Elizabeth Lim’s Six Crimson Cranes duology comes to a close with a fairytale ending fitting for its rambunctious heroine. The story gets even bigger and better in The Dragon’s Promise as we follow Princess Shiori attempting to fulfill her stepmother’s wish. There was a lot more action in this book, and while both are amazing, I found myself enjoying the sequel a smidge more.
Shiori ventures with Seryu to the dragon kingdom beneath the water. She plans to fulfill her promise and present the lost pearl to the dragon king but refuses to give it to anyone besides its rightful owner. This decision does not sit well with the dragons, and Shiori must find a way to escape back to the surface world. Set on a dangerous journey with an uncontrollable magic pearl, Shiori will stop at nothing until it’s returned to its original owner. As she takes up this task, the mountains grow restless with demons, and they demand Shiori’s blood to set them free. The pressure only rises as the kingdom becomes fearful of Shiori’s abilities. Joined by her magical paper crane Kiki, her six brothers, and her betrothed, Shiori alone can save the kingdom from impending chaos.
Of all the recent books hailed as great retellings or modern fairytales, The Dragon’s Promise actually delivers. Again, Lim’s storytelling wins the day and takes us on a glorious adventure in which Shiori is up against tricky dragons, uncontrollable magic, and powerful demons. The cadence feels fairytale-esque to me with Shiori being presented with several trials in quick succession that require her to make choices with little to no reflection. Shiori does not spend time agonizing over her decisions or the resulting consequences. The decision simply catapults Shiori to the next hurdle until her fate plays out. She stumbles and learns alongside a magical cast of characters without getting bogged down by deep emotions. While she does establish great connections with other characters, these are simply window dressings to Shiori’s tale.
The second book does a fantastic job exploring Shiori’s relationship with her stepmother, Raikama. Raikama’s past seemed insignificant at first, but I love that it plays a role in The Dragon’s Promise and how intricately it becomes tied to Shiori’s fate. Shiori sets out on another adventure, but Raikama’s story becomes even more intertwined with her own. This gives us a bigger look into Raikama’s past and the complexities of their relationship. Lim provides us with more opportunities to understand each character and why they made certain choices. Book one explores this a little bit, but now we get a much better picture of Raikama and the meaningful role she plays as the only mother Shiori has ever known.
Even after her many trials, one thing that has not changed is Shiori’s impulsive nature and it continues to incite chaos on her adventure. Having been tolerated and lightly admonished for her behavior in the past, Shiori now finds herself in a delicate situation. Her abilities and compulsive nature are now seen as dangerous, and here is where Lim begins to parallel Shiori’s plight with the demons locked away under the mountain. People fear the demons for their chaos and evil nature, and they start to become fearful of Shiori for similar reasons. She becomes even more misunderstood by the royal court and her subjects no matter how pure her intentions. Lim plays with the assumptions people hold and how black and white their perception of good and evil can be. As Shiori becomes confronted with the demon’s plight, her own experiences begin to reflect their struggles and the lines between right and wrong blur.
The Dragon’s Promise was a perfect conclusion. The book was able to expand on the world and characters in a meaningful way while also wrapping up the story. Lim’s whimsical storytelling is present in both books, yet each one has a unique tone and identity that supports the different parts of Shiori’s journey. Gorgeous covers aside, this duology is definitely deserving of a spot on your shelf.
Rating: The Dragon’s Promise – 8.5/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.