Let June Jur transport your back in time in her haunting and heartbreaking YA historical mystery debut, The Silence of Bones!
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About The Silence of Bones
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends | Release Date: April 21, 2020 | Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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.
June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.
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My Review of The Silence of Bones
✨ You can read an excerpt over at Fierce Reads!
This book is incredible, friends! The Silence of Bones is a haunting and heartbreaking YA historical mystery debut. I was expecting a historical whodunit but was delivered a melancholic and twisty story that tore at my heartstrings and made me cry more than once.
“The purple sky deepened into midnight black. A darkness so deep and quiet, swamped in slumbering silence, that [redacted] must have thought himself sneaky.”
Meticulously researched, The Silence of Bones is set in Korea during the 1800s and Hur’s writing transports you back in time. I could envision myself on the roads in the countryside or in the Inchon Prefecture. Hur balances descriptively beautiful writing with a quickly moving plot masterfully and I was gripped from the first page!
“The longing for knowledge only got me into trouble these days.”
The characters are where this debut truly shine. You cannot help but fall in love with Seoul, the main character. She’s an inquisitive, compassionate, and intensely loyal sixteen-year-old indentured as a damo for the capital’s police bureau. I adore her inquisitive nature and desire to be valued; my heart breaks for her situation and the pain she experiences from the circumstances of her station. She is so incredibly smart with good instincts for investigation, highlighting how so many skillful people are stifled by history.
“‘But you will serve. That is fact, that is your fate.’ Fate. A shackle as solid as truth – unchangeable, unmovable.”
Despite being a rule-abiding citizen, Seol constantly butts up against the fringe of what is acceptable for her. Her curiosity often gets her into trouble in a place where silence is celebrated and she is merely meant to be an extension of the male investigators. Duty and honor are central themes to this story.
Society is fiercely divided by gender roles and class and the time period is one of religious unrest as Christianity is making its way through the region. I like how the narrative explores how religion and politics are intertwined; power dynamics and how systems of power are maintained are depicted well. As Seoul meets characters who’ve converted, you can see the stark contrast in how people are treated and can feel the allure the disenfranchised characters feel through the promise of equality.
“For when grief swells around you like the sea, you must swim and keep your head above it. Do not drown in it.”
From the beginning, I was filled with a sense of foreboding. The narrative is told in the paste tense, which gives a feeling of being told a story or reading a journal after the events have passed. Melancholy is woven into the pages; you can feel the regret and pain through recollection. And you cannot help but become invested in Seol’s journey as you come to care deeply for the characters. This book broke my heart; it is so sad but such a beautiful and haunting debut. I can’t get this book out of my head.
“Sometimes monsters are born, but sometimes they are made by an accumulation of hurt.”
Intricately plotted and expertly crafted, the murder mystery takes a lot of twists and turns. I guessed one aspect of the mystery early on, but it distracted me to all the other things going on. The book has a bit of a slow start but it just kind of creeps up on you until you’re trapped in web, needing to uncover the mysteries.
Overall, The Silence of Bones took my breath away and left me bereft at the end. The only thing I am sad about? It is a standalone! I’d love nothing more than to check back in on the characters to make sure they are okay. Stunningly written debut novel and June Hur is definitely an author to watch moving forward.
Representation: own-voices Korean in a historical setting
Content warnings: abuse, death, infanticide, interrogation and torture, loss of a loved one, murder, religious persecution, sexism, slavery, suicide
eARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect the contents of my review. Quotations are from an uncorrected proof and may be changed upon final publication.
Recommended if you enjoyed…
Are you a fan of historical mysteries? Have you read The Silence of Bones yet or is it on your TBR?