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The Red Palace

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Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father's approval.

But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon's closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher's innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.

In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 25, 2022

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About the author

June Hur

6 books1,279 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 1,248 reviews
Profile Image for Chloe Gong.
Author 14 books17.8k followers
January 19, 2022
This book said I'm going to give you an intricately plotted mystery AND a superbly realized main character with such longing to be seen AND complicated parental relationships where not everything is what it seems because care manifests in different ways AND the most tender slow-burn love story with a love interest that made me scream into a pillow, I'm in sheer awe
Profile Image for jessica.
2,477 reviews29.6k followers
January 10, 2022
reading this feels like walking straight into a historical k-drama. one thats filled with murder, secrets and spies, court politics and a tragic crown prince, a mysterious investigator, and a palace nurse just trying to make a life for herself.

while there were times this feels like its a modern story, i am still in awe at JHs ability to create such a moment in time. especially when it comes to the police investigation and seeing basic principles of observation and interviewing put to good use. i also loved reading the authors note and seeing the influence of history throughout this in the form of prince sado, who is such an interesting figure.

and with multi-dimensional characters, easy-going writing, an engaging plot, and consistent pacing, it wasnt hard to enjoy to enjoy this. JH not only continues to deliver great historical stories, but has further developed her storytelling with this latest novel!

thank you so much for the ARC macmillan/feiwel & friends!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,388 reviews77.2k followers
November 27, 2022
"To enter the palace means to walk a path stained in blood, our medical teachers had whispered. There will be bloodshed. I only hope it will not be yours."

I decided to quietly start The Red Palace on a whim after a friend told me how wonderful it was, and it's the best reading decision I've made in January. Historical fiction is definitely not my go to genre, but something about the premise involving a murder mystery drew me in. I've determined that I'm indeed not averse to historical fiction, I just wasn't finding the right books for me in this genre. After reading many similar WWII historical romances, it felt like that was all I was seeing promoted on my feeds. While there's nothing wrong with them, I'm just happy to branch out and explore HF that features ancient Eastern cultures, rather than solely Anglo-Saxon and American history that is relatively new compared to the rest of the world.

Hyeon is a palace nurse, the highest station that she can achieve as a common born female in 1700's Korea. She has studied and worked hard to become someone her higher born father, Lord Shin, will hopefully be proud of. She lives with her mother and younger brother when she's not working at the palace, and while she has become close with her little sibling over time, her relationship with her mother is strained due to her abandoning Hyeon one night when she was a young girl.

One night, Hyeon and her friend/fellow palace nurse Jieun are summoned to the Crown Prince's quarters to tend to his illness, and discover that they are being sworn into keeping a grave secret. During the same night, a mass murder of nurses at the local hospital outside the royal gates invokes an investigation that the King and Commander Song would like to wrap up as soon as possible. The only remaining nurse present, Hyeon's mentor and maternal figurehead, is arrested and will be tortured and executed if she cannot get to the bottom of things quickly. But how can she investigate on the sly while also keeping up with her palace duties?

"Revenge begets revenge; the anger is unquenchable. We become the monsters we are trying to punish. Justice, however, brings closure, and that is what I want."

Enter Eojin, police inspector extraordinaire and cousin to Jieun. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate discreetly, as these murders are directly linked to the murder of someone close to him. Eojin is upperclass, but sees all humans as equals due to being raised by a progressive thinking family, and watching his and Hyeon's bond grow over the course of their investigation is both organic and delightful. The increasing devotion between them is subtle, but in the best of ways, and by the end of the book I felt their relationship had greater strength than most YA romantic couples we have seen over the years combined altogether. I would DIE for these characters, and would absolutely love to revisit this crime solving duo in future books, as the mystery was well crafted and believable, which was further cemented by the author's note at the end of the book.

Please note that this story has a great deal of graphic violence, gore, murder, and discussions involving classism (always challenged) that may be disturbing to some readers. This may have been my first read by June Hur, but it certainly won't be my last. What a delight it is to find one of my favorite books of the year as early as January! I loved it so much that I pre-ordered a finished copy for my favorites shelf. Highly recommend this one to everyone who is burned out on the same old over-hyped reads.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,424 reviews8,969 followers
December 7, 2022
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 was limited in her options. She does enjoy her profession, however, and hopes that through it she may one day earn her estranged 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 suddenly 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!

Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,251 followers
January 26, 2022
Decided to take a break from reading bloody historical fantasies by reading this bloody historical thriller. 🗡🩸

June Hur is one of those authors I’ve heard nothing but great things about, but I still had never gotten around to reading before. And maybe it’s because the phrase ‘YA historical mystery’ doesn’t quite do her books justice. Absolutely all of those descriptors are true in this case—The Red Palace is a novel from a YA imprint set in 18th century Korea centered around multiple murders, and yet it felt like so much more than that while I was reading.

