I recently finished reading Elizabeth Lim‘s most recent book release, Six Crimson Cranes. I’ve previously read the first book in her The Blood of Stars duology, Spin the Dawn, and I quite enjoyed parts of it. This newer story shows Lim’s growth as an author and I really enjoyed it.

UK Cover art by Kelly Chong of Afterblossom Art

Author Elizabeth Lim likes to take classic European fairy tales and mix them together with classic Asian folklore. In her earlier novel, Spin the Dawn, she mixed and matched a number of different tales. In Six Crimson Cranes, she has chosen instead to retell a single European fairy tale in an Asian fantasy setting. The result is as if the same ancient event were being told through the eyes of different people. The story is very clearly based on the Grimm fairy tale The Six Swans but feels entirely at home in the Asian setting. Details are changed here and there, and elements of Asian folklore are added in to make for a richer and more complete storytelling.

The Story

The story of Six Crimson Cranes is set in the same fantasy world as Lim’s previous duology. The stories are not currently connected but who knows what might come in future books. This story tells the tale of Princess Shiori and her six brother princes. They live happy lives together until one day they fall under the curse of their mysterious Stepmother. The brothers are cursed to live as red-capped cranes during the day, returning to their human form at night. Shiori is cursed to never be recognized for who she is while also never being able to speak out loud. For every word that she speaks, her stepmother’s curse will kill one of Shiori’s brothers. The young princess doesn’t know if that part of the curse is true or not but, loving her brothers dearly, she dares not to risk it. Separated from her brothers, Shiori must find a way to break the curse and hopefully stop the war that has begun from destroying her country.

While the basic story was familiar to me, I found Lim’s retelling to be unique and interesting. Unlike Spin the Dawn, which I felt started strong but fizzled in the second half, I found the story of Six Crimson Cranes to gain momentum. If anything, this book was stronger in it’s second half. I also found that the love story in this book was much more to my taste than the one in Spin the Dawn. I actively rooted for the young couple’s love. There is a different character introduced early on who I thought might have been the love interest for Shiori and I was glad to be proven wrong. If he had been the love interest it would have felt too much as if Lim were copying her previous story. Happily she headed off in a completely different direction and I think the story is much better for it. The addition of dragons and demons to the basic European fairy tale roots cause this story to blossom into something so much more exciting than the basic Grimm tale. There is also a sort of twist to the tale which I didn’t initially expect. Reading comments from the author, she tried to go deeper into the motivations of various characters from the original story and it really shows.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading Six Crimson Cranes. While it did take me a little while to get into it at first, by the time Shiori and her brothers were cursed I was hooked. This book, like Lim’s first book Spin the Dawn, is part of a duology of books. Unlike Spin the Dawn however, this story feels like a complete tale with a related sequel to come. Spin the Dawn was less stand alone and more the first half of a story. Unfortunately with Spin the Dawn, the second half of the story sort of lost me so I didn’t feel compelled to continue on with the second book. I have heard good things about it though, so maybe it will work better for other readers.

With Six Crimson Crane’s more complete story I don’t feel as if I am missing anything if I don’t read the next book. However, with the more enjoyable storytelling of this novel I am far more interested in continuing with the characters to see what they do next. I very much look forward to the release of the second book which is expected out sometime in 2022.

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By Amanda