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The Silence of Bones

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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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published April 21, 2020

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About the author

June Hur

5 books1,456 followers
JUNE HUR is the bestselling author of YA historical mysteries The Silence of Bones, The Forest of Stolen Girls, and The Red Palace. In addition to being nominated twice for the prestigious Edgar Awards, she’s been featured on Forbes, NPR, and the CBC. Her fourth novel A Crane Among Wolves comes out 2024. Born in South Korea and raised in Canada, she studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

You can find her on Instagram and Tiktok @junehwrites

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,235 reviews
Profile Image for June Hur.
Author 5 books1,456 followers
May 25, 2020
THE SILENCE OF BONES is, in part, my love letter to Korean history. I was born in South Korea, but I was raised in Canada, and spent all of my teenage years obsessing over British history, Jane Austen and BBC dramas. In short, I grew up knowing almost nothing about Korean history, except for the brief stories my parents shared with me, and the snippets I learned about whenever I managed to stay awake during Korean history class (back when I studied in South Korea).

Then everything changed for me in 2015 when I, out of sheer curiosity, read further into Korean history – and fell madly in love with it. I was fascinated by everything and was gripped by a terrifying desperation to write a Korean historical mystery. I hesitated for a while, wondering if I, a Korean-Canadian ‘diasporan’, even had the right to write about Korea, and afraid that no one would be interested in a mystery set in a non-western country. It was the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement that finally gave me the courage to write.

At the very heart of this book is a more personal story inspired by my family, a family dispersed. I spent nearly half my life living with my siblings in Canada, far away from my parents, far away from my relatives. And so, while I was writing this book, I found myself wrestling with two questions that always haunted me: What will it cost to keep family together when things are falling apart and everyone is scattered? And where is home when you live far away from those who have loved you for all of your life?

Soon THE SILENCE OF BONES will be out in the world, no longer mine but belonging to the readers! I hope this book will introduce you to—or deepen your appreciation for—the complexity, depth and grandeur of Joseon Dynasty Korea. I especially hope that those who are homesick, like I was and still am, will feel less alone.

CONTENT WARNINGS: violence | murder | misogyny | mention and description of animal abuse | mention and description of suicide
Profile Image for Regan.
366 reviews109k followers
July 6, 2020
really really enjoyed this! The atmosphere and the historical setting were truly top notch!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.5k followers
January 17, 2022
even though this is JHs debut book, this is everything i love about her stories.

i enjoyed the murder investigation and police procedure, the intriguing politics of the social classes, the atmosphere of historical korea and the inclusion of real events and people. the pacing is a bit slow, but i was just as engaged with this story as i was with JHs other books. she really has a immersive quality to her storytelling.

and while i did find this story entertaining, i will say it definitely feels reused. yes, i know its a debut and obviously, if i had read this book first, it wouldnt be getting this critique. its just the bad luck of my reading order. but man, all three of JHs books feel like copies of each other. its the exact same set up of a servant class girl helping a young investigator solve a murder. you could easily exchange any of the MCs with each other without any issues. the only things that really change are the investigation details and the historical people/events.

again, like i said, i was still entertained. i obviously enjoy these kinds of stories, and this one is no exception. but i can see readers eventually getting really bored with JHs books if they continue to be the same thing over and over again. the only way i could see this working is if her books were a series with the same MC. but it would be nice to see her try something new. so i guess we will have to see what book #4 brings!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,468 reviews9,629 followers
July 19, 2020
3.5 Stars

This book was at a solid 4.5 but certain things brought it down for me. Although, 3 or 3.5 stars is not a bad rating.

The cover of this book is what pulled me to it. I mean look how beautiful it is!! The title and the summary sounded good as well. I have to recommend the audio narration as it was splendid!

I enjoyed the character of Seol, I felt sorry for her a lot and I felt she was good at helping with the cases. This is part mystery, figuring out who is doing all of the killings and Seol searching for her lost brother all the while working for a detective. Actually not by choice but you can read that in the book description.

I think the author did a great historical (I’m assuming anyway) depiction of what went on during those times in history. I had no idea and it’s horrible!!

All in all, I enjoyed it and will read more from this author.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....
Profile Image for Sumit RK.
484 reviews456 followers
July 27, 2021
I have a mouth, but I mustn't speak;
Ears, but I mustn't hear;
Eyes, but I mustn't see.

Set in the 19th Century in Joseon, Korea The Silence of Bones is a wonderfully written mystery set in a historical time period that is unique for YA.

Sixteen-year-old Seol is an orphan and Indentured to the police bureau where 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.

The Silence of Bones is a part mystery, part YA with a historical background (based on real events) set in early 19th century Korea, with a depiction of what went on during those times in history. The setting of the book is really unique. The writing was really atmospheric and It immediately transports the readers to 19th century Korea. The story perfectly captures the atmosphere of Korea in turbulent times and introduces the readers to ideas of life, gender, and class structure of that time. What started as a murder mystery evolved into something a lot more complex while exploring a forgotten chapter of Korean history and the themes of courage, morality, feminism, in a manner, unlike anything I have ever read.

