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Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Review copy provided by the publisher.

One of the things that I feel like adult readers and particularly adult reviewers have to be careful of in reviewing books in MG and YA categories is remembering that young readers will be encountering tropes for the first time that are old hat to many adults, so the amount that one should “ding” a book for having them is quite different. And in this case I was very glad that I stuck around, because basically everything that made me say “oh this again” or “this is going to hit all these beats, is it” was expanded, undermined, or unraveled in the middle of the book.

This is a six swan brothers story, told by someone who wants her own Asian cultural heritage to inform and inflect her work. Which is, okay, pretty cool to start with. But then it’s got other things stirred into the mix–other fairy tales, from other places, and which of them you spot will depend on which kind of fairy tale nerd you are, who’s been telling you stories, whose stories you’ve gotten to hear. And it’s got…oh, some questions about the fairy tale villains, the shape of their villainy, and some interesting answers.

And the ending…this is a first-book ending. This is not a stand-alone ending. These characters, with their politics and their families and their crafting and their demands, have miles to go before they sleep. Don’t let the very genre-central beats of the first few chapters deter you from going with them.

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