Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult
Content warnings: death, death of a parent, blood, violence, animal death, emotional abuse, murder, war, fire/fire injury
Perfect for when you’re in the mood for: a magical world filled with real people and gorgeous landscapes
I would tell you stories from dawn to dusk if it meant filling your eyes with happiness.
Not too long ago, I had to admit to myself: I had outgrown Young Adult.
YA has given me some of my favourite books, and I have honestly enjoyed many of them. Yet it seems that for every good book I read, I read five that just aren’t. I think my biggest peeve about YA is how characters are all written to fit archetypes. The Main Character does Main Character actions, says Main Character dialogue. The Best Friend does supportive actions, says supporting dialogue. The Love Interest . . . exists.
Six Crimson Cranes is . . . a YA that gives its characters actual personalities. I enjoyed this book because each of the characters is their own person. Their actions make sense because of who they are as people, rather than because they are the Main Character/Best Friend/Love Interest/etc.
Let’s talk about what the book is about, first. Shiori’anma is the youngest of Kiata’s royalty. In a land where the mystical arts are forbidden, her magic is a secret kept between herself and her brothers. Her life is changed when she is betrothed to a faraway lord’s son. Shiori thinks that she can run away from the marriage without any repercussions and with the bonus of meeting a dragon that teaches her magic!
However, events tumble into one another and Shiori’s magic is discovered by her stepmother, Raikama, the Nameless Queen. Suddenly she is banished from her kingdom, her brothers cursed into cranes, and she cannot say a single word.
A minor spoiler, although it’s obvious: she ends up meeting her once-betrothed. The two of them become friends, and Shiori learns more about herself and the country around her, growing as a person. Shiori must shed her delicate princess life and become an adult. The last act has a good twist that I enjoyed – you can see it coming through the hints that Shiori unknowingly gives, which makes it all the better. The book ends with a lead into the sequel: leaving behind her brothers and Takkan, Shiori must follow her dragon friend to Ai’long, the realm of dragons.
As a character, Shiori feels more and more real as she grows through hardships. One point that I really, really like about Six Crimson Cranes is that Shiori’s choice to snob her arranged marriage has repercussions! Takkan is justifiably hurt by her actions, and she comes to regret her past decisions.
That is what I mean when I say Shiori feels like a person rather than a Main Character. I think a lot of YA novels fall into the trap of not giving enough emotional depth to their characters. None of the characters really reflect on their actions. If they lose something, it doesn’t really turn out to be much of a loss. Throughout this story, Shiori’s actions mean something, and at the conclusion she loses something even though all her brothers survive.
My only grief with the book is that Shiori’s six brothers aren’t really expanded on at the beginning. I suspect this is so the pacing of the opening chapters doesn’t drag out for too long. I didn’t really get a feel of each of her brothers, only that they existed, so when they were turned into cranes, my emotional response wasn’t as great as it could’ve been. Then later, when they find each other and begin to grow close again, I didn’t have anything to compare to – there are no scenes where her eldest brother is being distant, so I did not particularly care when Shiori was close with him again.
I could see some people saying that they found the plot progression and how Shiori bounces between some places while staying in other places for a long time a little strange, but I was unbothered by it and found it a bit closer to reality; a bunch of young adults trying to cobble together a plan in less than stellar conditions.
Six Crimson Cranes is a fantastic book, regardless of whether it is or isn’t a YA. The author has created a fantastic story, and not despite the YA label. Shiori transforms from a young, dreamy princess to a hardened yet strong woman. She has regrets, she has made choices, she has lost. The world of Lor’yan is new and magical, and I’m super excited to see where Elizabeth Lim goes from here. And as a bonus, the cover is bloody gorgeous!
And this too, I will overcome.
Rating: 5 stars