I loved the plot and it maintained a good balance between mystery and emotional drama throughout. The story had so many layers to it which you discover as you dig deeper. The unique setting, the atmospheric writing, the complex plot, and the several plot twists will keep you engaged throughout. This is a part mystery, figuring out the killer and Seol searching for her lost brother, which was a really emotional journey.

I loved the character of Seol. Her relationship with her superior officer and her place in the then-Korean society added another dimension to the story. I loved how Seol’s character transformed from the start of the story till it reaches the end. The emotional journey Seol undertakes will leave an impact on you till the end.

The pacing of The Silence of Bones felt a bit uneven as the story felt dragged at times. Apart from Seol and Han, I didn't really connect with the other characters as well. The ending was slightly predictable and a bit underwhelming but the story did have a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, The Silence of Bones is a great story and the setting and the writing are totally unique compared to other similar offerings. If you enjoy reading mysteries with historical settings or even a good YA, you will love this book.

Many thanks to the publishers Macmillan and Edelweiss for the ARC.

Profile Image for Charmel.
179 reviews407 followers
July 22, 2021
Hmm… this was an interesting read. Confusing for a lot of times but interesting. The last part was enough to carry the whole book though.

✨ buddy read with Mash, Lucy, Erin, Lacey, and Devie ✨

June Hur's debut novel, The Silence of Bones, is a YA historical mystery set in Joseon, Korea in the 1800s. It follows a curious young orphaned young woman named Seol, working as a damo (an assistant) at the police bureau.

When a murder of a noblewoman happened, Seol has been tasked to assist inspector Han. Later on, Seol forms a bond of friendship with the inspector. But then things get suspicious, that may possibly affect her loyalty to inspector Han.

Not only that Seol is capable of discovering the true events on the night of the noblewoman's murder, she is also near to end for the search of her missing brother.
Who was the murderer? Who is Seol's older brother??

"It struck me how transient life was—one night a woman was brushing her hair, the next night she was dead."

I went into this book with zero knowledge. I didn't know that this was set in history in Korea. Honestly, I impulsively started this and joined the buddy read.

I loved the vibes and the atmosphere I was getting from the book. It was kind of easy for me to imagine since I was obsessed with kdramas. There were also a lot of unfamiliar terms and references from the past which felt like I was having a history lesson. But I just ignore most of them that seem unnecessary and google some if I'm really getting confused.

The first half of this book was downright boring. Even though the mystery aspect was intriguing, I couldn't get hooked into it. In the first half, the characters were lacking and they weren't truly fleshed out so I wasn't invested in them. Plus, I kept forgetting some characters since they had confusing names and they had similar bland personalities.

Then came the last half of the book. Everything improved. The murder mystery picked up, fascinating things were happening and I suddenly was rooting for the main character.

At first, Seol was somewhat intolerable because of her curiosity and impulsive, bad decisions but then she went into a character development. Inspector Han originally had no personality but then when I knew more things about him, he became okay. I couldn't remember more characters, I didn't even know the ~real~ antagonist existed until the very end.

I had a theory on who was the real killer but sadly, I was wrong. On the bright side, my guess on who's Seol's missing older brother was thankfully, correct.

Overall, (i think) this was the first Korean Historical book I read. I liked the atmosphere and the mystery. I wasn't a fan of Hur's writing style, so I didn't enjoy it much. And most of the characters were lacking. This book was all right, yet forgettable. 2.5 stars.

"We must learn to embrace the new seasons in our lives. There is a season to gain, a season to lose; a season for peace, a season for war; a season to laugh, a season to mourn, and to betray."

TW: violence, murder, misogyny, physical abuse, mention of animal abuse, & mention of suicide.

this book had improved a lot in the last six chapters. so because of that, it deserved an extra star.
Review to come
Profile Image for Amélie Zhao.
Author 7 books2,101 followers
August 31, 2018
This book, you guys. My heart just filled with ten thousand rivers of emotions and tears. Set in Korea in the 1800s, TEN THOUSAND RIVERS follows the journey of Seol, a girl indentured to the police bureau who becomes caught up in an investigation of a murder. She quickly becomes entangled with the dark secrets and political intrigue surrounding the case.

TEN THOUSAND RIVERS swept me away to ancient Korea, filled with misty mountains and hazy, foggy cities; paddy fields and oceans. June's writing is so atmospheric, and sometimes I had to pause and close my eyes over the gorgeous imagery her prose evoked. Even better than the setting are the characters -- strong, wounded, yet brave -- and the relationships between them. It's not often that I get teary or feel sad reading a book -- but certain chapters of June's had me clutching my chest and reading the lines over and over again because they were just so perfect a delicate balance of hope and depth and grief. The book is filled with themes of courage, morality, feminism, and family relationships, each explored in such sweeping, lush ways.

