Review: Six Crimson Cranes

Review: Six Crimson Cranes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After losing control of her magic on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Princess Shiori accidentally catches the attention of her stepmother, Raikama. Magic is forbidden in Kiata, and when Shiori discovers that Raikama has her own, she is banished from her Kingdom, her six brothers turned into cranes, and she is cursed never to utter a word unless she wishes for one of her brothers to die. Voiceless and alone, Shiori must find her brothers, break the curse and discover the truth behind her magic. Or risk losing her kingdom to the battling armies of the neighbouring lands. 

Six Crimson Cranes was fantastic! This one has been sitting in my TBR for a year now; its gorgeous cover enticing to me to pick it up during one of my reading blocks. My god, this was so much fun. Sure, I’ll be honest, the plot was a bit predictable, but in this case, the journey you take to get there makes it all worthwhile. 

The youngest of her family and the only girl amongst her siblings, Shiori is brash and hard-headed. She is led to her betrothal ceremony when her paper bird slips out of her sleeve. She panics because no one is supposed to know she can enchant things to life. So, she runs. And in doing so, she meets a dragon who saves her life.  Her outburst worries her family and delays her ceremony, but the only one who seems to believe her meeting a dragon is her stepmother. The mysterious Raikama. Shiori begins to delve deep into her stepmother, and when she accidentally discovers her powers that will harm her family, she tries to tell her brothers the truth. That sets Raikama off, who then turns her brother into cranes, curses her voice to kill them if she speaks and then throws her into a corner of the world where no one will know who she is. Even if she tried, no one would believe her anyway. 

Complicated family dynamics is a core theme in Six Crimson Cranes. From Shiori’s relationship with her father, her stepmother, and her six older brothers. Shiori is quite stubborn and, in the beginning, very immature. I was worried that she wouldn’t grow out of it thus ruining my enjoyment of the book. But Lim smashes it out of the park and I adore the way Shiori grows as a character in a way that makes sense and feels rewarding as a reader. I just adore how the relationship she has with her brothers. While she adores them all she recognises the varying connections she has with each brother, some closer than others. I would’ve loved to have seen more from her brothers but I don’t rate the book less because of it since giving a spotlight to all six might be too much. 

Usually, romance in stories like these never appeals to me. I was actually shocked to find myself actually enjoying the growing relationship between Shiori and her love interest. It was so sweet and real, and never once distracts from the main plot. I read an interview where Lim explains that their relationship was a challenge for her, but I hope she knows she thoroughly succeeded. 

Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Wild Swans”, Lim takes the tale and makes it her own, spinning together a gorgeous tale of a young girl who grows to find power in her own voice. An incredible start to a duology. I cannot wait to read more. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Blood Scion

Review: Blood Scion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

As a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods, being a Scion is a death sentence under Lucis’ violent rule. When she is conscripted into the Lucis army, Sloane uses it to get the revenge she has always strived for. But as she rises through the ranks, learning to fight the enemy, she risks losing herself as her ability to suppress her powers weakens and threatens to harm all those around her. 

Blood Scion is remarkable. As someone who has been losing interest in YA fantasy, I found myself thoroughly surprised by Bloodscion, which is a shocking and action-packed debut that has the potential to be a hit for older timers and new fans alike. 

Fifteen-year-old Sloane has constantly searched for her mother’s body, hoping to clear the rumours of her disappearance and death. During her nightly trawls, she is ambushed by a Lucis soldier and uses her powers to kill her intruder. Scions are descendants of the Yoruba people who were gifted with magical abilities from the Orisha. A dwindling population that the Lucis are currently hunting. Even being wrongfully accused of being a Scion is a death warrant. When Sloane is conscripted to join the Lucis army, despite every bone in her body telling her to run, it is the only chance she has to find the truth of her mother’s death. Thus begins her journey toward revenge and seeking justice for others of her kind. 

Blood Scion looks straightforward from the outside—a typical young girl infiltrating an enemy base. You would probably think you’ve read this before.  But what makes this stand out is the story. It is complex and well built, solidified with characters that stand on their own and together. Sloane goes to Avalon and joins a squad of other children who have their secrets about joining the army. The story moves fast and keeps you informed without getting confused. The world Solane presides in is dangerous and brutal. The Lucis are colonisers, and there is no beating around the bush about the genocide they have committed and continue to engage in the story as Sloane and her peers are trained to become the next crop of soldiers. 

Falaye is a remarkable writer, and I’ll definitely be watching out for future releases from her that are not in the Blood Scion series. She writes with great detail that informs the reader and brings to life the world around Solane despite the story taking place mainly within Avalon, their training ground. Solane is a complex protagonist whose character is pulled apart and rebuilt together by the very people who would want her dead if they knew the truth. A child soldier who fights so hard for the truth, it is heartbreaking to see her go through so much pain. 

As mentioned, the Lucis are colonisers. And Blood Scion does not shy away from the atrocities they commit to Scion and their own soldiers alike. Falaye balances the storytelling well while also discussing war and oppression. Sloane must navigate a world where the Lucis and their propaganda are rampant. The intensity of violence was surprising to see in a YA as the experience of children soldiers will never be easy to witness. Falaye does not water down anything and brings to light every harsh detail Solane faces. While a fantasy world, it is still the reality for many children worldwide. 

Overall, a gritty and dark debut about a young girl’s journey for survival and revenge. Based on Yoruba mythology, Blood Scion is intense, further elevated by Falaye’s imagination. With excellent characters and an intriguing fantasy world, Blood Scion is the start of a story that promises to be exceptional.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Sisters of the Snake

Review: Sisters of the Snake

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

The 100 Year Truce is soon approaching its end, and if Princess Rani wants any chance of inheriting her throne with no issues, she must escape her cage and delve into the deep magic of her past. Drafted into a war she wants no part in, trickster thief Ria must parade as her long-lost twin princess sister and discover the real reason why they were separated at birth. As the time ticks, both sisters must work together or risk letting magic tear everything apart. 

Rani and Ria have no idea the other exists until they accidentally meet after Ria hopes to use stolen jewellery to fund her escape from Abai. Instead, she is met with Rani, who shares her face and confusion. Desperate to figure out the truth behind her abandonment, she agrees to stay behind in Rani’s place. Ria is left to navigate palace life and see what else lies beneath the walls of her birthplace while also tricking her betrothed, Saeed, and family. At the same time, Rani embarks into the land beyond her city to discover the truth behind the brutal death of her old tutor, convincing Ria’s friend, Amir, and others that she is nothing but a lowly thief.

 A significant highlight of this book is the characters. I enjoyed watching Ria navigate the life of a princess in disgust while also rooting her to find the truth behind her birth. Rani is way out of her comfort zone as she is forced to question her entire upbringing while also dealing with dangerous magic that will threaten the world she knows. Each sister has a cast of characters that are equally important and extremely fun to discover. After a somewhat rocky start, the story redeems itself. It keeps you on edge as chapters alternate between the twins barreling through secrets of their past and nation’s history before coming together in a fast and thrilling resolution. 

Set in an Indian-inspired setting, the Nanua sisters do a great job of bringing to life the city of Abai, making a clear contract between the clean palace walls to the murky streets below. As the first in a series, Sisters of the Snake would’ve benefitted from more world-building, in my opinion. I see the immense potential to expand Rani and Ria’s story into the surrounding Kingdoms.

 If I had to point out a flaw of some kind, the connection between Rani and Ria deserved more screentime than relying on their connection as descendants of snakespeakers. The sweet moments of empowerment and sisterhood fall flat when you realise the girls barely interact in the story at all. For example, Rani is the one who pushes Ria to take her spot and then leaves her with no preparation or instructions. Rani has her pet snake (connected in the same way as a familiar), and it was such an odd decision to introduce Shima as a snake who can talk to Ria through her thoughts but then never have her help Ria at all during her time in the palace. It just read rather strange to me to introduce something that could be useful as a plot device but not utilise it in a way that would’ve improved the story. Especially as their connection as snakespeakers is very pivotal to the plot. 

Sisters of the Snake does exactly what it says on the tin. A YA fantasy with deep lore and a fascinating world design. It’s a solid start to a series, and I have to say I was surprisingly impressed by Sisters of the Snake. While my expectations weren’t low, I did find myself enjoying this series starter from the Nanua sisters. While nothing is out of the water, this is a decent start to a series that I’m very interested in seeing to completion.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Storms have ruined Mina’s homeland for generations. Her people believe that once the Sea God has found his true bride, he will end his people’s suffering. Shim Cheong is fated to be the true bride, but doing so means leaving Mina’s brother forever. So on the night, Cheong must be sacrificed, Mina and her brother break the rules and follow her to her fate. Desperate to save her brother and her friend, she throws herself into the water instead. Stranded in the Spirit Realm, Mina finds the Sea God trapped in an endless sleep and to wake him; she must face every lesser god and beast who wishes to keep him asleep.

I’ll be honest; the story starts in not the strongest footing for my taste. Mina is already boarding the ship destined for Shim Cheong’s demise, and her sacrifice is made so quickly it feels like we almost miss the moment. Her descent into the spirit realm is fast, and in moments, we’ve already made it halfway through the book’s own synopsis. I have been highly anticipating this book, so I was apprehensive it would go downhill from there. 

I can gladly say I was very wrong. Once in the Spirit Realm, Mina really takes off. With time ticking, she must figure out how to wake the Sea God and return her homeland to prosperity only a month before she is stuck forever. And the only person who can give her any information is the mysterious god named Shin and his rogue men, Kirin and Namgi. She is also momentarily accompanied by other spirits who you will love and mourn all the same. 

The crumbs Axie Oh drops in the story slowly come together in the most heartbreaking way. The world-building is in the same vein as Ghibli movies, whimsical and childlike. Mina is strong and compassionate who continues to grow in each chapter. It’s kind of a shame this is standalone because the potential to delve into other folklore through the Spirit Realm is vast. If anything, the only remotely disappointing aspect was that the romance could’ve been developed a lot more in the beginning. Still, towards the end, I was rooting for Mina’s happiness like my life depended on it. 

