Elizabeth Lim is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Not only do her books feature the most beautiful cover art I’ve ever seen (courtesy of talented artist Tran Nguyen), but her storytelling is delicately woven with such care that it’s too precious to describe. I really enjoyed her book, Spin the Dawn, and need to finish the duology. But I couldn’t stop the urge to pick up Six Crimson Cranes and I find myself yet again in awe of Lim’s storytelling.
Shiori is a princess of Kiata and has been promised to marry a northern warlord. As the doors open to her wedding ceremony, Shiori flees to conceal her magic, ruining the alliance and ultimately shaming both families. Now confined to the palace as punishment, Shiori believes her abilities remain a secret, but her mysterious stepmother Raikama sees all. Unfortunately, Shiori’s curiosity leads her to discover a secret about Raikama as well, and it seals a terrible fate for her family. Her six brothers are turned into cranes, and Shiori is cursed with anonymity. A magical bowl expands over her head, hiding her face from the world and stifling her magic. And if she were to ever speak a word to anyone, one of her brothers would die. Shiori is nameless and far from home, but she’s determined to carve a path back to Raikama to save her family.
Lim’s writing style is simple yet breathtakingly intricate. Her love of fairy tales shines through her work, capturing its whimsical storytelling and easy reading cadence that gives the reader just enough detail. Six Crimson Cranes is complex but approachable in a way that all fairy tales are. This style allows Lim to weave in magic and myth without having to explain too much. Take Cinderella for instance. We don’t know how her fairy godmother can turn a pumpkin into a boujee carriage. But that information isn’t exactly crucial to the plot now, is it? The lack of rules in Six Crimson Cranes reinforced the whimsical nature of the magic, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the story and buy into the plot.
Shiori is endearing as a pampered princess, but I’m glad for the development that occurs outside the castle walls. I enjoyed seeing her grow and adapt to the world when her name and title held no sway. Her brothers are numerous and have unique personalities. Yet, as crucial as they are to Shiori’s tale, we don’t learn much about them. Instead, other more surprising characters are brought to the forefront to help tell this story including a magical paper bird, a mischievous dragon, and Shiori’s former betrothed. The cast is large, but our exploration into each character varies a lot. Many are there simply to pull the plot along, but this works in Lim’s storytelling style. The characters that matter are built up to varying degrees as well, but the depth was always satisfying enough.
One element I’m fond of in Lim’s stories is the legends that are incorporated. Lim’s inspiration for these comes from her favorite Chinese and Japanese stories. These stories within the story bring so much color and vibrancy to the world that is shared by both Six Crimson Cranes and The Blood of Stars series. The legends shape a beautiful culture and breathe life into the story. Although the book is heavier on the plot side, these insights into the myths and legends do a lot to build out a better understanding of the world.
I would recommend Six Crimson Cranes based on the ending alone, but you’re guaranteed a beautiful story from the very start. It’s so easy to get swept up in Lim’s writing, and Shiori’s story has many twists and turns to keep you engaged. I’ve got some time on my hands before the sequel and I’m itching to get back to this world. Shiori’s got her hands full, so I think it’s time I check back in with Maia and finish The Blood of Stars series.
Rating: Six Crimson Cranes – 8.0/10