I'm so honored to have read an early version of this, and I cannot wait to buy this once it's out. A gorgeous debut.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,092 reviews6,575 followers
May 7, 2020
"The dead are gone, yet we live in their shadows."

representation: Korean (own voices)

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]


Firstly, the ATMOSPHERE and the SETTING were so well done. I could picture everything so clearly in my head (although this may be because I've watched so many historical k-dramas lol).
Secondly, the MYSTERY was so well done and constantly kept me guessing.
Thirdly, almost every other chapter had a plot twist so I was constantly on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out whether the reveals were reliable or not.
And lastly, I just had a great time reading this. It was quick and fun while also tackling darker themes at the same time.

trigger warnings: death, murder, loss of loved ones, mention of dying of starvation, mentions of suicide, being branded, sexism, classism, injured animals and animal death, torture and imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse, slavery, PTSD.
Profile Image for Ashley Nuckles.
190 reviews7,252 followers
July 17, 2020
I wasn’t expecting much but this was SO GOOD! So much political turmoil and intrigue, the murder mystery was really interesting with all the twists and turns I wasn’t expecting, and overall I really enjoyed learning more about this particular era in Korea in the early 1800’s. Definitely will be reading more from June Hur in the future!
Profile Image for Lucy Tonks.
488 reviews716 followers
September 26, 2021
”Sometimes monsters are born, but sometimes they are made by an accumulation of hurt.”

Overall this was a really disappoiting book. I went into it expecting completely something else. I've seen so many great reviews for this book, so many people praising it and I was left just disappointed adn mad. I wanted so much more from this story. It's been months since I read it adn I've just now gotten around to reviewing so I'm sorry, but the details are a bit fuzzy at this point.

Buddy read with Mash, Erin, Devika, Charmie and Lacey!!

We are in 1800, Joseon, Korea. Seol, a homesick and an orphan sixteen year old, indentured to the police bureau, is damo (during that time period in Korea man where not alowed to touch women that were not part of their family and a damo helped out with that) and she is tasked with helping a respectable young detective to solve the murder of a noblewoman. During the investigation she finds herself growing closer to the detective, but her loyalty is tested once he becomes the prime suspect of the crime. To find out what turly happened that night, Seol must delve deeper into the murder, but what she may find out may end up being deadly.

The premise was pretty interesting to begin with and in the beginning the book wasn't actually that bad. But as i started to get more into the story and actually understand whta was happening and getting to know the characters, the more and more bored I became.

I hated how inconsiste the characters's personalities were. Seol was at one point really submisive doing everything her superiors (meaning the men in her life) told her too and there were times when somehwho that shy girl was gone and in her place was this character who would do anything, including not respecting anyone, to get her answer. Like what? Where did that come from? I don't udnerstand how she can change personality so fast. It did not make sense. She is not the only character like this, but she is actually the only one I remember details about and can really complain about.

The mystery was extremely predictable. I'm pretty sure I guessed who the criminal was like half way through the book and honestly that person just made sense. They were my first guess and it felt so obvious. I'm not even sure I picked on the foreshadowing or something. That person felt like the only one who could have actually done it. Also the other storyline of Seol trying to find her brother. Once again really predictable and in a way just way too convienient. Why not pick the obvious person right there to be her brother as to not bother more? In the end really annoying and I could have done without this part added to the novel.

The only thing I actually loved about this book were the historical aspects. I cannot exactly talk about how accurate it is since I don't know that much about this historical time period, but from what I've heard and read online I would say it is accurate. One thing is clear though, the author put a lot of time and effort into the aspect of the story and it actually turned out pretty amazing. I loved learning as much as I could take from this book about Korea and that year.

This book was pretty boring. I forced myself to finish it since I was curious to see how right I was with my predictions, but in the end that was really not worth it. I read the last 30% of the book in maybe less than two hours just to be done with it. I read it as fast as possible as I couldn't wait to just be over with it and be a thing of the past. This is sadly a book I cannot recommend and that I will never recommend, but aside my obviosu dislike of this book, I do plan to give this author another chance. I still have faith that I could like her books.

”Death, it was so final. A finality that did not discriminate, stealing both the young and the old, rich and poor.”
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
505 reviews730 followers
June 11, 2020
Where do I even begin with this review? This book is like nothing I’ve ever read. June Hur has officially become one of my favorite authors. The writing style was so detailed and immersive. I felt like I was a part of the setting and everything that went on in the book. I hardly ever read historical fiction but something about this book made me add it to my tbr without hesitation, and made it one of my highly anticipated of the year. Oh it also become one of my favorite books of 2020 and ever.

The book was so atmospheric and in the most amazing of ways. It’s set in Korea and it felt like a Kdrama unfolding in your mind’s eye and I can’t even begin to explain how exciting that is! Everything was absolutely perfect. I’m usually a fast reader but I wanted to take this journey slow. I wanted to take in every detail and everything that was shared. I wanted to piece together the mystery on my own as well. I wanted to be as much a part of the story as the characters themselves. The mystery was so complex! Seol spent the whole book collecting her own evidence and trying to solve this mystery and the further into the story we went, the more questions I had. I was left trying to solve things until the very end of the book. I guessed at a few things and some were correct but the overall feeling of having the mystery finally solved was overwhelming. The book had so many plot twists and I enjoyed every one of them!

Seol was such a different character to follow but I enjoyed having her as a main character so much! She was so determined and never backed down. I don’t think the mystery would have ever been solved without her. She put so much on the line and proved to be the most loyal character. Nothing felt rushed in the book. I felt like we got everything at the perfect time, including Seol’s story. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. It’s officially one of my favorite books and I urge you to read it.

