Blog Tour, Book Review & Giveaway: The Silence of Bones by June Hur

4.16.2020


Thank you to Feiwel & Friends for providing me with an advanced reader copy for review. Receiving this galley does not impact my opinion of the book.


"Everyone dies. What is difficult is a meaningful death."

Set during the 1800s in the Joseon dyansty of Korea, The Silence of Bones follows 16-year-old Seol's journey to solve the murder of aristocrat Lady O and discover her own definition of family. A classist society confines Seol to indentured servitude to a police bureau as a damo until she is forty-one years old. The girl takes advantage of her position of her seemingly quiet work to analyze the interactions of the powerful and collect evidence for the case. Seol's observations strengthen her relationship with Inspector Han, one of the police department's top detectives. But when she uncovers new clues that point to the inspector's potential involvement in the killing, Seol must move forward with the investigation alone and resist authorities to expose the truth.

Through Seol's eyes, Hur explores the hypocrisy of honor in a society that persecuted those perceived as disloyal to Confucian ideals. The contrast between the morality of Seol, a servant relegated to a life of hardship, and male superiors at the police bureau, reveals how the idea of honor has been twisted to justify the terrible. Seol receives punishment for any behavior deemed disrespectful to a superior, even if that act is as small as looking someone of a higher social class in the eye. Despite growing up in an environment that could have fostered bitterness, the 16-year-old maintains a greater sense of good and evil than the police officers and aristocrats willing to lie and deceive to uphold their family names. Seol, though younger and less-educated than the noblemen, is one of the few characters to question the decency of torturing a maid for information and the kingdom's persecution of Catholic citizens. 

Seol's best moments as a narrator emerge when she defies the societal standards of honor. She initially revels in the attention of Inspector Han, who uses emotional manipulation and even torture to glean information from his suspects. Throughout The Silence of Bones, Seol also expresses doubts about whether her actions would have earned the approval of her faraway sister and dead brother. The most pivotal moment of the novel and in the damo's character development occurs when she becomes disillusioned with the thrill of the mystery. Seol stops viewing the detective as an idol and recognizes that, like any person, Inspector Han is imperfect. This dramatic shift in perspective galvanizes her to solve the case by herself. In these moments, Seol claims the narrative as her own and embraces the role of the heroine of the story.

Regrettably, the storyline about Seol's lost siblings detracts from her self-realization. Following moments of tension, the teen's abrupt reflections on what happened to her dead brother dampened the excitement of the mystery's twists. At the conclusion of the novel, these moments almost become a regression of character. At first, Seol seems to gain a new understanding of what home means to her, and looks back fondly upon those who helped her quest. By the end, though, she too succumbs to the accepted standards of loyalty to assist members of her blood family that abandoned her.

Still, Hur's novel undeniably stands out in the YA fiction industry. Few YA authors tackle stories outside the United States, much less one in Korea's Joseon dynasty. After reading The Silence of Bones, I hope readers will be as inspired as I was to learn more about the history and politics of my mother's homeland. 

- ★★★ -

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 acoming-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.

Add to Goodreads: The Silence of Bones
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Giveaway from the author!
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12 comments :

  1. This sounds very interesting. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  2. I haven’t heard of this book, but it does seem very interesting! I totally agree that very few books in YA take place outside of the States. If they do, it’s mostly a fantasy world anyways. I’m glad you were able to read a book that hits close to home for you. I’m excited to hear that the author is a fellow Torontonian! I always get very giddy when I see Canadian authors getting recognition.

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    1. It was an interesting read for sure! I haven't read many Canadian authors so I need to expand my repertoire.

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  3. This sounds really interesting - I haven't heard about this book before and it sounds like it'll address some really interesting themes!

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    1. Hope you get the chance to read it soon! :)

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  4. I love a good mystery and this one sounds particularly intriguing. However, I am sorry to hear than the interruptions regarding Seol's siblings detracted from that plotline. I really love that there is another book set in a country outside of the US or the UK. We need more of those settings and cultures represented in ficiton.

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    1. Yes! I've been heartened recently to see more YA books especially published with Korean backgrounds.

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  5. This looks like an interesting book! Awesome review - and honestly pleeeeaaase give us more international settings, especially in YA.

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  6. This sounds so interesting! I'll have to add it to my TBR <3

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  7. This is the second time I've seen this book today! I don't think it would be a good fit for me personally, and I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more. :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?😷 💬

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  8. I love that this is a mystery set in historical Korean (1800). I also love that female characters, including the protagonist, it show's the quality of heart and mind in a world that is dominated by men. What didn't work for me is the writing style. The account felt separated, as though the hero, Seol, were revealing to me occasions, concentrating on what occurred, rather than living through and encountering occasions. I didn't feel like I became more acquainted with Seol and her emotions.

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