A mute, magical princess. A lost, kind-hearted prince. An unexpected villain. These are some features of the new Young Adult fantasy novel, Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim. Set in ancient China, this is a fantastical retelling of The Six Swans fairy tale by the Grimm brothers.
Six Crimson Cranes follows Shiori, the youngest and only princess of the kingdom of Kiata. When her six older brothers are cursed into six crimson cranes by her stepmother, Shiori must figure out a way to break the spell on her family. As she delves into her powers and rescue mission, she is forced to remain mute or risk killing one of her brothers with each word that she spoke. Aided by a magical green dragon, Kiki the paper bird, and her betrothed prince, the mute princess must seek to defeat the villain and restore her kingdom.
Shiori, 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 a wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. Raikama has her own dark magic and uses it to banish the young princess from the kingdom, turn Shiori's brothers into cranes, and threaten her to speak of it to no one. For with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will be subject to death. Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama's betrayal. Only Shiori can save her family and set the kingdom to rights, but to do so, she must embrace the magic she has been taught all her life to contain and place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry.
The plot of this story is my favorite element of Six Crimson Cranes. To witness Shiori grow from an immature princess to a savior was entertaining and inspiring. I was worried that having a mute protagonist would be awkward, but Lim did a great job at not letting that affect her story.
My favorite part was the ending. I was surprised at the plot twist towards the enemy in the story since readers have the chance to understand why Raikama did what she did. I appreciate when the author can create a villain that readers can grow to understand and love since it is different from your cheer for the hero and hate the villain type of tale.
Overall, the story was enjoyable and easy to digest. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy with an Eastern cultural twist or is looking to start reading some.
While the main character of the story, Shiori, is well fleshed out and given much background narrative, there are missing details that could be added to the other characters’ profiles to develop a more cohesive story . Shiori is a very likeable protagonist, carrying traits such as loyalty, kindness, and stubbornness. She is given more attention in the story than the other characters.
While some can argue that since she is the main character, she should be well-described, I think giving the side characters more details can greatly add to the context of the story. Despite being the protagonists’ main motivation, Shiori’s brothers all started to blend together and had little distinction in their characters. It felt like having to learn more names that don’t add much to the story. I would love to see more from Raikama, the stepmother, and learn more about her background and her motives.
Since Six Crimson Cranes is duology, I am giving Elizabeth Lim more opportunity to give the other characters more depth. I am looking forward to seeing more for Seryu, the green dragon, and Shiori’s brothers.
Six Crimson Cranes was written in the same world as The Blood of Stars duology (Spin the Dawn) (Unravel the Dusk). I have yet to read those books and do not have background information of their shared universe.
From Six Crimson Cranes, the story creates a universe where magic exists, but is stigmatized. The main character Shiori has magical ability that she has to keep hidden. The story does not go into depth about the consequences of magic usage in the kingdom. I hope this is touched upon more in the next book, so there can be more details and danger added to this magical world.
Moving past this detail, the world in Six Crimson Cranes provides a magical land with rich history and elements that is inspired by Chinese culture. From the delicacies to the festival celebrations to the details of the curse, you can really see Lim’s appreciation for her heritage.
Elizabeth Lim’s writing is straight-forward and easy to understand. She makes her stories easy for her readers to digest by not including heavy world-building details or complex story elements. She knows what she wants to say and does not feel the need to embellish her words to get there.
Elizabeth Lim also did a great job of having a mute protagonist, but not making her silence awkward. She cleverly did this by showing Shiori’s body language when interacting with people. I am sure not being able to have dialogue was challenging in writing this book, but Lim did a phenomenal job of not letting that take away from the story.
If you are looking for a fantasy story with a lot of substance but also simple to enjoy, I would recommend this book.
If you are looking for a story with love, you will find it here. But if you are looking for a story with romance, then this book is not for you. There is a lot of love explored within relationships of family and friends with Shiori’s brothers and parents. However, in terms of romantic love, the first book did not do much to deliver that.
All the love interests in this story have been introduced and are all intriguing to read about. I felt that Lim attempted to set the backgrounds of the characters in this first book, to introduce more romance in the second book.
The relationship between Takkan and Shiori is sweet and heart-warming, and their relationship can be explored more romantically. Even Seryu, who I thought was the second lead, had very limited interaction with the protagonist.
The relationships in this story are fluffy and soft, but if you are looking for romance, you might have to keep looking for it within the sequel.
This concludes my review of Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim. I think this is a great introductory book for those who are interested in getting into reading Young Adult Fantasy. I am excited to continue this duology and see where the characters and story goes. I hope this review was helpful in determining if this book was right for you. If you want to continue to talk about the points made in this book, leave a comment below!