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.
Historical fiction and I don’t always mesh that well. That’s why when I read The Silence Of Bones and absolutely fell in love, I was eager to read anything else that June Hur wrote. Two sisters found unconscious next to a crime scene, and years later, 13 girls and the sister’s father’s have gone missing. Hwani is determined to solve the mystery, no matter what secrets she uncovers. It was so ready to see what June Hur was going to do with this story. Trigger warnings: mentions of rape, suicide, grief, parental abuse
I love June Hur books. It was official after The Silence Of Bones and it’s officially official after this book.
There is something magical about Hur’s writing. It has this magical quality that makes it seem like you’re floating through it. It has a haunting lilt to it that enhances the air of mystery and secrets in the air around Hwani and Maewol. In short, she is extremely talented.
I said it before in my review of The Silence Of Bones, but I want to say it again here. I think part of the problem I have with historical fiction books is that I had been reading so many that were so western focused. There is so much more out there.
While sweetness was at the heart of Seol’s character, determination is at the heart of Hwani’s. She’s determined to find her father and she’s determined to unravel the mystery of the 13 missing roles. She has an incredible amount of drive, and I loved watching her dive head first into what she needed to. She was driven by love, and it was amazing to see that love blossom and motivate her to move forward.
I also really, really liked the sister relationship of this book. Hwani and Maewol have a bit of a rocky relationship, but they’re still sisters. I loved that the bond they had seemed to always be there. Even if they were mad each other, they wanted to do things together. I felt like such a true family bond. One forged in love and frustration and hardship and hope. Plus, Maewol was just a great character in of herself! She’s so different than Hwani, but that made the book all the better. She’s wilder than Hwani, but I felt like her emotions ran higher because of that. While Hwani feels like the cold steel of determination, Maewol feels like the warm fire, determined to burn to where she needs to go.
Now, to the mystery, ah yes, I want to talk about this. I knew June Hur was good at writing mysteries, but SHE IS GOOD AT WRITING MYSTERIES. She plops a tangle of clues into your lap that feels prickly ball of thorns; something that will prick you if you try to pull a thread apart. But, then she gets to work to untangle that knot. It’s done in such a subtle way until there’s this moment when things become clear. The knots suddenly look like something and threads don’t need to be pull apart, but connected together. She presents something to figure out and then absolutely blows all expectations out of the water. This mystery is crafted brilliantly and it was such an incredible experience to read.
I now have another June Hur book to add it my favorites shelf. This book is seriously good. With it’s haunting writing, characters determined to find answers, and a mystery turning your brain in circles, it’s a book that amazes and astounds.