A huge thanks to Fierce Reads / Feiwel & Friends for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Content warnings (from author’s own GR review of her book): violence, murder, gore, character death, misogyny, mention and description of animal abuse, mention and description of suicide
I’ve eagerly anticipated this book since I first read the publication announcement on Twitter. I waited a while before sending an email to the publisher, asking for a review copy. I’m incredibly indebted to them for allowing me to read this book early and celebrate it.
Title: The Silence of Bones
Author: June Hur
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Expected release date: April 21, 2020
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, mystery
Length: 336 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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.”
I adore historical fiction, but there aren’t many books that tell stories of POCs or are set in a non-Western place. Already The Silence of Bones set the bar high. I’m half-Korean, so the fact that this book takes place in my motherland really endears me to it, like small pieces of myself nestled themselves into someplace warm, familiar, and comfortable.
Seol, the main character, is such a soft, quiet girl. In her position as a damo, she doesn’t have much of a choice. But inside Seol lives a person fierce and loyal. Her spirit may seem squashed by those around her but Seol gathers the good moments in her heart and holds onto them tightly. She’s also clever and if she were anyone but a damo, she would be a true force to be reckoned with. We see her put forth courage and bravery in the face of those superior (in class) to her in order to get to the heart of the investigation. Seol wants to prove herself, especially to Inspector Han.
In the meantime we learn the true reasons why Seol is where she is—she’s looking for her family. I like the way the author slowly unravels Seol’s true past because it’s almost like Seol doesn’t even fully remember or she’s deliberately choosing not to, like her past is hazy or she isn’t willing to admit it. I like the buildup to the exact truth. I made a prediction about Seol and Inspector Han that I was surprised was an accurate prediction, especially since I’m so horrible at guessing things in mystery novels, lol. But it also led to a great deal of sadness and we see Seol process things in a meek and quiet way.
The writing is completely atmospheric and haunting. There isn’t a lot of hustle and bustle, and perhaps this would be different if the sorry were centered around the life of a noblewoman because said noblewoman would be able to do a lot more than Seol is able to do. It’s almost like we’re discovering the dark secrets of history or parts that aren’t emphasized. It truly read like a historical K-drama and I ain’t even mad about it!
I’m not sure if I would say this book has a happy ending. Does the main character get what she wants? Yes…and no. You can tell she’s satisfied, and it doesn’t hold her back from continuing to live her life. I’d love to have given this book a full 5 stars but there were some slow parts.