Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes cover on iPad in front of a book shelf full of books

Thank you to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A princess in exile. Six enchanted cranes. An unspeakable curse.

A beautiful and immersive YA fantasy retelling of the Grimm brothers’ The Six Swans fairytale, set in an East-Asian inspired world, by the author of Spin the Dawn.

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, 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 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, as well as 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.

Confession: when I started reading this, I had completely forgotten the synopsis! My first impression was definitely that it reads like a fairytale, which makes sense since it is a retelling, and I really liked this. It reminded me of the stories and fairytales I used to read with my Mum when I was younger.

I loved Shiori’s character development. Initially, as a princess she wants to do her own thing and resents having to do her lessons or any other tasks she is given as part of her duty but when she is exiled, she doesn’t hesitate to do hard labour and instead views it as a way to fix the curse and get her brothers back. I loved that her motivation was always this and never that she missed being a princess or wanted to stop working. The emphasis in this book is on family, with romance taking a back seat. I liked all the side characters too, especially Takkan *swoon* A man who is kind, writes stories and sings? Yes please.

The writing was engaging and easy to read and pulled me in from the first page. I ended up reading it quickly as I wanted to see how it would all play out. Every time you felt like Shiori was making progress, something would go wrong and I wanted to see how she would fix it each time. Lim definitely builds intrigue through the curse and there is a good pace throughout. The plot works well and even though the end is clearly setting it up for a sequel, I felt that it all came together at the end and you could potentially read this as a standalone if you so wished. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice easy read with a great focus on family, magic and love. Definitely recommend if you’re looking for a book with fairytale vibes and a strong female protagonist.

Six Crimson Cranes is out on 8 July 2021.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Trigger Warnings: Death, Death of a Parent, Violence, Blood.

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