Book Reviews, Fantasy, Teen

Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

A princess in exile. Six enchanted cranes. An unspeakable curse.

Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs in her veins. And 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. A sorceress in her own right, Raikama 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 uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and 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. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have had this book on my radar since the end of last year, and I was so glad to be approved for an eARC of it. The story is based on the fairy tale of the Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm, and this was one that I was not familiar with before hand, and I think I preferred coming to it fresh, without preconceptions. Since finishing Six Crimson Cranes, I have read the original fairytale, and can appreciate the way that Elizabeth Lim has taken this simple tale and breathed new life into it. Firstly, the greatest difference is the setting, which is inspired by East-Asia, and incorporates East-Asian style mythology within in.

It is told through the perspective of Shiori, the princess, and I loved the way Lim developed her character; she has an entertaining and endearing narrative voice, and though she must remain silent for a lot of the novel, her character still comes across strongly. There were never moments when I felt that the book needed dialogue to feel more real, because Shiori has her inner thoughts, and is also very good at communicating through body language with those around her.

The other characters also felt very strong, and I enjoyed them all. Shiori’s six brothers were very fun whenever they were on the page, and it might be the fact that I have four siblings that makes me appreciate their interactions even more. It felt very realistic of having siblings, that closeness combined with the constant frustration. There is some romance in the book, but the focus is definitely on familial relationships, and I found that to be so important, especially in the YA fantasy genre, where whirlwind romances are rife. Having said that, I really enjoyed the romance, it was very sweet and exactly what the book needed.

I do have one complaint, and that is that on occasional it felt as if things happened because they were convenient for the plot, and while there is an element of fate to the story, it did make certain moments less believable. That is a small complaint, however, and the worldbuilding and character development made up for it. And the food! Food definitely holds an important place in Shiori’s story, and I loved the descriptions of the dishes throughout. I’ve seen lots of reviews of books that talk about food and how reading made them hungry, but this was the first book that made me notice this element so much, and I really enjoyed it!

I’d certainly recommend this book for teenagers and adults, as I think the only thing that would make it a YA is the age of the main character. It was a great read and I will definitely be picking up the second book next year to see how Shiori’s tale ends.

Book Info

Published: 8th July 2021 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: YA, fantasy, folklore retelling
Pages: 464
Series: Six Crimson Cranes duology, book one
Narration style: first person past tense, single narrator
Format read: eARC
Trigger Warnings: some death and violence

The lovely American cover (though I think I prefer the UK one)

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