Content Warnings (the author’s listing on Goodreads): violence | murder | misogyny | mention and description of animal abuse | mention and description of suicide.
Profile Image for Майя Ставитская.
1,332 reviews132 followers
June 21, 2022
The combination of medieval Asian flavor with Catholics as an object of persecution, a disenfranchised servant (practically serf) in the police department, who unexpectedly turns out to be literate - all this is pretty confusing.

In fact, it's worth saying a few words about the Korean Hangul alphabet. This is not a system of hieroglyphs that you have to spend years studying. Hangul phonemic writing, intuitively understandable, there will be moments in the book. when the heroine remembers how she memorized chamo (letters), the horizontal bars in the graphic spelling correspond to the position of the tongue when pronouncing. And this can be learned quickly enough, and given the reverence of Confucianism for education, it is also prestigious.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Sol, Tamo's maid, whose duties, due to the prohibition for men to touch women, include searching them, examining women's bodies, living and dead - it is not surprising that she is literate. She remembers little about her childhood, vaguely remembers that she lived in poverty with her brother and sister. That my brother once, ten years ago, left home after a quarrel with his sister. Since then, there has been no news from him, and when she herself grew up, her sister assigned her to the detective agency there, in the hope that she would be able to find her brother.

It all starts with the discovery of the corpse of a young woman stabbed with her own dagger for suicide (yes, such a detail of the wardrobe of a noble Korean woman). Sol first examines and describes the body, then, wanting to be useful to his idol Inspector Khan, begins to question the women from the house of the murdered girl. And attracts his attention, and when she manages to save the life of the boss, she becomes a trusted assistant, who is promised freedom after the successful completion of the case.

"The Silence of Bones" is a fascinating historical detective story that will remind Akunin's "Diamond Chariot" - without the cute Fandorin, but with dramatic intrigue. And yes, it's very cool.

Да и не брат ты мне..
Старым порядкам настал конец, на смену им придут новые – и прольются реки крови.
Это Корея, до разделения которой на Северную и Южную еще очень далеко. Время действия - начало девятнадцатого века, династия Чосон правит уже больше четырех столетий, общественный строй феодализм с мощной бюрократической системой управления, официальная религия конфуцианство, а страна - вассал Китая. Хотя ко времени начала описываемых событий вассалитет скорее формальный. Моды, как водится, приходят из метрополии.

В 1784 году молодой знатный кореец Ли Сын Хун вернулся из поездки в Пекин крещенным и начал проповедовать католицизм. Конфуцианство по сути не религия, а свод правил регулирующий все сферы жизни. Потребностям более глубинных слоев религиозного сознания отвечал культ предков. Новая религия, обещавшая жизнь вечную, быстро завоевала последователей среди знати, а затем и простонародья. Обращенных было много и сначала официальные власти отнеслись к католицизму благосклонно. Но вскоре начались гонения, причиной которых как всегда была борьба за власть и деньги, а поводом объявили оскорбление культа предков. Преследования стоили жизни тысячам католиков, сто три человека, приняли мученическую смерть за веру и впоследствии были канонизированы.

Это долгое предисловие, чтобы было понятно, в каких обстоятельствах разворачиваются события книги Джун Хёр. Сочетание средневекового азиатского колорита с католиками в качестве объекта преследования, бесправная служанка (практически крепостная) в полицейском ведомстве, которая неожиданно оказывается грамотной - все это изрядно сбивает с толку.

На самом деле, стоит сказать несколько слов о корейском алфавите Хангыль. Это не система иероглифов, на изучение которых надо потратить годы. Хангыль фонематическое письмо, интуитивно постижимое, в книге будут моменты. когда героиня вспоминает, как заучивала чамо (буквы), горизонтальные перекладины �� графическом написании соответствуют положению языка при произнесении. И этому можно научиться достаточно быстро, а учитывая пиетет конфуцианства к образованию, еще и престижно.

Потому неудивительно, что Соль, служанка тамо, в обязанности которой, из-за запрета для мужчин касаться женщин, входит обыскивать их, осматривать женские тела, живые и мертвые - неудивительно, что она грамотная. Она мало что помнит о своем детстве, смутно вспоминает, что жили в нищете, с братом и сестрой. Что брат однажды, десять лет назад, ушел из дома после ссоры с сестрой. С тех пор от него не было известий, а когда сама она подросла, сестра определила ее тамо в сыскное ведомство, в надежде, что удастся найти брата.

Все начинается с того, что обнаружен труп молодой женщины, заколотой собственным кинжалом для самоубийства (да, такая деталь гардероба знатной кореянки). Соль сначала осматривает и описывает тело, потом, желая быть полезной своему кумиру инспектору Хану, начинает расспрашивать женщин из дома убитой девушки. И обращает на себя его внимание, а когда ей удается спасти жизнь шефа — становится доверенной помощницей, которой обещана вольная после благополучного завершения дела.

"Молчание костей" захватывающе интересный исторический детектив, который напомнит "Алмазную колесницу" Акунина - без милого Фандорина, но с драматичной интригой. И да, это очень круто.

