A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The author reimagines the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Wild Swans" and adds elements of Chinese dragon folklore and Chinese and Japanese stories and legends including the Madame White Snake myth, the myth of Chang E the Moon Goddess, the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, and the Girl with the Black Bowl. Readers can look up the original tales if they are unfamiliar with them and see what elements of each the author uses in this story.
The love of family, bravery, hard work, and sacrifice all help overcome obstacles.
Positive Role Models
Shiori has to lose her identity to find her inner strength and discover how she's hurt someone and make amends. She will sacrifice anything to save her brothers and goes through many trials to help them. While the kingdoms depicted are imaginary, the story draws from many East Asian myths and all the characters are Asian. Like in Hans Christian Anderson's "The Wild Swans," the princess, not her six prince brothers, is the hero of the story.
Violence & Scariness
Someone is nearly burned at the stake, another takes an arrow to the neck, a soldier is run through with a sword, and another soldier is poisoned. Details about closing a very bloody wound with stitches. The main character nearly drowns, is regularly harassed and hit, gets pierced with needles, attacked by wolves, and thrown in jail. A person close to the main character dies, with talk of the death of her mother when she was very young and her mourning.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults are served plum wine. Wine is given as sacrifice to gods.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim (The Blood of Stars duology), is a compelling fantasy based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Cranes" with elements of Chinese and Japanese folklore and myths mixed in. The main character is a cursed princess named Shiori who will sacrifice anything to save her brothers. While under her curse she's regularly harassed and hit, gets pierced with needles, attacked by wolves, and thrown in jail. She's surrounded by some violence and death. Someone's nearly burned at the stake, another takes an arrow to the neck, a soldier is run through with a sword, and another soldier is poisoned. A person close to Shiori dies, and there's much talk of the loss of her mother when she was young. There's some mild romance and talk of kissing, and adults drink some plum wine. Shiori is the kind of female hero that commands attention, even though through most of Six Crimson Cranes she's not permitted to speak a word aloud. She will sacrifice anything for her family and goes through many trials to save them. She works hard to make amends when she realizes she's hurt someone.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of myths, folktales, dragons, and magic will fall for this East Asian-inspired fantasy and its strong-willed princess, Shiori. It's clear that author Elizabeth Lim is passionate about all the stories she weaves together in Six Crimson Cranes, from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans" to the myth of Chang E the Moon Goddess. It doesn't seem odd that prince-cranes are fleeing dragons or a princess with a bowl on her head has a snake for a stepmother. Everything seems possible and wondrously impossible at once.
This wondrously impossible story wouldn't work without a hero like Princess Shiori. For most of the book she can't speak a word and can't use her magic and can't take that darn bowl off her head. She endures a hero's trials alone and scorned, and she eventually finds aid in an unlikely place: the betrothed she once rejected. The romance is slow to build and a surprise to Shiori, who only has her brothers' safety on her mind. It's refreshing in a story like this that the female hero's goal doesn't become the romance; it's just a sweet side adventure. The end of Six Crimson Cranes reveals more adventures to come for Princess Shiori. Let's hope they are just as wild and wondrous.
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