I had no idea I needed a historical mystery set in Joseon-era Korea… but I really did. Gosh this book was amazing.
Title: The Silence of Bones
Author: June Hur
Publisher: Fiewel and Friends
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Genres: YA Historical Mystery
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.
June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.
You can read an excerpt of The Silence of Bones here.
- I was so entranced by the setting of this novel—I’ve never read a book set in Joseon era Korea, and it was such an immersive experience. The author does an incredible job of easing you into everything without it feeling overwhelming.
- I’ll talk about the major players in this book more down below, but I loved the minor characters because they all felt three-dimensional with their own goals and motivations.
- The author’s writing is incredible. The prose is fluid and descriptive, bringing the world and her imagery to life. I immediately latched onto it and didn’t want to let go.
There are so many things I want to talk about, but I don’t know where to start! I guess I can start with the plot. The mystery that makes up this novel is so intriguing—a noblewoman is murdered, and no one knows who the culprit is… yet. The clues come one by one, and I really enjoyed seeing Seol, the main character, go over the clues and try to piece everything together. Her logic and thinking process makes so much sense, and it was very easy to relate to. I never felt like I was ahead of Seol in figuring out the mystery, nor did I ever feel left behind. I was right beside her the whole time.
Seol is one of the best written, best developed main characters I’ve read. At first, it’s easy to sympathize with her. She lives in a very patriarchal society, yet she has the opportunity to take part in police business because of certain cultural aspects that bars men from certain duties only women can do. Seol is so curious, and the way she chases after her curiosity is wild and reckless, but also so brave. Her yearning for something better and more in her life had me cheering for her all the way through. Her character development as she continues to find her way in her world and solve this mystery is well done and made my heart warm.
I loved that the heart of this novel is about home and family. Finding home, going back home, being home… it’s such a universal and yet personal theme that I loved exploring through Seol’s eyes. I won’t say more, or else I’ll spoil parts of the story, but I really loved this aspect of the novel so much.
By the time I made it to the end of the book, I was amazed that this is June Hur’s debut. This book is amazing. I was sucked in immediately, and now I just want more. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
“False accusation… I had once been too young to understand this term, but it had stuck to me, and with passing years it had grown in meaning. Hidden truth—injustice, the victim hurting while the criminal went unpunished—a veil of lies and misunderstandings that needed to be torn down. False accusation. Those two words had turned into a sharp bone caught in my throat, digging and piercing, refusing to go down no matter how hard I swallowed.
“The thought that my decisions were of importance filled me with a free-falling sensation, as if I were a bird released from a cage, thrown into a world of endless sky. Yet I couldn’t help fearing that I was being tempted. She’d said so herself: it was dangerous to be different.”
About the Author
JUNE HUR (‘Hur’ as in ‘her’) was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto, and currently works for the public library. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.
Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020.
She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.