A driven young nurse, Baek-Hyeon, has finally achieved her dream position working in the palace. After overcoming a difficult childhood, she’s accomplished more than anyone expected a girl from her background would do. But all that Hyeon has done is threatened one night when she’s summoned to watch over a member of the royal household, then sworn to secrecy. Upon leaving the palace that same day she learns that a massacre has taken place at her former nursing school, and her beloved mentor, Nurse Jeongsu, has been arrested for the crime.

Not believing her caretaker and teacher could have ever done something so heinous, Hyeon devotes herself to clearing Nurse Jeongsu’s name by investigating the killings herself. Her persistence and meddling draw the attention of a young police inspector, Seo Eojin. And despite early mistrust and disagreement, they begin to work together to unravel the web of secrets at the heart of this violent crime.

I think the most surprising thing to me while reading was how engaging and exciting The Red Palace was. Other historical fiction I’ve read, even ones centered around similar deadly events, have the tendency to drag or slow down intermittently. It’s not a particularly long book at 336 pages, but it’s jam-packed with action and suspense. June Hur also allows those tender, quiet moments for the characters to be explored on a deeper level. You can definitely try to solve the mystery by tracking the clues and evidence, but these are crime(s) best understood by following the motives.

I also loved the balance between historical record and the portions invented by the author and how they were seamlessly blended together. Some may or may not know this, but The Red Palace is actually based on the story of Prince Sado, a famous Korean figure from history. I’m not going to write too much about him, because I don’t want to potentially spoil anything for other people who are going in blind like I did, but also because though a lot of the story references the Crown Prince, he’s not the main focus. We are primarily following Hyeon and Eojin’s investigation, wherever that may go, and how their lives are impacted by interfering in various political maneuvers.

I really recommend reading June’s Author’s Note at the end of the book once you’ve finished. It’s so enlightening in addition to the novel, plus it demonstrates how deliberate and well thought-out her writing is. If you’re a sucker for crime shows “based on a true story” or historical dramas pieced together through old documents and court gossip or maybe are just looking for a break from a formulaic YA thriller set in a high school, I’d recommend giving The Red Palace a shot!

Now the only question is do I read The Silence of Bones or The Forest of Stolen Girls next?? 🤔

*Thanks to Fierce Reads for an advance review copy!

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Darcey.
906 reviews192 followers
January 28, 2022
ARC copy provided in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my rating or review.


Three Minute Thoughts:
The Red Palace was a fast-paced, exciting, adventurous mystery, and I loved every moment of it! The setting of 1758 Korea was fascinating to read about and thankfully free of any info-dumping, and the mystery was captivating and surprising, leaving readers with dawning expressions of understanding as the powerful main characters unravelled the intricate murder mystery. A soft romance just added a sweet touch to the novel overall, and all-round the book was an absolute pleasure to read – I’m certain I’ll now have to read the author’s other books!

The Extended, Long, and Very-Probably-Messy Review:
This book was such a pleasure to read! Fast-paced and reasonably short, I flew through most of this in one sitting, and was left satisfied and content at the end. I forgot what a pleasure it is to read standalones that don’t leave me with cliffhangers at the end!

A good book requires many different components, but the main ingredient to a captivating story is always the characters (for me), and The Red Palace definitely did not let me down here! Hur’s characters were easy to fall in love with and easier to relate to, from the harsh parental expectations that Hyeon was constantly trying to meet, to the loneliness that filled Eojin, even when surrounded by people. Hyeon was a powerful and brave protagonist, kickass despite being untrained in any martial arts, and a true example to women everywhere that there is more to strength than physical ability.

“We are women… and nothing short of death stops us from doing precisely what we wish to do. That is what the laws and restrictons binding our lives breed: determination and cunning.”
(This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.)

Eojin was a similarly captivating character, and I loved him from our first introduction – he’s an absolute cinnamon bun, and I will accept no other label for that cutie pie. I honestly wish we got more of him, he was such a sweetheart! And the slowburn, delicate romance that blossomed between the two MCs… positively heartbreaking. So precious and pure, I loved each minimal moment of it, and for once I actually don’t believe more romance was necessary – Hur sprinkled just the right amount in, so as to not draw attention from the mystery but still add some heart-fluttering moments.

“When the time comes…You watch out for me. And I will always watch out for you.”
(This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.)

