Knopf Books | 6 July 2021 | 464 pgs
Kiata has long been forbidden of magic. Shiori, the only Princess of Kiata, however has the capability of making paper birds come alive or making things bloom and while her acts are considered harmless, she keeps her skills a secret until the day of her betrothal ceremony. When her forestalling the wedding goes wrong and her magic catches the attention of her stepmother, Raikama; the latter is quick to take actions of her own.
Now Raikama, who's also known as the Nameless Queen (because no one knows her real name), has some dark magic herself and to prevent Shiori from talking about her hidden capabilities after a chance event, she turns Shiori's six older brothers into cranes and that Shiori could never talk to anyone about them. For any word she utters, one of them would die and on top of that, no one would be able to recognise Shiori because her head is covered with a bowl, therefore concealing her eyes and it could never be removed under Raikama's curse.
Leaving with no choice, Shiori is forced to work in a village's inn as a kitchen helper as she tries to find ways to search for her brothers. While the chances are slim, her hope arrives when she meets a kind soldier who would inadvertently change her fate. While Shiori continues to face the challenge of not speaking while searching for her brothers, she discovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne.
This was an enthralling read with reminiscent of The Wild Swans, The Six Swans and a Chinese mythology of The Lady of the Moon (only vaguely referred to). The author has successfully entranced the reader through her captivating worldbuilding that consists of a shape-shifting dragon called Seryu and a talking paper bird called Kiki; who both play a significant role to the story. The characters are well-portrayed and Shiori was a feisty heroine who has a strong bond and loyalty to her family. Her banter with Seryu and her interactions with Kiki often brought a smile to my face; and even the romance moments were heartwarming as well. The only complaint I had was, there are some parts which made me feel I was missing something as they're not fully elaborated, hopefully there'll be a clearer explanation in the next book, The Dragon's Promise. Finally, I want to thank Lark for reading this book with me (please check out her review here). Buddy read always double the reading pleasure and makes the journey even more fun! Below are her questions to me regarding this book:
Were you familiar with the Brothers Grimm story The Six Swans before reading this book? And did you have a favorite fairy tale growing up? If so, which one and what did you love about it?
I'm ashamed to say I haven't read all of Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and The Six Swans is one of them. While I've lots of favourite fairy tales, the one which stands out amongst the rest is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It was such a beautiful story even though it has a sad and a melancholy ending. I loved it that the little mermaid was courageous to sacrifice oneself for the sake of love; and that even though she was given a chance to become a mermaid again, she chose not to kill the prince out of love and selflessness. I've read the book and even watched the animated film countless times but have never gotten tired of it. I hope I'd get the chance to watch the musical one day.
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