Profile Image for Althea ☾.
623 reviews1,952 followers
February 12, 2021
[rounds up everyone who has been asking for YA mystery thrillers] here's the book you've been looking for

— overall thoughts: 3.5 —
content warnings//

🌚 reps: korean setting and characters
🌚 vibes: atmospheric dark cozy ya murder mystery
Profile Image for Diabolica.
422 reviews52 followers
June 11, 2020
I think I might start reading some more historical fiction because I really enjoyed this one. Or maybe I should just start reading fiction that isn't situated in America or Europe...?

In either case, this was low-key an emotional ride and an extremely unexpected read for something in YA.

I don't mean to bash YA books, but the lack of romance and the level of reflection in this book was astonishing Colour me shook.

A bit background about our rollercoaster in question. If you are here for a ride of reflection, a well-planned mystery, and plenty of independent musings this ride will be perfect for you. Buckle up as it will shortly begin.

Before we embark on this ride (of a book), I would like to remind all passengers that our ride takes place in Joseon Korea (a detail that escaped me, till the Author's note), so it'll definitely be different than your usual read. I can definitely say that it was different from most of mine.

As we slowly embark up our metal trail, I'd like to introduce you to a couple of faces that will follow us through the journey: Seol, and Inspector Han. I won't say that there was much character development, and if there was it was fairly subtle. I think while I liked Seol, I didn't strongly connect with any of the characters. If anything, I was just hoping for a happy end for the characters.

To describe the ride itself, please be patient is what I'll say. The plot moves fairly slowly but fairly meticulously. There are a lot of workings and subplots (especially for a standalone) that Hur incorporates, while also painting the setting. So I found I'd lose interest if I stopped reading at any point, but the twists in this book were rather ingenious and caught me by surprise.

Now if I can direct your attention to the rather interesting material used to build the ride, ceramics (ceramics is just for the metaphor, there's no double entendre here). The writing style was different. It was more contemplative and rightly so, because our MC was trying to solve a murder. That being said, there was a lot written about discrimination between the levels and against women. As well as about the principles the society relied on.

There was a lot of talk about honour. Which was a quintessential part of the mystery, but also (at least I think) part of a message the author might have been trying to say (if there was one).

I hope you've brought your tissues because the end of this ride might be a bit of a tear-jerker and your grown-up pants because the level of maturity to read this ending is unreal. Personally, I was not a fan of how it ended. I mean the perp was caught, which is great, but I otherwise dislike the fact that

But this book really came as a shock to me. Especially because I found it in the teen section of my library's overdrive. It is very subtle (and artful) in the way that it integrates this story (a mystery story) during a historical period of persecution. The background had some but really no bearing on the key players (obviously the sentiments at the time dictated how the characters interacted and some of the motivations for some characters, but it wasn't a story about the key players in the prosecution). It wasn't a retelling, but rather a story of a serial murder at that time. I think the biggest surprise came from the focus to reunite family, which is a theme I've seen before, but not in the context that was brought in this book. I think there was a line in this book, when you are looking for someone the world becomes so immense (something like that) and this level of realism is something that came as a huge shock, a kick to reality and a maturing read.

To top it off, there was no romance. SURPRISED? I know I was. I think this is literally a first for me in the world of YA.

So that brings us to the end of our ride. I genuinely enjoyed the plot, it was a really good mystery and the context and setting were set amazingly well. While I didn't connect with the characters as well and really didn't like the ending, it is and amazingly well-written and well-thought-out novel.
Profile Image for Erin.
89 reviews134 followers
April 28, 2021
Buddy read with Mash, Charm, Devika, Lucy, and Lacey. I loved buddy reading it with you guys!

Quick before we start:
The Silence of Bones is June Hur’s debut mystery novel set in 1800s Joseon, Korea. I was fascinated that the book was set in Korea and used Korean terms, so I automatically picked it up. I wasn’t expecting much, and not much was what I got. It was decent, but nothing special.

Question 1: How did you find the plot?
A) Love (1 star)
B) Like (0.75 stars)
C) Okay (0.50 stars)
D) Dislike (0.25 stars)
E) Hate (0 stars)

Explain your answer:
The plot follows Seol, a damo servant who gets caught up in the murder investigation a young noblewoman is mysteriously killed. She is the assistant to Inspector Han but when he becomes the main suspect, she works to prove his innocence. Seol could be the only one who could solve the murders.

Seol was sPeShUl (credit to world's best commenter Julia for thinking of this line to add here)

The plot was unremarkable and boring. It wasn’t terrible, but there wasn’t anything I liked about it. This would be a book I would have DNFed had I not been buddy reading it with my friends. The case barely made any progress throughout most of the book, and it didn’t really feel mysterious or thrilling.

Question 2: How did you find the characters?
A) Love (1 star)
B) Like (0.75 stars)
C) Okay (0.50 stars)
D) Dislike (0.25 stars)
E) Hate (0 stars)

Explain your answer:
I didn’t find any of the characters particularly appealing. They were pretty boring and/or dull and/or annoying. They didn’t have any defining personalities I found interesting and I’ve already forgotten the names of half of them.

Seol is a damo, the lowest rank of servants. She’s curious about nearly everything and asks questions when she shouldn’t.
I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.

I found Seol to be ok at times, and really annoying at others. Her personality was ever-changing and her character had barely any development.
Inspector Han is the head of the investigation. I can’t put a finger on his personality, I have no idea what it is. Along with Seol, I found him to also be pretty annoying and boring.

Question 3: How did you find the setting/worldbuilding?
A) Love (1 star)
B) Like (0.75 stars)
C) Okay (0.50 stars)
D) Dislike (0.25 stars)
E) Hate (0 stars)

Explain your answer:
This book takes place in 1800s Korea during the Joseon dynasty. I’m going to assume everything is historically accurate since I don’t know much about Korean history. I have always hated history, and I love learning through books. I swear, half of my knowledge of WWII comes from reading about it in fictional books. The author’s note at the end of the book is fascinating and I highly recommend reading it. I love how this book is based on Korean history since you don’t see that much in books. Being Korean myself, I really enjoyed the setting of the story.

Question 4: How did you find the writing/POV/pacing?
A) Love (1 star)
B) Like (0.75 stars)
C) Okay (0.50 stars)
D) Dislike (0.25 stars)
E) Hate (0 stars)

Explain your answer:
Sadly, June Hur’s writing wasn’t really the kind of writing I enjoy. But, I loved all of the Korean words used throughout the book. I think that understanding most of the words enhanced my reading experience.

As for the POV, this book is told from the first-person perspective of Seol. It was painful at times because I found Seol to be an annoying character. But, I think that this story told from the first-person perspective was the right choice, and getting Seol’s thoughts directly showed me how she came to the final conclusion.

The book was quite slow when it came to pacing. It felt like it dragged multiple times throughout the book, and I wanted nothing more than to DNF it. It was a rollercoaster of ups and downs, as it was slow at times but fast at others.

Question 5: How did you find the conflict/resolution?
A) Love (1 star)
B) Like (0.75 stars)
C) Okay (0.5 stars)
D) Dislike (0.25 stars)
E) Hate (0 stars)

Explain your answer:
The ending was a huge improvement compared to the beginning of the book, but disappointing in the long run. Thankfully, I wasn’t able to predict the ending as I normally do and I’m thankful for that. I didn’t feel the need to finish the book as I would have with other mystery novels.

Total: (2.5/5)
Deductions & Bonuses:
-0.25 because I feel like I liked it less than 2.5
Final Total: (2.25/5)

Other notes:
- I really have nothing else to say about this book.

A Korean word glossary in case anyone’s curious:
Many of the words used in this book are applicable only to that time period and are not used anymore. But it can’t hurt to know, can it? Many words I’m adding here are defined throughout the book but in case anyone’s interested in learning a few Korean words but isn’t planning on reading the book, I’m going to add them. (also, my translations are based on my knowledge of Korean. It’s probably correct, but please correct me if it isn’t)
Norigae- a traditional Korean accessory hung on clothing. It’s used as decoration but can also symbolize good luck
Damo- The lowest class of servants. When translated, it literally means “Tea Lady”
Aigoo- I literally laughed when I saw this. It’s more of a sound of exasperation than an actual vocabulary word. I’ve heard my grandparents say this so many times, so it was really funny to see this.
Omo- It’s kind of like “gasp.” It’s also not really a vocabulary word but rather a sound of surprise.
Inyeona- I’m pretty sure this translates to “b*itch.” I thought it was spelled ingana though? Maybe I’m wrong.
Gisaeng- Women from outcast or slave families who were trained to be courtesans, providing artistic entertainment and conversation to men of upper class.
Ajussi- What you call a middle-aged man.
Ajumma- What you call a middle-aged woman
Hyung- A word a younger man uses to call an older man (though usually not much older). It could also be a way for a little brother to call an older brother.
(These are only a few of them. I realized I have so many words I could add here, but that would take up so much space. If you’re curious about a certain word, ask and I’ll add it here)
Profile Image for Elora  Cook.
115 reviews51 followers
April 16, 2019
I had the utmost pleasure of reading this a while back and adored every word. June's writing is breathtaking, her characters pull at your heart, and her mystery is both alluring and constantly leaves you guessing!
I am so excited that others will be able to read this beautiful book as well and that someone as deserving as June gets to have her words be out in the world.
Everyone, you are doing yourself a favour by adding this book to your TBR!
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,798 followers
Shelved as 'on-hold-ill-get-to-it-one-day'
July 24, 2020
Book #4 for the Reading Rush for the prompt: a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live

buddy read with taasia 💕
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,696 followers
June 18, 2020
If you love the idea of a murder mystery with no romance, is carefully plotted, and set in 1800's Korea, then you'll love this excellent debut.

