“Find the light that makes your lantern shine. Hold on to it, even when the dark surrounds you. Not even the strongest wind will blow out the flame.”
Having never read anything by Elizabeth Lim before, I went into this book not really knowing what to expect in terms of writing. But considering the sheer amount of hype surrounding Six Crimson Cranes, what I definitely wasn’t expecting, was how underwhelmed I would feel whilst reading it.
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 the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning 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, 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 set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain – no matter what it costs her.
I just want to preface this review by saying that, while I did feel underwhelmed due to the hype, this isn’t a bad book by any means. It’s a cute YA fantasy retelling that’s loosely based off of a fairytale (The Six Swans, if I’m not mistaken), and admittedly, I’m not the best person to ask how it compares, having never even heard of the original tale. I originally thought that maybe that was the reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected, but I’ve loved plenty of other retellings of tales I’ve never read before. In all honesty, I just found the writing style to be too simplistic for my tastes, and the worldbuilding felt a bit… lacklustre.
That being said, there were definitely aspects of this book that I enjoyed. Shiori is a great character, and the romance has a lot of potential going forwards. The magic also has me intrigued, but considering one of the hooks for this book is a shape-shifting dragon, I was severely disappointed that he – Seryu – didn’t feature very heavily. The way this book ended, however, leads me to believe that the dragons will play a much larger role in the sequel, and I’ll definitely read it , if only because I’m obsessed with dragons. I also really enjoyed the familial aspect of this book, and I loved Shiori’s relationship with her brothers. I really hope we get to see more of them in the sequel.
“We were seven, and seven was a number of strength. An uneven number that could not fold unto itself, large enough to withstand many threats, yet small enough to stay devoted.”
Despite the worldbuilding feeling a little hazy, I did enjoy the Asian-inspired setting and the fantastical elements that the author included. Unfortunately, the way those aspects were infused into the story felt very info-dumpy and I struggled through a large portion of this book. That being said, the last 50 or so pages were actually pretty great, and as I mentioned before, I’m definitely intrigued by where things were left off. Overall, this was a cute YA retelling, but the overwhelming hype (and the absolutely stunning cover) left me feeling a little disappointed that I didn’t love it nearly as much as everyone else seems to.