Genre: Historical Thriller Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4.5 stars Series: standalone CW: torture, murder
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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE SILENCE OF BONES is a deftly written debut, a mystery set against political and religious upheavals.
I know nothing about Korean history before the turn of the 20th century, and the little I know about it after the turn of the 20th century is all in the context of world history. However, THE SILENCE OF BONES has made me really interested to learn some more, so it’s on the list of periods to research once my current pile of history books has been finished.
This book is set in the aftermath of a royal death as the regent uses her new power to come down on her political rivals and their Catholic supporters as the Catholic faith is spread through the country. This confuses loyalties and gives many suspects motives as they seek to purge Catholics or escape persecution. I loved how this small story was set against a much larger moment in history, as it really helped flesh out the world, give a sense of how much more was happening outside the investigation.
The mystery itself is a twisty one, with so many layers of deception to peel back. It’s such an addictive read, and I devoured nearly all of it on a train, desperately trying to guess how all the clues fell into place to reveal the murderer.
Inspector Han is such an interesting character because he’s so hard to pin down. I was never sure if he was the murderer or not until the end, his motives and moods mercurial. I’m don’t know if I like him or not, as confused about my reaction to him as Seol was. In that way, he’s such a human character.
However, I was really confused about why Seol decided she was initially loyal to him. He seemed so aloof and dismissive, ignoring her because of her position until she showed her worth. Her loyalty to him is crucial to the plot and her emotional turmoil once he’s accused, but I felt like I was having to just accept she was loyal to him.
Overall, it was an engaging book and I’m exciting to read what she writes next.
Read my reviews of other books by June Hur: