I loved this book so much I can't express enough in this review! This book has deep, amazing characters, plot, world building, and writing. This was an eloquent start to a series that left me shocked

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