Monday, June 28, 2021

Review: SIX CRIMSON CRANES by Elizabeth Lim


Rating: 2/5 stars

Shiori is the only princess of Kiata, but she doesn’t want to do what’s expected of her. One day she dives into the Sacred Lake and meets a dragon, who turns out to be a boy able to transform into a dragon. He tells Shiori that she has the rare ability to wield magic and he promises to teach her how to use it. Shiori uses her magic to enchant a paper crane to make it fly by itself, who she names Kiki. One day she discovers her stepmother, Raikama, is a powerful sorceress. She changes Shiori’s six brothers into cranes and curses Shiori so that with every sound that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

I didn’t really like how both Zairena and Raikama were written as being irredeemably bad. People are not all good or all bad, and their being written that way made them both feel very flat to me. I also got all six of Shiori’s brothers mixed up because there are really no distinguishing factors between them all. One is a little nicer than the others and one is a little meaner than the others, but there’s not much characterization beyond that. Shiori herself was fine, but honestly, none of the characters stood out to me, and I truly just didn’t care about anyone. I did, however, like Shiori and Takkan’s relationship. I liked Takkan the best of all the characters in the book. 

Six Crimson Cranes has a similar feel to Spin the Dawn. It could just be Elizabeth Lim’s writing style, although these two series do take place in the same world. (If you look at both books’ maps though, it’s a little confusing because the maps have some of the same places but not in the same locations.) There are quite a few similarities between the two books, especially in the beginning. For example, Shiori enchants a needle to sew for her, which is uncannily similar to Maia’s enchanted embroidery scissors in Spin the Dawn, and both books even have a walnut with magical properties that can hold items inside it. Also, both books are fairytales. I don’t know if all these crossovers were intentional or not, but it was kind of weird. I almost felt like I was reading the same book, as Shiori and Maia are very similar protagonists and there were lots of references to the Blood of Stars in both books, but I know this is a completely different story.

This book reads rather young to me. I don’t know what it is but I’ve been feeling this way about every young adult book I’ve been reading lately: they all feel like they’re so simply written with a clear good and a clear bad with predictable twists and common plot beats and a protagonist who is special unlike anyone else. I don’t know if this is just the specific books I’m reading or if this is the generic structure for young adult novels, but I’m seeing the pattern repeated over and over. It keeps happening to me and I really am tired of it because I feel like I’m constantly reading the same book that I just read, with just a few differences to the setting and magic. It makes for a lackluster reading experience, unfortunately. 

I wish I could say this book brought something fresh and new to the genre, but it really didn’t. Even though the plot is different from her previous duology and the setting and characters are new, I felt like I was reading Spin the Dawn again. There are so many similarities in writing style and story beats but also in random details throughout the narrative that I couldn’t stop comparing the two novels during my entire time reading Six Crimson Cranes

I liked the Asian influences on the story and I’m always interested in reading more stories with Asian cultures and settings, but that wasn’t enough to make this novel feel new and fresh to me, especially with the huge amount of telling instead of showing. So many scenes were quickly glossed over because there was no depth given to the narrative, which I didn’t enjoy. 

For how much I liked Lim’s Spin the Dawn, I’m really disappointed I didn’t like Six Crimson Cranes better. It’s not that this book was bad, but I just didn’t care about the story whatsoever. I didn’t like the first 30% or the last 20% of the book, but I did enjoy the middle 50% to some extent, mostly because of Takkan. I think this book would be good for teens on the younger side, especially those interested in Asian culture and folklore, or for anyone looking for a quick and easy read that also feels familiar and fun. I also think fans of Spin the Dawn would enjoy this book if they liked Lim’s fairytale-esque writing style.

This book feels pretty forgettable to me and I was glad to be finished once I finally read the last page. I currently don’t have any desire to find out what happens next as it’s pretty easy to guess where the story will go from here, so unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel to Six Crimson Cranes, but I encourage you to check out the series if it sounds like something you’ll enjoy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it turns out it’s just not quite my type of novel. 

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