Published: April 20 2021
Format: eBook (ARC)
Tags: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Sisters
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.
To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.
Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
Keywords to describe this book: compelling, rich historical detail, complex characters
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Feiwel & Friends through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
This is the second book I have read by Hur, and I am thrilled to say it’s another winner for me. I really enjoy her focus on Joseon-era Korea and, particularly, her focus on strong female characters. This whole book, really, is centered around women and I enjoyed seeing the many ways that these women interact with each other and handle their circumstances.
Though the story takes place in the 1400s and women have a very limited role (they are expected to marry and bear children), Hur has created two characters who are breaking this mold – Hwani, who wants to solve the disappearance of her father and the missing girls, and her sister, Maewol, who is training to become a shaman. I really love just how much this story revolves around not just these two sisters, but other women in this small town on Jeju. The story is female-centric and does not contain a romance plot, which is rare and much appreciated! This is all about family and solving a mystery and I am here for it!
The characters are what make this story, because, though it is a mystery, much of the story is about two sisters who have become estranged and are now having to interact with each other for the first time in a long time. I really love the main character, Hwani. She is insightful, but she still, like every human, has faults and can make mistakes. Her determination to solve her father’s disappearance and, subsequently, the fate of the missing 13 girls, is inspiring. I also enjoyed seeing her slowly come to terms with her father’s flaws and getting to know her sister better. Their relationship is one of the most interesting elements of the book and I was drawn to their characters because of it.
Maewol, too, is a fascinating character. Like Hwani, she is not without her faults, but she also shows determination and strength and her love for her sister is so strong. I really related to this because I also have a sister. Their bond is such a cool aspect to the story and it makes it more than just a typical solve-the-mystery-plot novel. This book is full of strong females and I enjoyed this immensely.
The mystery is also very strong. I like that Hur kept multiple elements at play throughout the book – the fate of the sisters’ father, the fate of the missing girls, and the mystery of the village people, who each offer possible motives for the disappearances. I was kept guessing until the end, and I like how the solving of the crime(s) is believable. The ending is very satisfying without feeling like Hur wraps everything up perfectly into a neat package. There is a lot of interplay between justice and the helplessness that characters feel in the face of constant negative outcomes. It’s an interesting dynamic that Hwani encounters and has to process on her journey
I would definitely recommend this book, particularly to historical-fiction and mystery lovers. The characters are interesting and complex, the story is full of historical elements that are explained well, and the mystery is gripping.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
If you love a good historical mystery, then look no further! This book has a solid mystery and characters with depth. The sister bond is an additional dynamic that is sure to draw interest. I would definitely recommend it to mystery lovers or fans of historical fiction, plus anyone who is looking for a YA book that doesn’t contain any romance because, let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t want or need that! Great writing and a diverse cast of characters make this book a definite draw. Check it out!