- Follows Seol, an orphaned sixteen-year old girl who is an indentured servant at the police bureau. When a noblewoman is murdered, Seol assists an inspector to find the murderer - only to find that the murder mystery will uncover Seol's past and the secrets within her family.
- I thought this was incredibly plotted and well-crafted. I liked how thoughtful this mystery was; that it was more than just a murder mystery, but one that was also emotional and melancholic.
- I loved how this book transports the reader to 1800's Korea - not only in atmosphere, but also in how the story intertwines with ideas of gender and class of the time.
- The ending was 'predictable' - but in a very good way! In a way that was built up and developed wonderfully and was incredibly satisfying at the end.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews181 followers
April 30, 2020
I have been looking forward to June Hur's debut for years, long before I became somewhat jaded by YA literature, and so I was not really expecting my expectations to be met, but I am so pleased to say that they absolutely were. The Silence of Bones is a vibrant, carefully researched, melancholic murder mystery that kept me reading for hours straight, until I lost track of time. Hur's writing is elegant and mature, as are her characters, who are all multi-faceted and complex. The mystery is intricately crafted and genuinely interesting; Hur managed to weave her own characters into actual historical events and people in a skillfull way.
Profile Image for Josh Hyung (조슈아).
114 reviews1,286 followers
April 27, 2020
Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There are usually only three causes of murder: lust, greed, or vengeance. Among these three, vengeance is the most common. — Inspector Han

Do you enjoy watching K-dramas, particularly those with vivid, historical settings and well-developed characters? Shows like Splendid Politics and Empress Ki can have as many as 40-50 episodes because they have multiple story arcs, but this debut novel will give you all the delights of the genre with just 336 pages. I was excited to read this book when I first heard about it last year, so I'm glad that it exceeded my expectations.

The Silence of Bones is about Seol, a 16-year-old girl who is indentured to the police bureau during the Joseon Dynasty. She misses her family dearly, particularly her brother who died around 10 years ago. In addition to her homesickness, she has to deal with much fear and anxiety as she helps the authorities solve a murder mystery. Seol finds herself under the wing of Inspector Han, a highly esteemed noble (and the head of the investigation). However, as they collect more pieces of evidence, Seol begins to doubt Han's integrity. Could he be the killer they were all looking for? Seol prides herself in her loyalty, but not even her faith in the inspector will keep her silent.

For someone who was barely an adult, Seol had a tough life because of the political climate. Nonetheless, I loved the historical context of this book. Joseon's queen regent was like the counterpart of England's Bloody Mary, planning to sniff out all of the Catholics in the country. After Seol's father was executed for converting to Catholicism, her mother committed suicide. Then, Seol was exiled for three years and was eventually bought as a slave. The Christian in me mourned the deaths of the Catholic characters, but the Asian part of me understood the queen's refusal to embrace Western ideologies.

The police officers generally didn't abuse Seol, but the conservative rules of Joseon society (e.g., men couldn't touch female non-relatives) obliged them to use her as a collector/handler of female victims. As a result, Seol wasn't a stranger to violence and death. I was surprised that she didn't let those noseless faces drive her to insanity. But if I remember correctly, Seol rarely smiled or laughed in the novel. Her circumstances were that dire.

Most of Seol's moments of positivity were linked to Inspector Han. Seol respected him a lot and did whatever she could to prove her usefulness and competence. She believed that he was the very first person to look beyond her status as a servant, the first man who really saw her. These epiphanies hinted at a possible romance, making the plot more exciting. Most K-dramas (and YA books) feature couples to root for, so I'm sure that other readers will also see the chemistry between the characters.

Inspector Han was a puzzle to me. I couldn't predict his actions because his feelings for Seol were as fickle as the wind. His hatred for Catholicism was perhaps the most consistent thing about him. One scene in the book almost made me despise Han. Seol's life was in danger, but he conveyed (or feigned) indifference. Still, Seol resolved to set aside her emotions and give him the benefit of the doubt. Until she found solid proof, she wouldn't abandon her friend and mentor.

June Hur excelled at making me doubt the characters. Seol wasn't an unreliable narrator, so I knew that she wasn't the killer. On the other hand, Inspector Han, Lady Kang, Officer Shim, and even the mother of one of the victims were potential criminals. Seol's fellow slaves weren't necessarily innocent, either. There were so many suspects that I was tempted to look at the last page of the book. The tension was almost unbearable!

My one, nitpicky problem was the repetitive use of the word "silence." Whether or not it was intentional, I couldn't unsee it. You can blame my career as an editor, which encourages me to notice such minor details. xD

Overall, The Silence of Bones is one of my favorite 2020 releases. It's probably the best Korea-inspired work in my collection, so I can't wait to read June Hur's sophomore novel. Be prepared for a tragic yet beautiful ending. ;)
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books485 followers
Want to read
August 6, 2019
GUYS I AM LIVING FOR THESE CULTURALLY-CORRECT AND STUNNING COVERS OKAY . . . and now I feel weird because I truly SAW this cover, okay!! It was on Goodreads and it was beautiful . . . and now it's gone??? I am confused and devastated.

a n y w a y s

considering I am learning the Korean language, culture, and basically as much as I can about that country . . . yes, this is calling my name very loudly.

yay we have a new cover . . . although I loved the first one better and I'm still super hyped for this!!
Profile Image for Merie Shen.
327 reviews77 followers
May 27, 2020
Looking around at all the other reviews of this book, not to mention after reading said book, I feel this incredible pressure to write a deep, eloquent, shining review worded as carefully and breath-takingly as the novel itself.

Unfortunately, I possess neither the skill nor talent to do so. I'd rather have the author's prose speak for itself, if you'll excuse me for saying.

But yes, this book was beautiful, and riveting, and atmospheric, and so well-written it scared me. Are debuting authors really supposed to write like this? Why do these people have to set the bar so high?

