ARC Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

A princess in exile, the boy she left at the altar, six enchanted cranes, and a dragon from the deepest sea.

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.

From the author of Spin the Dawn comes a breathtakingly original fantasy inspired by East Asian folklore and perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo or Tomi Adeyemi.

  • Title: Six Crimson Cranes
  • Author: Elizabeth Lim
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • Genre: Fantasy,  Retelling, YA
  • Age Range: YA
  • Content warnings: banishment, burns, near death experiences, abuse, kidnapping, confinement, self-inflicted injury
  • Rating:  ★★★★★

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Six Crimson Cranes since I heard of the concept, and even more so after finally reading Elizabeth Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology (Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk), and needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. 

Six Crimson Cranes is the first in a duology, and I’m honestly so angry/upset/stressed that I have to wait another year to find out what happens to our beloved cast of characters. Six Crimson Cranes follows Shiori, the only princess in a place where magic is forbidden — which would be fine, except for the fact that magic flows through her veins. The morning of her engagement ceremony, however, her carefully concealed gift is made known, setting the following events into motion: postponing the wedding she never wanted and catching the attention of her stepmother Raikama. With secrets and dark magic of her own, Raikama places a curse on Shiori, and her brothers. The curse in question? Shiori has a wooden bowl over her head at all times, and all six of her brothers are turned into cranes. And for every sound Shiori makes, one of her brothers will die. Determined to fix things, Shiori sets off on a journey to reunite with her brothers and to find a way to break the curse. In the process, she realizes that she’ll need help from the suitor she left behind at the altar, and that things are never quite what they seem.

There was so much to love about Six Crimson Cranes. The premise, the characters, the worldbuilding, the pacing, the yearning, the dynamics between all characters  — Six Crimson Cranes is truly one of a kind.

Six Crimson Cranes draws from The Wild Swans and East Asian folklore, and while I’m not super familiar with The Wild Swans, I could definitely see the influences from East Asian folklore — most namely, Chang’e. The tale of Chang’e is one of my favorites, and I’m always on the lookout for any and all stories that reference Chang’e.  I’ll also say that parts of Six Crimson Cranes reminded me of The Little Mermaid, which I found to be a nice surprise.  

Almost immediately, I felt for Shiori. I found myself rooting for her completely. There was so much riding on her shoulders, and I wanted to give her a hug so badly. Shiori is so strong, intelligent, compassionate, and at times, too trusting, and a character that I just found really relatable. I loved watching her grow throughout the book — not just as a character, but also honing her magic skills. 

Six Crimson Cranes is gifted with a dynamic cast of characters. I loved how distinct each brother was from one another. As an only child, I’ve always got a soft spot for books with familial relationships, and it was incredibly evident how deeply they all cared for one another. Hasho was definitely my favorite out of all of Shiori’s brothers, but I enjoyed them all, and am excited to read more about them in the sequel. Kiri, Shiori’s magical crane, had such an unique voice as well — you could really tell how much Shiori and Kiri cared for one another, and how deep their bond was. I also loved Takkan; Shiori’s betrothed, who has a heart of gold, and gives off strong Disney prince energy. I found that Shiori and Takkan had a similar dynamic to Maia and Eden in The Blood of Stars in that they’re both linked by the red string of fate — one of my favorite tropes. More importantly, their chemistry, their yearning and pining had me really excited to see how they develop more in the second book.

Lim’s worldbuilding is spectacular, and I loved that Six Crimson Cranes takes place in the same world as The Blood of Stars. I found her lyrical prose to be beautifully written, and I could easily picture all the events that unfolded in Six Crimson Cranes. 
With dragons, curses, quests, princesses, and yearning, how could I not recommend Six Crimson Cranes to everyone I know? In other words, I am already apologizing to everyone I know for how much I’ll be talking about this one in the days to come — and how often I’ll bring up that we still have a year until the sequel is released.

Links for Six Crimson Cranes: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | IndieBound

Elizabeth Lim is the author of the critically-acclaimed and bestselling The Blood of Stars duology (Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk), the New York Times bestseller So This is Loveand the USA Today bestseller Reflection. Forthcoming books include the Six Crimson Cranes duology, expected summer 2021 and summer 2022, respectively. 

Elizabeth grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English. 

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and she turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel—for kicks, at first, then things became serious—and she hasn’t looked back since.

Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies, and she completed her graduate degrees (MM, DMA) at The Juilliard School. She grew up in Northern California and Tokyo, Japan, and now resides in New York with her husband and two daughters.

Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, and are represented by Gina Maccoby of the Gina Maccoby Literary Agency

Follow Elizabeth: Website | Instagram | Twitter

Have you picked up Six Crimson Cranes yet? Are you going to? Let me know in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “ARC Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

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