Descendant of the Crane

Albert Whitman. Apr. 2019. 416p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780807515518.
Gr 7 Up–In this dystopian fantasy rooted in Chinese culture, the king has died and Princess Hesina, soon to be crowned queen, is determined to prove it was murder. Relying on treasonous information from a soothsayer, a group of people feared and hated for their magical abilities and contribution to the previous dynasty’s authoritative rule, Hesina selects an enigmatic convict to represent the case in court. Hesina’s quest for the truth leads her into a complex web of political intrigue, conspiracy, and both literal and figurative backstabbing. Hesina finds herself questioning not only her own actions and morals, but also those of everyone around her: her siblings, parents, and the government itself. Although the book suffers from lengthy exposition as a large cast of characters are introduced and the political stage is set, once Hesina’s father’s earth-shattering secret is revealed, the deftly crafted plot hurdles to the crushing, yet hopeful conclusion. He’s skill lies in building multiple perspectives and motivations for the intricate characters, allowing her to create plot twists that are unexpected, yet obvious in retrospect. Thought-provoking and urgent, Hesina’s journey forces readers to confront weighty issues, such as the perils of seeking justice and truth in a flawed, corrupt government built on systemic oppression, as well as the challenge of undoing centuries of societal hate and fear.
VERDICT This rich and complex OwnVoices fantasy deserves a spot on library shelves.

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