Six Crimson Cranes: a richly-imagined, dizzying fairytale

We all know the tale of Cinderella and her evil stepmother: their relationship is fraught and full of tension. Princess Shiori of Kiata in Six Crimson Cranes, too, has an evil stepmother—but that’s where the similarities end.  

On the day of her wedding ceremony to a boy she’s never met, Shiori’s magical powers are discovered by her stepmother. Raikama has magical powers too, but hers are dark and evil. But before Shiori can warn her father of his wife’s powers, Raikama transforms Shiori’s brothers into cranes and banishes Shiori to the edges of the kindgom, cursed. Shiori’s curse is that she can’t speak a single word; if she does, one of her brothers will die for each word she speaks.  

Cast away from everyone she knows, except the magical paper crane she first breathed life into, Shiori travels the edges of the kingdom, trying to break the curse. She stumbles upon her fiance, a boy she initially rejected, only to realise the error of her ways, as she grows and blossoms – all without saying a word. 

Lush and lyrical, Six Crimson Cranes reads like many popular fairytales, filled with an evil stepmother, magic, love, and curses. But the story is made even more rich with Asian-inspired imagery, a story that is full of deceptive dragons, grumpy gods, and wicked witches.  

Shiori is a heroine that you can’t help but root for. She starts off being spoiled and ignorant, but as she travels through Kiata, meeting the people of her kingdom, she learns and matures.  

The world that Lim has created is fantastical and whimsical; it was a world that I didn’t want to leave as I was swept into the tumultuous but fascinating landscape of Kiata. Even more imaginative were the characters and the relationships between them. Shiori’s brothers are forbidding and bossy when she’s a princess and they are young men, but when they become cranes and she a girl who cannot speak, their relationship changes. It was heart-warming to watch how they communicated and expressed their love for one another. 

 I am a sucker for second-chance romances, and Lim does not fail to deliver! Shiori has never met her fiance, and as a result, has lots of preconceived notions about him. Part of her maturation is realising how quickly she judged him before ever knowing him, and watching their relationship flower and bloom. 

Six Crimson Cranes was a beautifully written story that rose to a crescendo with multiple revelations that were surprising and delightful. The resolution with Shiori and her stepmother left me in tears, and it was probably my favourite part of the entire book.  

The sequel The Dragon’s Promise comes out August 30th, and you can bet I’ve placed a hold on a copy already.  

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