Title: Six Crimson Cranes
Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: July 6th, 2021
Page Length: 464
Genre: Fantasy | Russian & Asian Mythology Retelling
Age Range: YA
REP: Asian (Chinese and Japanese)
Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
Thanks to Netgalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
This was one of my highly anticipated releases of 2021. Unfortunately, it did not end up being a 5 star, but that does not mean that this book was not enjoyable. I found Lim’s writing was captivating, although felt clipped at times. If you are not one for flowery writing standard with fairytale settings, then Lim is the writer for you. I still found the writing descriptive though. I could easily picture the locations and characters.
Speaking of characters, I found most of them to be ok. Shiori was an interesting character to follow, but at times it felt like she was simply observing. The love interest, and the “twists” associated with him, was rather interesting, but not surprising. I found the side characters interesting, but felt like they served only the part they played in the story. I never felt like I got additional information about the character, and therefore never connected with them. When we did get backstory, it was to explain the person’s actions, and was usually revealed to move the story along.
The one weakness I found with the story was the distinction of time passing. At times, it felt like we were stuck in one day for a while, but then by the next chapter weeks/months had passed. The only indication showing that time had passed was with one of the characters mentioning just how long they were doing something. For example, they would mention that there were ___ many weeks left of until Spring – indicating that time had passed since the last update with a similar timeline.
I also found that some of the stakes never really felt high enough. At no point was I worried that the item needing completed wouldn’t be done so in the time give, or that a transformation would happen before they were ready. Just an overall lack of tension.
That being said, this could all be explained away (or fit better) if I was more aware of the original fairytales that this story draws on. I never read The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, Madame White Snake, Chang E the Moon Goddess, the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, or the Girl with the Black Bowl. From what little I know of these tales, I found Lim kept true to their inspiration. The inclusion of Chinese dragons was also interesting, an element I wish was included more.
The magic system was interesting, seeing just how much power Shioni had and what could be manipulated was also curious. The twists relating to the curses was also interesting. This is a world that I would like to explore again and learn more about. Thankfully, there is at least one sequel coming out.
Overall, I enjoyed the story and characters, but was left wanting more. I am still curious to read more of Lim’s work. I would recommend this to those who enjoy fairytale retellings or stories inspired by myths/lore/fairytales, also anyone who wants to explore Asian folktales.