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Joan He Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Descendant of the Crane (2019)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Joan He
Joan He is an American author of young adult best known for her debut novel Descendants of the Crane. The Philadelphia born author first interacted with art through oil paintings only to discover later that stories were her best representation of art. He went to the University of Pennsylvania when she studied Chinese history and psychology.

Descendants of the Crane
Descendants of the Crane features Princess Hesina, a young girl who has been thrust to power most unexpectedly. Hesina’s father dies suddenly, and news of his death shakes the Yan kingdom to its core. When it emerges that the king was murdered, she is determined to find the killers, whatever the cost. With an unstable kingdom in her hands, Hesina makes a desperate move; she engages a soothsayer to help her find the king’s killers. Working with a soothsayer is considered a treasonous act in her kingdom, but these are desperate times. Hesina is not afraid to use unorthodox means that were outlawed many years ago. The soothsayer guides Hesina to Akira, a man who will help the princess unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s death.
Akira comes with brilliant investigative skills, and together, he and Hesina uncover secrets that the king took to his grave. While there is no doubt that Akira is good at his job, he is also a convicted criminal with many secrets. Hesina is angry and terrified, and it is so evident that she has little experience and knowledge of the way the kingdom operates. While her father had done his best to prepare her for the throne, no one expected that Hesina would be taking this mantle so soon. Can Hesina trust Akira at a time when trusting her family members is quite a task? Will the young princess find justice for her father? What will be the consequences once her secret is out and people in the kingdom hear that she engaged a soothsayer?

Many centuries ago, the Eleven group overthrew the relic emperors who had their grip so tightened on the kingdom’s throat that its inhabitants knew nothing but misery. The Eleven came up with many philosophies to help them govern the territory, and these were gathered in a book called the Tenets. During that time, the Soothsayers acted as the emperor’s henchmen, and their magic had spread throughout the kingdom. To eliminate anything that favored the emperors, the Eleven eliminated all people with Sooth magic blood running through them.

With Akira’s help, Hesina opens a vault of secrets, and new truths are unleashed one after another. The truth is shocking for Hesina, and the hope she had for Yan diminish by the day. From terror and anger, the princess’s heart is left in mourning for a father she discovers was nothing like she thought. Each revelation comes loaded with dread, and Hesina is left with no choice but to correct the wrongs of her forefathers for the kingdom’s sake. One of the truths revealed is that Hesina must deal with the bad blood between the Sooths and the people of Yan. The Sooths cry for their shed blood while the people of Yan had been taught to fear the Sooths. Obviously, this is a weighty matter, and for most of the story, it will feel like Hesina is fighting a losing battle.
Hesina is determined yet vulnerable. It is refreshing to see that she is willing to do the right thing in a world filled with deception. Her father had always told her to believe in the people, the truth, and the courts. While she tries to cling to the king’s teachings, Hesina learns that she needed more foundation stones to build the Yan kingdom. The truths are hard, and they are entangled in lies so profound something has to change for the nation to survive.

The palace is filled with people that Hesina cannot trust, which does nothing to help her situation. First, there is her mother. There is also her adopted siblings Ciayan and Lilian. These two are just as exciting as Hesina. Hesina has a brother, Sanjing, but the sibling’s relationship, just like that of the entire royal family, is quite complicated. It is fun to read about the interactions, tangles, and the drama that goes on behind the palace walls. Hesina will be forced to keep secrets from her family, just like her father did. How do her siblings react to the decisions made by the young queen?

The author doesn’t shy from probing Hesina on her underlying motivation. While Akira was seen as a villain, it is evident in the end that he and Hesina were mere mortal in search of answers. Perhaps becoming the queen is the most admirable thing Hesina did in this story. Despite her fears, she takes the crown and graciously works to restore the kingdom to its former glory. Sure, there will be bloodshed and many challenges to handle, but the young queen does her best.
The author has woven an intriguing story characterized by family, secrets, and betrayal. Palace politics also make an integral part of the story, and the unexpected twist will surely keep you guessing to the end. The cast is diverse, and the novel’s characters are all well developed. Everyone from the princess to the villain comes with an exciting backstory. Rooted in Chinese folklore, this book takes you on a journey where disappointing and small wins will come in equal measure.

Descendants of the Crane is a glistening fantasy story that will draw you in from the start. Lyrical, romantic, and with some thrilling politics and a hint of magic, this story ushers you into a world with a complex history and an iron-willed heir to the throne. While the storyline is simple, the plot is elaborate, and every bit of the story intriguing. The pace rises as Hesina’s investigation intensifies, and with each new revelation comes a rising tension that will leave you at the edge of your seat. If you enjoy fantasy stories with a solid plot, you will love this book. The world-building is excellent, the narration flawless, and the storyline captivating.

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