Leah’s ARC Review of “The Dragon’s Promise” by Elizabeth Lim

By: Leah

Originally posted on Leah’s Books.

The Dragon’s Promise

  • Author: Elizabeth Lim
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: August 30, 2022
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • Series: Six Crimson Cranes #2

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: imprisonment, violence, blood, mention of death, grief, bullying, mention of self-harm

Plot Summary

Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.

Overall Impression

I seriously loved Six Crimson Cranes and rated it five stars, so I was absolutely thrilled to get my hands on this sequel. However, it didn’t quite live up to the extraordinarily high standards I had left over from book 1. It kind of felt like three separate books mashed into one, and the characters just didn’t quite hit the same emotional notes for me as they did in the first book, with a few exceptions. I have to admit that the cover is gorgeous, along with the UK cover, which is equally beautiful.

The book starts with Shiori about the head into Ai’long, the dragon realm, so that she can return the dragon’s pearl to who it belongs to. Naturally, this is more dangerous than she expects, and thrusts her directly into the dragon court, where there are political maneuverings that she knows nothing about, and teases at a potential love triangle that isn’t quite realized. It also places her goal directly at odds with that of all the dragons, and introduces us to a new character, but unfortunately, he only shows up at convenient times and we never really get to know him well.

Once Shiori escapes back into Kiata, it almost feels like a completely different story begins. Although the book isn’t broken into parts, it almost feels like it should have been, in the interest of continuity, since keeping it all as one section makes everything feel more disjointed. The connection between Shiori and her brothers, as well as Shiori and Takkan were definitely my favorite aspects of the story, since they’re sweet and realistic, and despite the fact that she has 6 brothers, each of them have distinct personalities and serve their own unique role in the family dynamic. 

There’s hints of a religious-ish cult within Kiata, and I honestly would have loved for Lim to delve more deeply into this. It felt like a missed opportunity to further develop the world, although the world-building in this story was really great. I loved the Chinese influence, using the diverse natural environments, customs, dress, religious aspects, superstitions, foods, belief systems, myths, stories, and practices to create a believable world that I had no problem losing myself in. 

The last part of the story takes us to a different area of the world and gives us insight into the background of a character from the first book that we knew very little about. I loved learning more about this character and what made them who they were and the way that they were, and how they connected to the present story. 

Overall, the pace was fast and it was an interesting read. Everything was tied up a bit too neatly for my liking, with certain conflicts resolving magically rather than through realistic solutions, and a lot of the story felt like Shiori didn’t necessarily learn or change much, although she did grow and begin to appreciate more of what she had through her experiences in the first and second books. It carried a bit of a Disneyfied feel to the story, coming across as a bit more on the young side of YA, but as far as fairy tale retellings go, this one was relatively interesting and a feel-good read.

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