THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS, EVER. Reading this book was truly magical and I loved every moment of it; I found myself savoring every sentence and taking my time to read because I just didn’t want it to be over. These characters, this setting, this mystery have my whole heart.
Suffice to say that The Red Palace by June Hur has become my whole personality and I am not even remotely sorry about it. You’ve been warned and would just benefit from heeding my screeching and getting the book yourself.
I received a review copy from the publisher for my honest review. This does not affect neither my opinion of the book nor the content of my review. Quotations are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon final publication.
About The Red Palace
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends • Release Date: January 25, 2022 • Pages: 336
Age Range: Young Adult • Genre: Historical Mystery • Format: eBook • Source: Netgalley
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.
🖤 Slow-burn romance
🔎 Murder investigations
👑 Court politics & political intrigue
📖 Historical fiction set in Korea
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✨ You can read an excerpt from The Red Palace here!
Full cast of Asian characters, set in 1758 Joseon-era Korea
classism, dead bodies, murder, sexism, torture, violence
My Review of The Red Palace
There’s something uniquely melancholic and beautiful about Hur’s writing. I find myself being swept away by her words and moved to intense emotion: her writing resonates deep within my bones and speaks to my soul.
“To enter the palace means to walk a path stained in blood, our medical teachers had whispered. There will be bloodshed. I only hope it will not be yours.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery and how it unfolded, but more importantly I love the timid partnership of justice that Eojin and Hyeon embark on. There’s something so perfect about a main character who’s sought approval their whole life getting it for the first time from an unlikely place. From sarcastic rebuttals to a timid alliance to potential and soft feelings, their development is a treasure.
“I could never call myself a nurse again, not in good conscience, if I turned my eyes away from injustice. I must do something.”
The mystery and our main characters are at the forefront of this tale, both of which driving the plot forward, but I appreciate the quiet discussion of classism and sexism present. Hyeon stands to lose not only everything but potentially even her life for stepping outside of her role and going against the Powers That Be. Her soft resolution in face of her fear is admirable, and I appreciate that she carefully considers the consequences before doing it anyway. (I bet she is a Capricorn like me!) Her quiet determination and soft-spoken bravery is beautiful.
“I did not want to be like this, a girl too afraid to do what was right for fear of what others would think. And I did know what was right. I recognized it as clearly as I did the sun in the sky.”
There’s something refreshing about Hur’s approach to teenagers standing up and challenging the status quo. Just as in life, they haven’t had their rose-colored glasses ripped from them and they haven’t quietly become resigned to The Way It Has Always Been. It’s obvious that there are issues with the systems in place, but due to disenfranchisement everyone not in power is too afraid to do something – but what I especially appreciate is that the other adults don’t outright tell her to sit down and know her place (excepting the ones in power, of course). Hyeon finds support in unlikely places which I think gives her hope and is something that we adults could do better about in real life.
Let me tell you that I think I found my *chef’s kiss* trope: I am a sucker for when someone makes the main character feel seen and worthy, especially when there’s a class difference. This shit makes me go feral. Eojin sees Hyeon and I swear that I felt Hyeon’s every elevated heartbeat each time he breaks with social convention and Confucian morality.
“Jieun set the book aside and walked off, her steps determined; I had planted a ridiculous idea in the head of a girl who spent all her earnings on purchasing romantic literature.”
Oh and I would be remiss not to mention how much I adore Jieun and her unending love for romance books. Even though Hyeon’s life was a lonely one, I am glad she had One Good Friend and a Great Mentor in her life before crossing paths with Eojin.
Both hands on the handle, he rushed forward with startling speed, closing the twenty feet of grass between them quickly. His blade flashed as he struck, but the gentleman parried, steel clashing against steel.
This book should be adapted into a movie or Netflix miniseries, full stop. It reads in a way that played it in my mind’s eye for me and this book is written for the screen. Could you imagine the stolen glances as Eojin and Hyeon get to know each other better? MY GOD, PLEASE.
Words genuinely cannot do my love of this book justice. I sincerely hope that everyone who enjoys historical fiction and mysteries pick this book up, because it is June Hur at her best: which is saying a lot. The book brought tears to my eyes because of Hyeon’s growth as a character and while I am sad to no longer be in the world I am so thankful for the beautiful ending. Seriously: read this book.
Per the author’s note, the book is loosely based on the life and death of Crown Prince Jangheon (also known as Crown Prince Sado), and let me tell you that I took to Google when finishing the book to learn a bit more about him!
✨ This was a buddy read with Jayati
Highly recommended to fans of mysteries and historical settings. (Honestly, I think everyone should read it it’s that good.) It’s a beautifully written and engaging story that I both couldn’t put down but didn’t want to rush; I keep tearing up when I think about it. The Red Palace is atmospheric and full of emotion, a book I won’t soon forget.
Recommended if you enjoyed…
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read The Red Palace yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What are your favorite historical mystery books? What should I add to my TBR?
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OK OK adding that one to my TBR! I wanted to read her books anyway and that quote gave me a good idea of her writing.
GOOD, this si what you deserve!
Beautiful review Kal !!! How well you write 😍😍
I fell in love with this book too and can’t wait to read all the author’s books..
Thank you Sahi, and I am so glad you loved this book too! I HIGHLY recommend her debut, Silence of Bones.
Kate @ Your Tita Kate says
STAN EOJIN AND HYEON
This sounds an amazing movie worthy romance. I haven’t read a book set in Korea. I’ll add this to wish list! Fantastic review!
It definitely is movie-worthy, I kept envisioning what it would look like in my head! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, Yesha
Mary Kirkland says
Loved your review. That sounds really good.
Thank you, Mary!
Amazing review Kal! This post put all my fangirly feelings into words 😍 I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.
THIS BOOK IS SO WONDERFUL AND AMAZING! I swear, I may have read it in December but I just know it’s going to make my top books of 2022 list.
Luchia Houghton says
Great review! 💜 I’m so excited to read this one 😀
I hope you love(d) it as much as I do, Luchia! I still think about this book months later… so good!