Joan He’s debut young adult novel, Descendant of the Crane, defies YA fantasy expectations. The story unveils a world with echoes of ancient Chinese dynasties, a plot driven by mystery and intrigue, a healthy dose of fantasy and characters that are reminiscent of heroes and villains found in fairy tales. He’s ability to weave all these cultural touchstones and pieces of inspiration into a coherent and compelling story speaks volumes about her skills and future as an author.
Descendant of the Crane opens as 17-year-old Princess Hesina of Yan embarks on a mission to find the assassin who recently murdered her father. As difficult as that task alone would be, she must also convince the rest of the realm that he did not die of natural causes but was murdered. As Hesina tries to collect the evidence she needs to make her case, she must overcome even more obstacles: a mother who despises her, a kingdom on the brink of war and revelations that make her question everything.
A highly recommended read for fantasy fans, Descendant of the Crane is thrilling, but not in a nonstop-action kind of way. He builds her fantastical world and characters by methodically weaving and layering details until the reader is completely enthralled by and entangled in the story.