This was a fairly short read compared to what I've been reading lately (the fantasy epics) and it was fairly simple language and easy, so I finished iThis was a fairly short read compared to what I've been reading lately (the fantasy epics) and it was fairly simple language and easy, so I finished it. I like Korea and I like Korean mythology so that probably helped... There are a lot of things I don't like about this book that are par for the course in the YA that I've read (1st person present tense being the worst offender of humanity) but I don't rate for that.
However (cons first...because I con. ha! :P sorry) There's a TL;DR at the bottom...
A supposed Korean-American whose father reverts to the Korean language in moments of utter shock and every single character speaks the same awkward English. It's not foreign English. It's not broken English. It's awkward English that is found in too many YA novels. The "Korean-American" main character finally accepts that Korea would be okay because of friends and the subway system (and an implied safety over L.A.) and not because of Korean history, culture or heritage. The love interest is a white boy whose white father did something supposedly amazing. See where I'm going with this? This is a novel using Korean mythos alone. Seriously! With such a mix of individuals that attend international schools, one might expect a hint of non-whiteness. Even the demigod. Even grandfather. And while the author attempts to cover this with the "You know English?" question, it doesn't work.
Several scenes in the novel would suggest there is an air of seriousness, prophecy, philosophy or general tone that means what's coming is important. Annnnnnd then that moment comes in the form of laughable dialogue or action. Another thing is the poorly described scenes and movement. An evening in Myeong-dong suddenly has a blanket of snow on the ground where there was no mention of the cold night or snow for several scenes prior. It just kind of jumps out at you.
And for someone who has lived and worked in Korea for some time (an answer on her goodreads profile says 8 years), the author really fumbles some simple Korean. It's a good thing Korean wasn't exactly used frequently or it would be a real turn off. Just avoid reading the translations at the back of the book if you've even watched a single episode of a Korean Drama, know any Korean girls (who speak Korean) or have studied yourself. As I said, these mistakes are restricted to the back of the book and there are only a few.
Another quibble, albeit minor, Jae Hwa spends much of the story focusing on a single idea which ends up being useless. Maybe it will show up in later books? Or was it just a red herring?
But there are things that I liked. Things that I liked and things that anyone who has been to Korea might appreciate. Aside from the interesting tale weaved from Korean mythos, I could picture some of the locations in the novel. Now, I couldn't picture them because they were well described, no sir! If I was left to the novel to understand what Myeong-dong, Seoul Station, the Korean countryside or Korean architecture looked like, I'd be out of luck. Thankfully--because I love Korea--I've been there. Myeong-dong at night on a weekend? I know what that's like from personal experience but you won't get any clue from the book. The things that I personally related to made this book worth reading. I miss being in Korea and I put myself there in this book.
PRO: The book is simple and easy to read. The book has an interesting story from Korea's mythology. The book transports people to Korea -- if you've already been there and know the places. (MAJOR reason for my rating. I just miss Korea.)
CON: A lot of terrible dialogue. Zero cultural differences/variety minus "don't date the white guy". (VERY Eurocentric in spirit) Some misuse of the Korean language. Poor action/dialogue/scenes at times.
I will read the next. HA! (I was at a theater show and caught a red 'orb' but I couldn't take it on the plane with me... //sad)...more