The Red Palace by June Hur
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release Date : 25th January 2022
To enter the palace means to walk a path stained in blood…
Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father’s approval.
But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon’s closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher’s innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.
In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.
If you enter the palace, you either die or you survive and become another monster within its walls …
ARC provided by the publisher Feiwel & Friends and the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Red Palace is a stunning Joseon era mystery thriller that will grip you in beautiful suspense. With that I am a new June Hur stan.
Defining November as the month that I will read my pile of ARCs in ambitious notion. I recently acquired the ARC of The Red Palace after applying for it through Twitter. In all honesty, I’ve never read any book by June Hur but I have seen her books circulating around bookish friends. I trust their judgment so I picked this book as my fifth ARC to read. As reflected on my rating it is evident that June Hur didn’t disappoint at all. This books holds the title for the most gripping and fast paced ARC that I’ve ever read, I finish it within a day which never happens. Before I dive deeper into my review I would like to gush about the gorgeous cover of this book done by Park Sunga and designed by Liz Dresner. Can I just point out when June revealed the cover and back cover designed I gasped because if you watch Korean dramas you know that the woman on the cover looks like Seo Ye-ji and the man on the back looks like Woo Do-hwan. The resemblances is uncanny! The style also makes the cover stand out adding the Korean period vibes with the brush strokes.
“I chose this path,” I said, my voice rising a notch.
“This is the only path I can take now, and you must let me walk it.”
The Red Palace is a young adult historical fiction and mystery thriller set in Joseon year of 1758. Following the success of her debut novel Silence of Bones and her recent 2021 The Forest of Stolen Girls, The Red Palace is Hur’s third highly anticipated third novel that will be released early 2022. The story revolves around an eighteen year old girl named Hyeon that works as a palace nurse. Working in the palace comes with its benefits and hardships but also the dark secrets within it’s walls. One day Hyeon and another palace nurse is called to assist the palace physician late in the night, an odd occurrence and especially dangerous as they are sworn to keep it a secret. The next day she discovers that four women were murdered on that same night she was called into the palace and that her teacher is placed as the prime suspect. Hyeon is frantic and is determined to clear her teacher’s name with the truth. On her courageous path to uncover the truth she meets a young investigator named Eojin that is tasked to solve the murders. Working together Hyeon and Eojin works together to find the real culprit behind the murders and drag the dark truth into the light of justice.
“One doesn’t always need a sword to find the truth.”
“Like you,” he whispered.
June Hur’s writing is magnetic, highly addictive, and easily accessible in building the tension and stakes by transporting readers to the unforgivingly cruel inner palace dynamics of the Joseon era. Through the eyes of Hyeon we get to see a lot of the twists and turns of maneuvering around nobility and their scheming to gain power. Hur’s atmospheric writing accounts the vivid details of the setting that will tempt your eyes to wander seeking out any kind of hint that will break the bubble of mystery. I didn’t expect how beautiful a mystery thriller can be written, the story deals with grim topics such as death and murder but it is enticing and eloquent. The plot is well balance and flowed smoothly in between each reveal that gradually pushes readers to the edge of their seats with dread I associate with Korean period dramas. The way Hur pulls the strings of tension is slow, deliberate, and full of intent that by the end when the string is pulled taut, it snaps with a satisfying reveal. With every page I am gripped on to the page as the book gets more and more unputdownable leaving me in a frantic mess of suspense thirsting for answers. Hur’s pacing worked wonders in strengthening the grip of tension and suspense as the mystery is revealed slowly as Hyeon and Eojin draw closer to the truth.
Our heads nearly touching, so lost in the moment, so consumed that I could not tell where he began and where I ended. We seemed to have, in that moment, merged into one mind with one purpose: find the killer, find the truth.
An aspect of The Red Palace that got me so engrossed and invested in the mystery are the characters, specifically Hyeon and Eojin. Hyeon is an ambitious nurse that has carved a path for herself to secure a position at the palace, she has worked long and hard to get where she is especially with the hardships of being the bastard child of a noble. Hur cleverly writes Hyeon’s perspective with innocent yet experienced eyes that hones her abilities and skills that she learned to its maximum potential. Hyeon is smart, feisty, and stubborn when she has set determination to clear her mentors name. Surely, Eojin has his hands full in dealing with her which makes their dynamic all the more endearing and fun to see manifest on page. Eojin is the youngest investigator from the capital that is tasked to investigate the murders. He is calculative, trust worthy, and the calm that is the perfect balance to Hyeon’s chaos. Both characters are well fleshed out with distinct personalities and believable voices proving Hur’s masterful ability with characterization. What made me enjoy The Red Palace is their dynamics and antics throughout the story. There are underlying themes of trust, righteousness, and comradery that is weaved in their relationship dynamic that I find intriguing. The romance that developed between the two manifested beautifully and it got me craving for more of their banter.
Whatever awaited in the future, I had to trust that he would watch out for me, as I would always watch out for him.
Final thoughts, The Red Palace is an amazing stand alone mystery thriller that will transport you to the darkest depths of the Joseon dynasty filled with murder, political scheming, cover ups, and gripping crime solving. It is a story that I wish to see adapted as a drama or a movie on the big screen with the Korean actors on the cover play Hyeon and Eojin. Overall, I really enjoyed June Hur’s beautiful prose and phenomenal writing that got me addicting in a softer form of suspense that unique to Hur’s writing style. Everything is clear and crisp word for word that readers will grip readers the moment they start reading. Honestly, mystery thrillers isn’t a genre I normally would reach out towards but Hur changed that by weaving historical fiction into it that made the story the more interesting. June Hur has gained another fan as I will make sure to read her other works in 2022 such Silence of Bones and The Forest of Stolen Girls. If you haven’t please add all of June Hur’s book on to your Goodreads because you don’t want to miss out on any of her books. I highly recommend as well to read and pre-order The Red Palace if you’re looking for a fast paced gripping mystery thriller that is set in a certain period and has loose K-Drama romance vibes.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.