Read or Die

Review of Elizabeth Lim’s SIX CRIMSON CRANES

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Everyone knows “The [insert number here] Swans” is one of all-time favorite fairy tales. Gruesome, naturally, but also one where the power resides in the female character’s hands. The action speaks of female strength and endurance, as well, typically in the face of abuse (whether physical, emotional, or both). And who does the rescuing? Oh, right, the WOMAN.

Oddly enough, not many writers choose to take it on for interpretation. They prefer the “damsel in distress” motif.

Ms. Lim embraced the tale and added a unique twist that cast the story in a new light. One I never expected when I started the book. (I’m still trying to decide whether that’s a good thing or due to a lack of proper foreshadowing) Shiori breaks the mold of the typical cursed princess, stepping forward as a force of nature. The curse itself – and its subsequent cure – take a backseat to the original peril of the fairy tale, which I found disappointing, but the addition Ms. Lim worked into the spell helped soften the weakness. Shiori’s suffering is more internal than external, and it works – at least on a YA level. Shiori’s “journey” came off as suspiciously easy, for my taste.

Unfortunately, the breaking of the curse – while spectacular and full of the emotional drama a fan of the fairy tale might expect – comes up short. Explanations contradict one another, leaving more questions than answers (answers Ms. Lim chose to omit). The confusion takes away the power the scene demands and ends up weakening Shiori’s character, as a result. The reader’s left questioning the parameters of the curse and what was needed to end the torment. Never a good thing when you’re working in a world of magic.

The writing, itself, is beautiful, and the concept intriguing. I have higher hopes for the sequel.

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