Hello, how is it already past mid-April? Where is spring even going? I hope everyone is surviving the pandemic and quarantine in good shape. I recently got to read an eARC of a really fun new book that is outside the normal genres I read, and it was SO GOOD. I am excited to share it with you! So…welcome to my stop on the Fantastic Flying Book Club (FFBC) book tour for The Silence of Bones, by June Hur, a historical mystery set in Korea in the year 1800. Read on for the synopsis, my take on the book (SPOILER-FREE as always), some favorite quotes, and more info about the blog tour! And holy heck, how about that cover?! I think I saw it five times before I noticed the second face.
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.
One of my resolutions this year was to read books with more diverse characters and settings. I also wanted to read more books in the mystery genre as I tend to love a good mystery but get so caught up in reading fantasy and romance that I forget about this genre! So I was really excited to get the opportunity to read this one. I have to say that one of my favorite things about it is the setting! It was such an amazing escape to pick up this book and lose myself in Korea in the year 1800. I know next to nothing about this era in this part of the world, and it was so well described and written by the author. I felt like I was actually there. The culture described is so different from modern American culture; obedience and silence are valued almost above all else, and there are really strict rules keeping men and women separate. In addition, Catholicism has been introduced into Korea, but those practicing it are marginalized and persecuted. It was really interesting to read about this, and I appreciated the additional info at the end of the book about the historical events for those (like me) who don’t know anything about it.
Our main character Seol is an indentured servant, and it was very interesting to read about how that worked as well. She is smart and loyal, as well as intensely curious, all good qualities for a person investigating a murder with high stakes. She is also very careful to maintain her subservience and follow all the rules for indentured servants. This creates a bit of an internal conflict for her as she tries to balance what her role is supposed to be with her near desperate need to solve the murder as well as her own personal mystery (to find out what became of her long-lost brother).
In addition to the setting and characters, I thought the plot was well done. I didn’t see most of the plot twists coming, which is always a good thing, but it all flowed well and at a nice pace. I thought there was a good balance between description and information and action/movement of the story. In fact, my only real complaint is that I wanted to escape into this world for longer. It was all over too quickly! But that is just because it flowed so well that I read it really quickly–nearly in one sitting.
To sum up, this is a solid debut from June Hur, and I am really looking forward to what she writes next. This also confirms for me that I need to read more mysteries and more historical fiction set in Asia. Let me know if you have any recommendations on either front!
“No one’s fate is written in stone, child.”
“Right now, the darkness before us is all that we see, but the bright morning is sure to come.”
“For women were not considered threats to the capital, as men were, when darkness fell.”
“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.”
About the Author: June Hur
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.
Blog Tour Schedule:
Prize: Win a $30 gift card from an indie bookstore (US & Canada Only)
Starts: April 15, 2020
Ends: April 29, 2020
To enter, click here.