Usually, I will avoid young adult fantasy fiction as much as I can. It’s a very saturated market and sometimes its a little hard to find books that are original and captivating. I see lots of young adult fantasy fiction releases every month so when I heard about Six Crimson Cranes I wasn’t sure whether to give it a try. Bu after a quick venture out to my local bookshop, I decided to see what all the hype was about – and I think I can firmly say that this book has ignited a passion for fantasy fiction at last.
A princess in exile, a shapeshifting dragon, six enchanted cranes, and an unspeakable curse… Drawing from ‘The Wild Swans’ and East Asian folklore, this breathtakingly original fantasy from the author of Spin the Dawn is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo or Tomi Adeyemi.
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.
I’ll admit that I’ve never read Grimm’s The Wild Swans so the story was pretty new to me. I had no idea what to expect or where the story was going to take me. I enjoyed how unpredictable the story was for me, even if that was down to how little fantasy books I read or just that the folktale was unfamiliar. The story itself follows Princess Shiori as she embarks on a captivating quest to break the curse placed upon her by her sorceress stepmother, Raikama. Her curse is simple but cruel – for as long as the wooden bowl remains attached to her head, every word Shiori speaks will kill one of her six brothers.
I mean, how can someone’s stepmother be that cruel?
His voice trembled when he spoke: “I would not have you be alone, Lina, not in your joys or your sorrows. I would wish your strand knotted to mine, always.”
Although she was the lead character of the story, Shiori was my absolute favourite character to follow. Her development and growth from young, naïve Princess to the wise, courageous heroine of the story was incredible to read through. At first I cared little for the Princess who seemed to only care about her own problems and wanted to escape any and all responsibility. As I dove deeper into her world, it was inspiring to see her bravery as she attempted to not only break her curse but to save her family – brothers and father – from the evils she encountered. There was something adorable about how attached Shiori grew with each friend she encountered along the way, especially little Megari. Special shoutout to Kiki. Shiori’s origami paper bird brought to life with magic. Not only did she protect Shiori to the best of her abilities, but she provided comfort and friendship when she felt like there was nobody else to turn to. Kiki’s sarcasm made me laugh and their friendship was so real and dedicated.
There were a few secondary characters I fell in love with, such as Seryu and Takkan. It was real injustice that we didn’t get see more of the cheeky dragon Seryu. His teasing of Shiori early in the story made me question whether he was going to be the one she fell in love with. Once Takkan entered the frame however, there was no going back. Takkan was romantic and idealistic and sweet. His desire to get to know and save Shiori was just too cute to even put into words. I’m looking forward to seeing their romance blossom further in the next instalment of the story.
Six Crimson Cranes was quite slow to start and then fell short in some places. As the book is so long, it had some slow moments where I considered whether to continue with the story. It took several chapters in the beginning to establish the story and while it was necessary to establish the history and the context of the novel, there were still times I found it a little tedious to read. As the book progressed the pacing did get better, though some scenes were dragged out for longer than necessary and I also felt there were some events that happened very suddenly – perhaps too soon to keep a steady pace.
Fear is just a game, Shiori, I reminded myself. You win by playing.
I think it’s fair to admit that this book has restored my faith in young adult fantasy, and though we ended the book on a cliff-hanger, I’ll be looking forward to reading the second instalment when it drops in bookshops. I’d definitely recommend this boko to anyone who fancies a few hours of escapism in a world where dragons and magic exist. Also, the book cover is super pretty in both the US and UK regions so this kinda needs to be sat on any self-respecting young adult readers’ bookshelves.