Author: Elizabeth Lim
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Audiobook Length: 12 hours 54 minutes
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.
Peniless, 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 the first novel in a duology based on The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Anderson. Although I have not read the original tale, I do have a vague recollection of the plot. This story was difficult to put down as it kept me interested from start to finish. I loved how there were elements of Asian traditions, mythology, and storytelling weaved throughout. The story is full of amazing themes, such as family and self-discovery, and I loved every minute of this tale. I really hope that the next novel keeps up this same feeling and turns out to be a satisfying duology.
Shiori’anma (Shiori) is the youngest and only daughter of the Emperor of Kiata. She has six older brothers, who all have a wide range of personalities. I automatically loved how brothers were different from the other as it helped to keep them from blending. I am only one of four so I cannot imagine having seven, but I still related to the sibling dynamics. She possesses magic, which is forbidden in the kingdom. During her betrothal ceremony from an arranged marriage that Shiori did not want to Lord Bushian’s son, Takkan, from a neighboring kingdom in the north, she accidentially reveals her magic. Her stepmother, Raikama, is a dark sorceress, finds out and turns the six brothers into cranes with crimson crowns. She puts a curse on Shiori to prevent her from using her magic and informs her that there are dire consequences if she speaks. Shiori is sent away where she is now unknown in the world. She works to try to find her brothers and find a way to make everything right again.
Shiori is a headstrong character that is clever and determined to do what she wants and not let others dictate her actions. She is very devoted to her family and wants to fix the curses that were put upon her and her siblings. She starts the story acting before thinking in many situations, but slowly she begins to see that she should analyze a situation before immediately acting. From the time Shiori is first sent away, she meets her brothers a few times, but there are many obstacles to try to keep them apart and each are dealing with their own curses. Since nothing is straightforward, there is still a lot to be done before they can all be happily together again. Another character that Shiori comes across is Takkan when the two of them unexpectedly meet. The two of them get to know the other and begin to develop a connection. With many dangers around every corner, the two of them getting to know the other is not that simple. There is also the added tension as Shiori cannot speak and cannot reveal her true identity.
There were times where this story felt slow as there is a lot of time spent with Shiori and Takkan (and his family) at his palace. It is nice to get to know the characters and get glimpses into the larger plot, but it did make me curious what the second novel will hold. At times, it seems that the two novels could have been potentially combined to create a standalone. The story, though, is still very captivating as it is full of multiple plot twists and intriguing characters. I do wish there was a little more in terms of world building. The environment is described a little throughout the novel, but I just wanted more to fully picture everything. The same goes for the magic. While it is understandable to have the magic system not fully explained as Shiori is without her magic for most of the novel, I hope that there is a little more exploration in the next novel.
Kiki, a paper crane come to life and Shiori’s friend, was adorable and I loved how she tried her best to look out for Shiori. Another character that I loved was the dragon, Seryu, Prince of the Easterly Seas and favored grandson of the Dragon King, Nazayun. He has a very entertaining personality and I am curious how his character intertwines into the rest of the story. Takkan is an amazing addition and the romance developing between him and Shiori will be interesting to see how it all comes together. I also loved Takkan’s sister, as she was adorable and brought a lot of life to the page. Even the villains of the story were all interesting as their motives are not always, what they seem. They are all complex and I liked how the author revealed bits of their characters little by little. Since the story is told solely from Shiori’s perspective, the reader learns about each character along with her.
Overall, this story is interesting as I thought the main focus would be on the curse. I was expecting a romance, but there is a large portion dedicated for the two characters to get to know the other. I loved this part of the story as I enjoy when characters actually spend time together and their compatibility becomes apparent, but the length of time dedicated to this part of the story was unexpected; however, I did not mind since I enjoy romance aspects of stories. There are some subplots solved by the end of this story and new ones are revealed, so the story was not as straightforward as it initially seemed. I am very curious to see how the next novel turns out as this one was very enjoyable!