The Red Palace - Review
*I received e-arc for the Colored Pages Book Tour tour and Feiwel & Friends Publishing via Net Galley. All reviews are my own.*
I got a chance to check out another of my anticipated 2022 reads, The Red Palace by June Hur. I sure am crushing my 1st quarter anticipation reading goals this year! After hearing glowing reviews about the author's catalog, I finally had a chance to experience Hur's writing skills.
"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 are looking for something similar to Daughters of the Moon Goddess, this is not the book for you. The Red Palace takes us to mid-1700s Korea, in the middle of a mysterious murder investigation. Blood is everywhere! You know, I find it interesting that even though a massacre took place and the characters are trying to figure out who committed these crimes, it doesn't feel like a typical mystery to me. It's not a negative observation, but it put me in a different mindset while tackling these pages. It felt like a contemporary story with magnifying glass elements and not a Scooby-Doo and the gang chase.
What I like most about this book is the historical content. I had no idea that The Red Palace incorporated real-life historical figures, such as Crown Prince Jangheon. After reading Hur's author's note, it made me want to find out more about him and his tragic life. I also appreciated the lack of modern technology in this novel. It was refreshing to see authoritative figures use swords instead of early cannon powder. I know, I know, "why would there be technology in historical fiction"… hey, I've seen strange things in my short time as a reviewer.
I have a few unanswered questions that came across during the reading, and I'm just going to go ahead and throw in the **SPOILER ALERT** warning. Skip the following two paragraphs to avoid. I don't understand why the main character, Hyeon, was chosen to help a poorly represented doppelganger of the Crown Prince. Out of all the palace nurses available, why did they pick Hyeon to tend to a missing Prince? I can see using the excuse of giving the illusion that he was still in the building after the curfew was announced, but when walls could talk, wouldn't people find out he was gone anyway? I may be thinking too deeply, as this was the kick-off of Hyeon's interest in the women's massacre, but it niggled my mind as to why she was chosen for it all.
I also want to understand better the killer's reasoning for massacring innocent lives. I get that the witnesses had a part to play in a cold case file, but you kill the witnesses instead of going after the person who did it? I will never understand how women will punish other women for not standing up for themselves when they live in a society that destroys them for minor actions. When you are forced to do something you have no control over, either through blackmail or fear of consequences, you still get blamed and punished for it?
Overall I rated this book 3-stars. This is my first time reading something from Hur, so I didn't know what I was getting into. I liked it very much. It's not all of what I expected, though. It didn't read as a Young Adult to me, and there were many elements besides a murder investigation highlighted in the book. If I had a chance to sway you from the "mystery aspect," I'd say that there is a slow-burn romance, classism, family expectations, and elitism that ruled the pages. Either way, what sold me on this entire story is the actions of Prince Jangheon, and I think that should be the sole reason you should pick up this book or at least look further into it.
The Red Palace debuts January 25, 2022