Another strong and incredibly well-written section of The Red Palace was the mystery and action itself, heavily emphasised by the beautiful setting of Korea in the Joseon Period. I won’t say too much about the mystery – though let it be known that I was most certainly shocked by the ending – but I will say that I really, really loved the 1700’s Korea setting. I found the historical titbits fascinating and wonderfully interesting to read about, from the honourifics and the class system to the clothing and jobs, and when I read that the story was loosely based on a real Korean Crown Prince, I admired the historical accuracy even more! Jane Hur definitely has a stunning way of blending fact and fiction, and I will be sure to keep an eye out for more of her books.

Thank you so much to the author, publisher and Colored Pages Tours for the free copy of this splendid book in exchange for an honest review! A special thanks to Colored Pages Tours for organising the book blog tour❤.
Profile Image for Althea ☾.
623 reviews1,908 followers
March 12, 2022
It delivered the cozy non-western and non-european mystery story that I wanted but I wish the twists surprised me more given that it’s a mystery.

The romance was so wholesome, sweet, and lowkey. Even though I was mostly in it for the atmosphere, the couple charmed me. The saving grace of this book was the ending of the book because I love the way it ended and it got a lot more intense. I don’t think it’s badly written but my problem with June Hur books is that the main plot always feels a little too linear for my liking. But of course, if that’s something you want a little more, this might be perfect for you. The twists just never surprise me, which for a mystery/thriller, I feel like should be needed?

Themes are on authority and family, which I am always so soft for. I especially how everything played out in the end and the feelings that it pulled out of me as I closed the book.

This wasn’t particularly ground breaking for me but I wanted a cozy historical mystery that wasn’t western or european set and I loved it for that. We hardly get any stories like this and I hope we do get more in the future... hopefully I read ones that wreck my mind more.

This read largely like a historical korean mystery drama (complete with a female mc that goes against the patriarchy in her own way) so if that sounds appealing to you, like it does to me, I definitely think you should give this a try! Especially when you want a main character that goes against the patriarchy in her own way. So cozy, atmospheric, and unflinchingly Korean.

— 3.25 —
content warnings// Blood, Human Trafficking, Misogyny/Sexism, Murder, Violence


keep the korean historical mysteries coming
Profile Image for gauri.
178 reviews379 followers
January 28, 2022
check out the full review along with an aesthetic on my blog!

read my interview with the author here!

"Everyone is listening in the palace. Everyone is spying for someone.”

This is my first time reading a June Hur book and while I’m kicking myself for not picking up her works from earlier, I’m so so glad I loved The Red Palace. Like come on, this book pushed me out of my reading slump and made me a June Hur fan, I can now proceed to read her other two Korean historical mysteries!!

The Red Palace follows Baek-hyeon, a palace nurse whose mentor is wrongly accused of a massacre and to clear her name she teams up with the police inspector Seo Eojin. Together they work to get to the root of it all and discover dark secrets, even when the evidence points to the Crown Prince himself. I was really excited for this ever since it was announced, and when the cover dropped I knew I had to read it. And well, you can see what my I liked so much about it below!

page turning mystery
Usually, mysteries are a hit or miss for me. I would need shocking reveals, relevant themes or simply a good mysterious atmosphere for me to end up loving it. There’s something about Hur’s writing that kept me turning pages, as Hyeon and Eojin start to investigate, and I was transported to that time in Joseon, figuring out the murderer, sneaking into places or travelling through fields and the palace. Its simple enough to draw you into Hyeon’s POV and then keeps you invested in the action, the depth of the historical mystery as well as the cruel reveals. I might have had my suspicions of the real murderer but the satisfaction of seeing it play out through Hur’s writing as well as the bittersweet epilogue that concludes Hyeon’s character arc seals the deal.

all the historical kdrama feels
As someone who has loved the historical kdramas such as Mr. Sunshine, My Country: The New Age, Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung and Kingdom, reading The Red Palace was almost like seeing a kdrama come to life. The politics, the setting (1758 Joseon Korea!!), the cultural descriptions and the character motivations, they’re brought to life SO well I couldn’t help but be hooked. Even the prevalence of class system in those times, the glaring mistreatment of the lower born by the higher class, is efficiently incorporated.