Spirited Away meets Korean folklore in this standout retelling from Axie Oh. A world of gods and beasts can’t compare to softspoken Mina, who steals the show in her honourable journey to save her homeland.  


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Jade Fire Gold

Review: Jade Fire Gold

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Ahn is a village girl with no family and a secret that will break the world. Altan is a lost heir of a dangerous empire. When their paths cross, Ahn finds a key to her past, and Altan sees a way to his future. But when the price of magic is far deadlier than both of them can handle, can they survive when their homeland is on the edge of destruction?

Jade Fire Gold was exhilarating. June C.L. Tan has really hit it out of the ballpark with her debut. I personally went into this book with zero expectations, and I left feeling so satisfied. It has a lot of fun tropes and utilises them in a way that is entertaining and hilarious. But it also keeps to its dark roots and the danger that Ahn and Altan face in their journey. 

The narrative is split into two POVs, Ahn and Altan. With Ahn, you follow her journey being a simple village girl, hiding her abilities in a dead-end town, working to afford the medication her grandmother so desperately needs. Suddenly, she is thrust into the life of royalty, her powers gaining the attention of even the Crown Prince. Altan was the heir to the throne until his family were murdered; now, he has spent years trying to get revenge. He never would’ve expected the answer to be found in Ahn, and the closer they get, the harder he finds it to go through with his plans. I had so much fun reading Ahn and Altan’s journey. Tan does a great job differentiating their voices where I couldn’t even decide whose perspective I enjoyed more. 

Not only did I love our main protagonists, but even the supporting characters were also unforgettable. Tang Wei is Atlan’s closest confidant and skilled with her weapons. Their banter and not-so seriously rivalry were brilliant. Linxi is a spy planted in the courts and becomes a great source of friendship for Ahn when she desperately needs it. Leiye is Ahn’s mysterious saviour and Altan’s old friend. There is so much detail that Tan incorporates so well into her words. A beautiful world inspired by Chinese mythology, from deserts to mountains, villages to palaces, the expanse from just this novel alone makes me really excited to see how the series will continue 

Jade Fire Gold was an absolute gem of a read! Sometimes you just need a good book to enjoy, and this is one of them. The banter, plot and sense of adventure left me unable to put this down—a definite recommendation for anyone interesting in the xianxia genre. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Unbroken

Review: The Unbroken

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Stolen and raised as a soldier for an empire that will see her people dead, Touraine and her company have been sent back to their motherland to squash a rebellion before it can take flight. Princess Luca needs a spy and Touraine is the perfect match. Disconnected enough from her people to betray them and loyal enough to tiptoe the line between treason and order. Someone who can dirty their hands while she works to remove her uncle from her throne. Even if it means betraying the very foundation of Balladaire. However, Touraine finds herself questioning her decisions and is forced to betray everyone she loves to protect them all. Who will survive in the end, the soldier or the spy?

The Unbroken truly broke through one of the worst book slumps I’ve ever had in my life. A passionate and powerful debut about a soldier who must find out who she truly is before it is too late. A political fantasy novel that takes you on a slow burn of a journey with an ending that rewards its reader with a satisfying promise of what’s to come. Touraine and Luca are complex and so is the system around them, the novel set in a fully fleshed out world that has been so severely affected by the actions of the colonising state of Balladaire. The first half of the book takes its time but the end result is worthwhile. 

The Unbroken takes place entirely in Qazāl, a country colonised by Balladaire and on the cusp of rebellion. Luca hopes to quell the dissent as proof of her right to rule and to uncover the magic within the land to save her people back home. Touraine doesn’t know what to think. She keeps her head down, hoping to one day gain the favour and respect of the commanders before her. But returning to Qazāl gives her the wake-up call she truly needed. After a false accusation, Touraine finds herself ripped of her hard-earned status and saved by the grace of Princess Luca in exchange for a much perilous role. We navigate the diplomacy and political landscape through the lens of Touraine, a soldier with no “home”.

Thematically, The Unbroken hides no secrets about the core message. The series is undoubtedly about empire rule and the lingering effects of colonialism on the people left behind. Initially, Touraine recoils at the memory of her people, the Qazāli, determined to prove to them that the so-called aid that Luca and her diplomats bring can elevate their status. But it is the emotion and experience of the people left behind that reminds her that the machine behind Luca does not care about their well-being and she is stripped bare of her complacency and the identity she had worked so hard to build and survive her environment. Luca might give Touraine everything she needs, but Touraine must decide where she stands or risk losing everything. 

As the dust settles and they are all left tending to the wounds of colonial violence, The Unbroken is a journey on its own, but Touraine’s story is far from over. I adore this book and would definitely recommend to any reader who really wants to sink their teeth into a gritty military-political fantasy that deep-dives into the nuances of imperialism from a multitude of perspectives.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR