Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1
Published by Knopf (7.6.2021)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook, 454 pages
Length: 12 hours, 54 minutes
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
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.
Upon finishing this book, my first thought was: Thank god, it’s finally over.
This book was exhausting. I really should have DNFed it and I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess because the concept was cool and the ratings were so high, that I kept hoping it would get better? I am saltier than the entire fucking ocean right now. The ratings for this book on Goodreads are insane. Only three percent of them are below 3 stars. What the actual fuck? Did I read a different book than everyone else did?! Sometimes I feel like I am just not meant to enjoy the same books as everyone else, lol. Almost every single super hyped book ends up not working for me. By the time I realized that it wasn’t getting any better and I didn’t want to continue, I was more than 60% through and at that point I was like, welp, I’m this far in, may as well finish the damn thing.
It didn’t get any better.
This is the second Lim book that has lured me in with a pretty cover and utterly let me down. I DNFed Spin the Dawn for the same reasons that I hated this. The concept was really cool, but the execution did not work for me. I did love the idea of the curse that turned Shiori’s brothers into cranes and took away her voice and identity. A main character that can’t speak isn’t something you read very often (which would have been a lot cooler if it had actually impeded her at all). And a main character with a face that can’t be seen because she has a bowl on her head is interesting, if not a little weird – in a way that pushes into ridiculous – but okay. It’s unique I guess, and suspension of belief is required for a lot in this book.
However, everything else? Dull. Boring. Bland. Juvenile. I hated the writing style, it’s so ungodly dull and sophomoric that I was yawning constantly while listening. It probably didn’t help that it’s narrated by Emily Woo Zeller (one of my least favorite narrators), whose narration is boring at best and veers into annoying at times. A few of her voices in this book made me physically cringe. I felt exactly nothing (except maybe insufferable boredom) while reading this book. This was my face pretty much the whole time I was listening:
When I didn’t look like that, I was either cringing or rolling my eyes. I didn’t smile one single time. There’s humor, certainly, but I found it to be juvenile and nerve grating. The dialogue was also juvenile. This book felt more way more like Middle Grade than YA.
I even felt nothing at the end, with a very long (overly drawn out, imo) goodbye/death scene that I suppose was intended to be poignant and emotional and I did not bat a single eyelash. View Spoiler » And that scene did absolutely fucking nothing to my emotions. In fact, after it was over I was just like –
The only character that had any real personality was Shiori. It’s like Lim put all her effort into making Shiori headstrong and contrary (she was also immature AF and kinda dumb, but not sure if that was intentional or if it’s simply a byproduct of the shitty sophomoric writing) that she forgot about her other characters, who felt like cardboard cutouts. The love interest had the personality of a wet rag, which made for zero chemistry and a romance that fell entirely flat. Every single one of Shiori’s six brothers blurred together in my mind. The only one that remotely stood out was Hasho (I may be spelling that wrong), and that’s just because he’s the one Shiori had the most interaction with.
The only other thing I liked about this book besides the premise is the character reversal at the end – View Spoiler » That was a nice surprise, but by then I was so jaded toward this book that I didn’t even care. Oh, wait! I forgot about the dragon. (How do I, a dragon lover, forget about a dragon?!) I liked that the dragon turned into a boy because it reminded me of Haku from Spirited Away (which I adore), but sadly he had zero personality either. Womp womp. I should have loved Kiki, the paper bird that Shiori brought to life (also giving Spirited Away vibes here), because I love any kind of sentient animal(ish) sidekick. But mostly I just found her annoying – which may also have been Zeller’s obnoxiously high pitched narration for her.
I mentioned above that this book requires suspension of belief. There were many things that were illogical, or too convenient, and the writing is quite frankly lazy. Kiki can mindspeak, so of course she can relay things for Shiori, and the dragon could also mindspeak with Shiori. She’s also somehow able to convey in depth things by mouthing full sentences and gesturing, I guess? Sorry but who can understand when people mouth things unless it’s just a word or two and over-exaggerated?! And again like I mentioned above, Shiori can’t speak (if she does a brother will die for every word uttered); but it was never really an impediment for her. There were only a few times where she couldn’t convey something important because of that. The way the curse was broken was abrupt, nonsensical, and ridiculous.
I was firm in my decision to never touch another Lim book again, up until the very end when it was revealed that Shiori is going to the dragon underworld. Well shiiit, now I might have to try because there will be lots of dragons. I DO NOT WANT TO GET TRICKED AGAIN, DAMMIT. I also do not want to deal with the inevitable love triangle that I see coming in the next book.
Writing style: 0.5/5
Overall rating: 1/5