Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes #1) by Elizabeth Lim
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on July 6, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (464 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads
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.
Six Crimson Cranes is one of those rare books that I’ve read more than once. Even rarer that I read it two years in a row, and loved it both times. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one when I first read it, and knew I had to read it again before picking up the sequel. Only part of that was because a lot happens in this book, but I did remember most of it. Not the details, which are excellent, but all of the major events. Even still, I still nearly cried at the end knowing what was coming.
The one thing that keeps Six Crimson Cranes from being a full 5-star read for me was Shiori’s curse. Or rather, one aspect of the curse. She can’t speak or write to anyone, or else her brothers will die. However, we get several examples of her attempting to write to other people for help. The first time, she said none of the villagers could read. Fine. The second time, a snake appeared to warn her. Cool. But then she has full conversations with her brothers? Does the curse not apply to them, just like how she recognizes them despite their curse making others unable to see who they really are?
But then again later, she writes to someone, and the snake appears again. Why does Shiori keep doing this when she knows the consequences?! Her stepmother very clearly said no speaking, no writing! Stop, Shiori! Except she soon “figures out” that she can write to communicate as long as she doesn’t reveal who she is…um, what? It seemed like the rules changed based on what Shiori needed at the moment. She had no way of actually knowing if any of this was true and was constantly putting her brothers at risk.Yes, we get an explanation of the curse toward the end, but it also contradicts itself there. I’m just going with that as long as she wasn’t trying to reveal herself, she was good. End of story.
It says a lot that I would defend such a glaring hole in Six Crimson Cranes, because I am never that forgiving with books, since I get distracted and it ruins my enjoyment. That is not the case here. Yes, I was annoyed at times, but I was also trying to piece things together. Magic is complicated. The curses Raikama used on Shiori and her brothers was complicated. Her motivations are complicated. I just wanted everyone to survive until the end and break the curse and live happily ever after!
Obviously, being the first book in a duology, that happy ending is not here. Like I already said, that ending nearly made me cry. I did cry the first time reading it, actually. I loved the twist and the big reveal at the end. I loved this take on the wicked stepmother trope. I loved Shiori’s determination. I loved Kiki’s sass. I loved Takkan’s kindness. I just really love this book.