Six Crimson Cranes follows Shiori’anma (shortened to Shiori), the only princess of Kiata and her six brothers. Shiori is betrothed to a lord’s son – someone who she never wanted to marry. She has bigger dreams and wants control of her own life, her own destiny, and to keep her secret. See, Kiata is a land eradicated of magic, except that is untrue. Shiori has magic. She has brought a paper crane to life, whose name is Kiki, and who has become her closest friend. But Shiori is not the only one with magic. Her stepmother, Raikama, also has magic.
Shiori makes the mistake of catching her stepmother’s eye, and Shiori threatens to reveal Raikama’s magic to the emperor. Raikama punishes Shiori by banishing her across the continent and turning her brothers into six cranes. Shiori has nothing, except for Kiki and a bowl on her head preventing her from being recognized. Additionally, she cannot utter a sound or one of her brothers will die – one for every word she speaks or every noise she makes.
Shiori is determined to find her brothers, break her stepmother’s spell and return to her rightful place as the princess of Kiata, but that sounds easier said than done. She does not know how to begin, how to break the curse, and where to find her brothers. Through her adventures, she also uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne, which spurs her on to break her curse even quicker. Shiori must learn to not only trust herself and her magic, but embrace wisdom from her magical paper crane, a dragon who may or may not be a friend, and the boy she fought hard to not marry. Only then can she save her kingdom.
How can you go wrong when you meet a dragon on page one? Six Crimson Cranes is another captivating tale from one of my favorite authors! Elizabeth Lim is such a masterful storyteller that weaves beautiful detailing into each of her stories, you immediately are swept away into her fantasy worlds. Her writing style is extremely reminiscent of classic fairytales, with whimsical qualities that do not get bogged down in explaining away the magic of the world she creates.
Our main character, Shiori, is a fierce protagonist that grows from a pampered princess with very little practical skills, to a determined woman willing to risk everything to save her kingdom. Throughout the book she has a hard time staying out of trouble, but it only continues to shape her resilience. She is extremely resourceful and able to figure things out on her own, making her an admirable heroine.
Complex relationships are a recurring theme throughout Six Crimson Cranes. While Shiori respects her father and her brothers immensely, she does not want to marry her betrothed and her actions are borderline defiant. Shiori also lost her mother when she was young, and she misses her fiercely – leading to a complicated relationship with her stepmother. While their relationship was once loving, it evolves to a less healthy one the more Shiori’s magic bubbles to the surface. Throughout the book, Shiori grapples with a love/hate relationship with Raikama. Shiori also struggles to reconcile her relationship with her betrothed. While it is easy to hate someone from afar it is not so easy once you know them.
While it is not required to read her previous duology, The Blood of Stars (which contains Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk), Six Crimson Cranes is set in the same world. However, Six Crimson Cranes takes place on a separate landmass and several centuries before The Blood of Stars duology. Even though they are separate in location and timeframe, some familiar characters appear in Six Crimson Cranes which makes for fun easter eggs for the reader to engage with while reading.
Six Crimson Cranes is a must-read for those who loved The Blood of Stars series. There are a lot of similarities in not only storytelling but in character personalities, romance, and overall aesthetic. It is absolutely delightful continuation of Elizabeth’s world.