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(3.5 / 5) Seol is a damo (servant) in South Korea, 1800. She is working at the police bureau where her curiosity gets her in trouble. She is assisting in a murder investigation and is able to find information that others cannot. There is a maze of clues, dark secrets, political schemes and more. She finds herself in precarious situations, questioning witness statements but also the accused.
Her interest brings too much attention to herself and she finds herself fighting to stay alive and to find justice. The story brings light to loyalty and family and the importance of finding the truth, no matter the cost. I loved the underlying message of family but also staying true to yourself. It’s a great story that weaves young adult, murder mystery and historical fiction very well. Parts of the book were confusing and I couldn’t keep characters and coordinating subplots straight. There was a lot of information to keep track of and if you’re able to do that then the mystery falls together well. For me, it was jumpy and I had to read back a few times to remember parts of the story. However, after reading the story, I learned some characters and events were taken from Korean history and that brought reverence to what I didn’t understand before.
The content is low except for some violence, torture and details on the bodies that are found. Thank you to Feiwel & Friends through NetGalley for giving me a free copy in exchange for my honest review. This book is out Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
The Silence of Bones
I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
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.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.
Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.
Detailed Content Review
Derogatory terms etc-
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
Wine is served to police officers.
A bar serves wine.
A man is very drunk.
A woman gets a man to get very drunk so she can find out info.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
A woman examines a body stating the woman was not a virgin.
A young woman prisoner’s undergarments are noticed to be ripped and the skin underneath ripped. Rape implied.
A young woman sneaks out to meet a lover and ends up pregnant. She is hidden away during the pregnancy.
A young woman binds her breasts every morning. She says any notice of swelling breasts means vulnerability. Some women are groped because of them.
A woman becomes the village whore after having an illegitimate child and being fired.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
A young woman is called to a crime scene and turns the body over. The body is cut at the throat, her nose cut off, cloudless eyes, dagger in shoulder.
As a punishment, a young girl is branded on her cheek.
Many murders have happened recently.
2 siblings are starved to death and locked up by their father. A master pushes his servant into water, drowning him. An aunt kills her niece and leaves her body under a bush. 7 people die in a fire when the doors are locked.
A young woman is lashed on her calves as punishment.
A man fights a tiger, his arm is bloody. A horse is bleeding (from the tiger).
A young woman is tied to a chair for interrogation. She leaves blood on the chair from her legs being flogged. Later, her undergarments are noticed to be ripped and the skin underneath ripped. Rape implied.
A man grabs a young woman by the shirt and throws her down a few stairs. He then smacks her across the head (multiple times), making her see stars.
A man stabs his sword into a young man’s belly, splashing blood. The boy gurgles and bleeds from the mouth as he collapses. A small group fights with punches and kicks, a knife held to a young woman’s throat. She stomps and bites him and is cut. Two people pass out.
“The juri-teulgi method, where one’s knees, bound together, would be forced by sticks in opposite directions, again and again, until the leg bones curved.” This is used on a young woman prisoner. She passes out during it and they splash water on her to keep going.
A man is ordered to execute people for gossiping.
Many people are murdered. It is rumored it is because they are catholic.
A young woman bites another young woman.
A group comes upon a man hanging dead upside down from the ceiling of a barn. His wrists were tied and his nose was cut off. It seems he was killed by a form of water torture– pouring water over his face until he died. A young woman helps to get the body down.
A man is killed for possessing illegal literature . His head is posted on a stick for days.
A man “hammers” into a young woman’s chest, she falls and writhes on the ground. He grabs another by the hair and drags her. She bites him, he throws her against a wall, she crawls with blood pooling. He grabs her hair again and takes her around the corner holding a knife.
A story tells of a woman throwing her child down a well, strangling him and killing him, then killing herself.
A man admits to killing his mother. Then he wraps a rope around a young woman’s neck and she passes out. She is thrown in a well with a corpse that has its nose cut off. She screams and they know she’s alive but leave.
Two men fight with swords, one sprays blood from an arm cut. Another slices the other’s side, blood oozing down. A young woman uses a sharp object and stabs a neck, hitting bone.
A young woman finds a body of someone with their nose cut off.
A man is beheaded publicly.
Potentially Intense Themes
There are seven sins a woman can commit, one was talking excessively. A man could even divorce his wife because of her chattiness.
A father starves to death. His wife throws herself off a cliff and “shatters” on the rocks. The book refers to this a few times. A 7yo dies in her sleep.
A mother tells her daughter that her child died of smallpox. It wasn’t true, he was adopted.
A young woman “had turned blue in the face, her skin shriveling, her eye sockets collapsing.” From a plague. She died.
A young woman experiences a man’s dying breaths as she sits by his side.
**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.