I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on 2021-07-06
Length: 464 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2021, 2021 New Release Challenge, COYER 2021
A princess in exile, a shapeshifting dragon, six enchanted cranes, and an unspeakable curse... Drawing from fairy tales and East Asian folklore, this original fantasy from the author of Spin the Dawn is perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone.
Shiori'anma, 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.
A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns 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 forswear--no matter what the cost.
Weaving together elements of The Wild Swans, Cinderella, the legend of Chang E, and the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Elizabeth Lim has crafted a fantasy like no other, and one that will stay with readers long after they've turned the last page.
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim is a beautifully written fairy tale that whisks the reader away from reality to a world of adventure, magic, and romance. I devoured this story in just a few days, not wanting to set it down. Shiori and her brothers, Kiki and Seryu, and Takkan are just a few of the characters I fell in love with. While this book is a retelling (The Wild Swans I believe), it is also steeped in Asian mythology and folklore and even set in the same world as Lim’s The Blood of Stars duet. Six Crimson Cranes didn’t just set the bar, it shattered the ceiling of my expectations becoming my favorite book so far this year.
As the only princess of Kiata, it is Shiori’s duty to marry. On the eve of her betrothal, she drowns trying to save her paper bird and friend Kiki. Kiki shouldn’t exist, yet somehow she does. Shiori brought her to life with her natural magic, magic that is forbidden in Kiata. I love Kiki. She is high-spirited and feisty, bringing levity to the story. But I digress, Shiori is saved from drowning by a young dragon Seryu, the grandson of the Dragon King. Seryu is another interesting character. He pushes Shiori out of her comfort zone, teaching her to wield her magic to make her less dangerous.
When an accident leads Shiori to discover her stepmother’s hidden magic, she seeks her six older brothers’ help. Instead what happens is that Raikama is able to curse them all. Shiori is cursed to wear a bowl on her head and told that for every sound that escapes her mouth, one of her brothers will die. Her brothers are also cursed to live as swans during the day and men at night. A glamour is placed over them so that none will recognize the emperor’s children, and they are scattered.
This is where Shiori’s story truly begins. I love Shiori. She’s strong, courageous, and at times brash. She’s bold in her convictions, loyal to her family, and loves with her whole heart. Despite all these things, she’s immature and speaks before thinking, hurting people without ever realizing it. Shiori’s curse changes so much about her. The somewhat spoiled princess doesn’t have a dime to her name, and with her glamour, no one will even offer to help. I love how Shiori works through each of her problems, overcoming them and becoming stronger because of her circumstances instead of letting them break her.
Then there is Takkan. He is Shiori’s betrothed, shunned by her when she ran from their ceremony. Despite that, he risks his life to search for the royal children who have gone missing. His loyalty is just one of the many reasons I fell in love with him. He is kind above all else. He shows favor to those less fortunate than him, and he does it all with a smile. His goodness is shown through all the little interactions he has with Shiori, even when he doesn’t know her identity.
Overall I loved Six Crimson Cranes. The complexity of the plot and the gorgeously flawed characters kept me engaged with the story long after it ended. I cannot wait to read the next installment and find out more about Shiori, Takkan, and her brothers. If you are a fan of fairy tales, this one should be high on your list of books to read.