Review: The Red Palace by June Hur

The Red PalaceThe Red Palace by June Hur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1758, Joseon-era Korea, 18-year old, Hyeon works as a palace nurse, a position she has worked very hard to attain.

As the illegitimate daughter of a powerful man, Hyeon really didn’t have a lot of options. She enjoys her profession, however, and hopes that through it she may one day earn her father’s approval.

Hyeon keeps her head down, does her job and tries to avoid any conflicts that would reflect negatively on her, but when she and a fellow nurse are called to the bedside of the Crown Prince Jangheon late one night, Hyeon is thrust into a wicked web of palace intrigue that she cannot avoid.

That very same night, at the same time she is in the Prince’s chambers, a viscous attack occurs at the Hyeminseo that Hyeon used to attend. The attack leaves four women brutally murdered.

When Hyeon’s beloved mentor, Nurse Jeongsu, gets arrested for the crime, Hyeon knows there’s been a mistake. There is no way her caring teacher, a woman who has dedicated her life to helping others, could possibly be capable of the callous brutality of this massacre.

Hyeon’s desperate to save Jeongsu from the clutches of the police force, known for their brutal interrogations, and she doesn’t have much time. Therefore, Hyeon decides she needs to begin her own secret investigation into the murders.

Along the way she meets Eojin, a young police inspector, who teams up with her to uncover the truth behind the Hyeminseo Massacre, but will anything they find actually make a difference?

In the face of the dark secrets they begin to uncover involving every level of palace politics, Hyeon and Eojin seem so small, young and inconsequential. They’re both willing to take incredible risks in the pursuit of justice though and that should count for something.

The Red Palace grabbed me and never let go. This was such a surprising read for me, a little outside of my comfort zone, but such a delightful way to spend the weekend.

Hur 100% succeeded at sweeping me away to another time and place. I felt transported!

There are so many things to love about this book that I fear I may just begin swooning here. Let’s start with Hyeon. She had such incredible depth of character. I felt like I knew her. I had such empathy for her and her situation.

In spite of her challenging family life though, Hyeon showed such strength and dedication to task, even in the face of terrible danger. It was admirable.

Then there is Eojin, speaking of swooning. Calm, quiet, strong and respectful of Hyeon, he made a great partner for her during the investigation.

Eojin had his own complex backstory and motivation for wanting to get to the bottom of these crimes, which added to the general mystery. I enjoyed his steadfast nature and the evolution of their relationship was so satisfying.

Lastly, let’s talk about the atmosphere. I can’t even describe how great it was for me. The dark, dangerous streets. The secrets of the royal family hidden around every corner.

As I said earlier, I was transported. When I was reading this, I could picture it all playing out in my mind. Granted, I’m no cinematographer, but I think Hur did an incredible job leading me on my imaginative journey into the heart of this story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Feiwel & Friends, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I enjoyed this so much and cannot wait to pick up Hur’s other two novels. Apparently, YA Historical Mysteries are now my thing!

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