Synopsis from Goodreads: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
This is another YA/Fantasy book but also a re-telling of a fairy tale, which is one of my favorite things. Even better, this was a re-telling of a version I wasn’t familiar with. A couple of years ago, I read Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, which is the first in her Sevenwaters historical fantasy series, and is a Celtic re-telling of the Six Swans fairy tale in which a sister must spin and then weave thistles into six shirts to break the curse/enchantment that has turned her six brothers into swans. (Reminder to self that I should probably pick up the other books in this series and actually finish it!) This book revisits that same tale but is set in Japan (or a world with some magic similar to Japan). The brothers in this story are turned into cranes and the sister must weave shirts with a magical dragon-weed plant to form a net to capture the demon who has placed the curse on them.
I absolutely LOVED this book. This author was new to me and I can say with certainty I will be getting her other books. (This one has another one coming soon in the series, plus other books set in the same world but different storylines/characters.) The author writes beautifully, with great pacing, unfolding this story that I thought I knew but with twists and turns that made it uniquely her own. The characters are fantastic, but I’ll admit that I wanted to see more of Seryu – the ending hints that we will see more of him in the next book, but I could have used more of him in this one. The heroine is a lovely mix of spunky and fun, but grows into a more mature version as the book and her personal trials unfold. The descriptive passages of the festivals, towns and areas within this world are beautiful and evocative, and I wanted to go eat sweetened rice cakes while I watched the kite festival. I also appreciated the plot twist at the end (I won’t spoil it with details) but I found myself reaching for some tissues with it!
Giving this a 4/5 overall star rating. This is also book 17/20 in the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge.