FICTION

The Silence of Bones

Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2020. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250229557.
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Gr 9 Up–Can a poor, illiterate orphan girl in the late 1700s make a difference in the patriarchal and conservative society of Korea? Sixteen-year-old Seol’s parents have died, and as the youngest of three siblings, she has been sent to Hanyang, the capital of the southern province of the Korean peninsula, to work and to look for her long-lost brother who is assumed dead. Placed in the police bureau, she assists in the investigation of a series of gruesome murders that are stumping lead Inspector Han. While Seol tries not to overstep her position of damo, or servant, her natural curiosity gets the best of her and she meddles in the investigation. Supposed to be “seen but not heard,” Seol exposes several important clues, enraging other officers who cannot handle an illiterate maid uncovering the truth before they do. Seol also finds signs that her brother is still alive and in the capital. This book is beautifully written, and moves at a brisk pace. While some of the vocabulary surrounding the culture, garments, and daily lives may be new for some readers, it will not hinder their immersion in the story. Despite some fairly grisly scenes, the plot is engaging and dynamic.
VERDICT Hur’s first novel does an excellent job of exploring a topic that isn’t found widely in YA literature.

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