Anyway, let's move beyond the fantastic prose. The characters were amazing. I had no expectations for Seol, none whatsoever, because um hello YA genre. But Seol was such a great refreshing change of voice! She actually acts her age, wow? And her bright curiosity made for one of the best types of heroines! I wish she had more of an arc, personally, but I can't really complain. Besides, I think the author meant to draw more attention to Inspector Han's arc, which was done... so well... I can't even. (If that's not what she meant to do then... welp, I can be an overthinker at times)

The myyysteryy! So well done! I loved it! There are a number of suspicious characters encountered throughout the story, and soooo many instances of madly wondering who the real culprit could be-- especially if you're like me and automatically suspect each and every character who appears-- and yeah, I was pretty invested. It was a bit spooky at times, kind of bloody, but never too graphic. I appreciate that.

The themes for me were kind of muddled behind all the imagery and the plot, and I'm confused about the message/s conveyed through the overall story, but there were definitely things to take away. I especially liked how the author portrayed Christianity in this historical fiction. Seol's attitude toward Catholics, though it goes through several changes of its own, felt so real! Parts of it were still sobering and saddening though-- I (shamefully) have never known about that particular period of anti-Christian persecution until I read this book. I love that the author portrayed both sides of the conflict, with Seol being caught in the middle, and I would've liked to see that further expounded on-- but that's just me.

So yes, 5/5 stars and I'm definitely getting a physical copy. Thanks so much, June Hur, for bringing historical Korea to life!

Always be a happy camper!
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,718 reviews856 followers
July 12, 2020

Trigger warnings for .

Representation: Korean cast & setting.

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Kat Cho.
Author 7 books1,796 followers
October 31, 2019
June Hur paints a beautiful picture of Joseon Korea in her gripping historical mystery novel. An intriguing tale that touches on class, honor, the value of one's beliefs, and the lengths one is willing to go for loyalty and family. Hur presents such a vivid portrayal of the Joseon Era that it's like stepping back in time. With its breathtaking prose and complex characters, this mystery novel is sure to keep you guessing until the very end!
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,420 reviews393 followers
April 19, 2020
I have a mouth, but I mustn't speak;
Ears, but I mustn't hear;
Eyes, but I mustn't see.

Sixteen year-old Seol has been indentured to the police bureau for one generation. She'll be 41 when she's finally released, and after a failed escape that leaves her branded, she's nearly resigned herself to a life of drudgery. Until a noblewoman is found murdered with her nose cut off, and her murder may be connected to the un-investigated deaths of several lowborn men and women who also died in a similar fashion. Only Seol thinks they're connected, and Seol's past may contain all the answers.

I normally don't read historical fiction mysteries, but this was pretty good.

The writing sucked me in despite myself (I was a little leery on this one). The writing is beautiful, and Seol's voice is strong, passionate and what I would imagine a teenager of 1800 Korea to be like. She's bright and too curious for her own good, and her unfortunate habit of eavesdropping tends to bring her more trouble than she imagines.

Without giving any spoilers away, I did like slowly finding out the mystery of her past, and I thought that it was very well done. A young child can forget some traumatic things that happen, but remember others, and can also forget key details like who their parents were or what happened or the names of their siblings, particularly if they are only referred to in honorifics.

And I also liked reading about this aspect of Korean history, with the persecution of Catholics and the tension between the Asiatic and European worlds, and the tensions within Asian countries as well, and how it affected Seol in small and large ways.

I also enjoyed her relationship with Inspector Han, and her realizations that good can mean many different things, and that most people are in shades of grey and are neither wholly good nor bad but can be motivated either way.

Your inspector is like every other aristocrat. His kindness is conditional. So Long as you please your inspector, do what he tells you, he will treat you like his sister. But upset him, and you become again a mere slave to him.

And that witness testimony can be flawed, particularly testimony that is "revealed" under torture.

And, of course, the invisibility of women played a key role in this book. Seol was enslaved, and worked with other damos who were in a similar situation but well-educated, and for the most part they were ignored by their male counterparts unless they were wanted for something. The investigative and forensic techniques were also really fascinating to read and learn about.

Anywho, this was solidly plotted, well researched and thoroughly engaging. It's not usually a genre I pick up, but I'm happy I gave this one a chance.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Profile Image for Claire.
Author 5 books482 followers
April 26, 2020
This brilliant YA Historical Fiction deserves to be on everyone's TBR. Meticulously researched, richly drawn and resonating with multi-faceted characters, The Silence of Bones is one of the best YA books I've read in a long, long time. We're introduced immediately to our MC, Seol, who is just an absolute delight. She's strong, she's smart, she is independent despite her hard circumstances, and she is fantastically HUMAN. June Hur really has an understanding of how people think and feel, and this is never more apparent than in Seol's head. Author June Hur has also woven an intriguing mystery, one that will keep you guessing until the very end. (Also, PLEASE GIVE ME ANOTHER BOOK, JUNE!)

Overall, if you want a brilliantly woven and researched historical fiction, you couldn't do better than this AMAZING book!
Profile Image for Joey.
219 reviews82 followers
June 18, 2020
The beginning was really slow but by the end I couldn’t put it doooooown 😩😰
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