Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
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.
I finished Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim a few days ago, and I am still in awe of this fantasy tale. The storytelling, world-building, and characters are all just exquisite and weave together to tell a story I did not want to stop reading, even when there were no more pages.
What I Loved
I already mentioned world-building, characters, and storytelling. What could be left to love? So, so much! The theme of family and the relationship between Shiori and her six brothers is heartwarming. It gives each of them an added dimension that enables the reader to instantly connect to them and empathize with their plight, even when the brothers are cranes and Shiori is trying to break the curse that has them all bound in one way or another. Shiori tells the story, so you get to know her brothers as intimately as only a sister can share them.
Dragons! Did I mention that there are dragons in this story? They have magical pearly hearts, can take human form, and live in an underwater city that is said to be so amazing it is beyond human imagination. I especially loved the mischief and cleverness that is the very essence of Seryu, Prince of the Easterly Seas and favored grandson of the Dragon King, Nazayun. I eagerly anticipated his appearance as the story developed and was never disappointed with his wit, wisdom, and playfulness.
I also enjoyed the Cinderella story threads that snuck in at various points. Lost slippers, a wicked stepmother, and a princess that is cursed to do menial labor by her stepmother all reminded me of Cinderella, but that is where the similarities stop. So do not think this is a Cinderella story because I made that mistake and found myself blindsided by the twists and turns in the book’s last quarter. Twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat and are the reason I ended the book, never wanting to leave this world.
I also loved how the love story played out and the lessons Shiori learned as she had to manage in a world with a bowl over her head that covered her face and not communicate by talking or explaining her situation to anyone until breaking the curse. The only thing that bothered me about the story is that bowl over Shiori” s head. The essential specifics were not explained to my complete understanding initially, so there were a few things about it that puzzled me, such as seeing through the bowl because no one could see her eyes, so the wooden bowl must have covered them, yet she could see everything.
To Read or Not to Read
This is the best fantasy I have read so far this year (and I have read some great stories), so YES! I think you should sit back and let this tale whisk you away to an imaginative world with genuine characters and elements that will take your breath away.
Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler
A Sliding Doors-esque novel that reveals how our choices define us and how no matter the road, love can find its way.
Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.
Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.
When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.
But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.
Told in dual timelines, debut author Jennie Wexler’s Where It All Lands delivers a heartbreaking and hopeful novel about missed opportunities, second chances, and all the paths that lead us to where we are.
Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler is a fresh approach to what appears to be a light YA love triangle story, but it is not a love triangle story at all. Instead, it is a powerful and poignant look at how sometimes the most minor, most benign decisions – like flipping a coin – can lead to irrevocable, unintended consequences. I cannot say much about the story without spoilers, and I do not do spoilers. But, as a reader, you will want this fresh approach to the story to take you by surprise. It adds to the wonder of the story and the depth of the poignancy. Stevie, Shane, and Drew meet at the beginning of the school year, and what happens next will surprise you, break your heart, surprise you again and then leave you with an ambiguous ending that is fitting but will drive you mad. There are a few major plot points that I had an issue with. I thought most of the characters overreacted to one plot point, though to be fair, teens sometimes act out of proportion to the “crime.” Yet, the author’s approach to the story was so creative that I could easily overlook what created those annoying niggles in my ability to believe the story. Overall, if you are looking for a book that will lead to many discussions, will stick with you for a long time, and that will make you look at your own life in a whole new way, you must pick up and read Where It All Lands.