I really loved reading about the inspiration behind this book —which is Crown Prince Sado and his tragic downward spiral and death. I found myself down the rabbit hole of reading articles about him and I could see how Hur stayed true to the known facts—an abusive father, psychological stress and the violent behaviour. His story isn’t the main focus here because as Hur specifies in her newsletter as well as the Author’s Note that she doesn’t plan to suggest people with mental health issues as dangerous but I think she portrayed the instances of his life authentically, forming the perfect backdrop to the story. Its as if we’re seeing him through a lens that’s close enough to show us his dire circumstances but far enough to not know the complications, which is through Hyeon’s character.

compelling main characters
Nurse Hyeon, the main character, is a determined and brilliant character. I loved her relentless pursuit of and her skill in the profession, despite being faced with the hardships of being from a lower class in a patriarchal society. I could very much relate to her desperate attempts of pleasing her father and being good enough for her family. But at the same time she was attached to her sense of justice and love for her mentor and mother figure. And so she hunts for the truth, despite being reminded of the risks and unfairness of the justice system. Its incredible how her character is developed in such less pages. I also really loved the complex relations she has with her parents, and the easy friendship with her fellow nurse Jieun.

And then of course, there’s my sunshine (with a sad past), flustered boy Seo Eojin, also striving for justice. I just really love how he doesn’t overshadow Hyeon but steps up as an equally intellectual partner. He’s a comforting character to be honest.

royal inspector x palace nurse pairing
Though the romance is very subtle, almost a back burner, their dynamic was highlighted so well. Their teamwork is excellent—both have guts and brains, Eojin being from a higher class and Hyeon being the eyes and ears of the palace, their slow descent from strangers solving a crime to becoming genuine partners—you can tell I love them both dearly. It didn’t take away the attention from the main mystery at all but served as a perfect subplot to further the story and the stakes.

Did I mention a slow burn romance?? Oh boy their ship was so gentle and slowly but sweetly developed over the course of them pursuing answers. I’m a total sucker for the lovers from different classes trope and the trope where the characters only team up for personal benefits but grow to enjoy each other’s company. Hur employed some great tropes to build the relationship between these two!!

The Red Palace also deals with grief and loss and how people react to it. There are multiple instances where characters have lost something or someone important to them and their reactions are brought forward validly—be it as vengeance, as fuel to not lose anything else further or simply grieving. Its a really great plot point, as it brings out the traits in Hyeon as well as our culprit.

So, in case if it wasn’t already clear, you all have to be excited for and love The Red Palace when it releases in 2(!!) months. Fans of historicals, murder mysteries with a dash of romance, palace intrigue will definitely enjoy this engagingly written standalone. I’m so eager to reread this one day and experience Hyeon and Eojin’s story again.

thank you to the author and the publisher for the arc!
Profile Image for Joan He.
Author 6 books7,031 followers
January 23, 2022
I'm jieun ok? squeed at every hyeon/eojin interaction. a beautiful and visually drawn story that warms your soul
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,297 reviews4,827 followers
March 2, 2022

3.5 stars

This review was first posted on Mystery and Suspense. Check it out for features, interviews, and reviews. https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/th...

It's 1758 and Joseon dynasty Korea is a difficult place for illegitimate daughters. Eighteen-year-old Hyeon was born to Lord Shin and one of his concubines, but the girl is considered a vulgar commoner. Hyeon's father has no use for her, and - when Hyeon was eight-years-old - her mother abandoned her in front of a geisha house, hoping the girl would be taken in and trained to be an entertainer.

Shivering and frightened, little Hyeon was rescued by a passing woman, Nurse Jeongsu, who said, "I am an uinyeo (medical woman). You aren't alone now."

Nurse Jeongsu took Hyeon to the Hyeminseo (medical clinic), and over the following years, trained her to be a nurse.

Between caring for commoners and assiduously studying, Hyeon received the best marks, and now, having just turned eighteen, she's achieved the high rank of palace nurse.

In Joseon era Korea males are forbidden to touch women unrelated to them, so nurses examine female patients and report their findings to male doctors.

As the story opens, night is approaching and Hyeon and her fellow nurse Jieun.....

are summoned by Physician Nanshin.....

Phycisian Nanshin leads them to the palace of Crown Prince Jangheon.

When the healers enter the royal's bedchamber, the Crown Prince's wife Lady Hyegyoung loudly announces - so the servants and court ladies can hear - that His Highness has been ill for two days and is getting worse.

While Physician Nanshin examines the patient Hyeon is shocked to see that it isn't the Crown Prince at all. Instead, the royal's bed is occupied by an old man dressed in the Crown Prince's nightgown. The healers remain in the palace all night, pretending to care for Crown Prince Jangheon.

At one point Lady Hyegyoung summons Nurse Hyeon and Nurse Jieun. Lady Hyegyoung prevails on the nurses' discretion and asks them, if the King summons the Crown Prince, to say he's indisposed. Lying to the King is a death penalty offense, but Hyeon agrees, all the time wondering where Crown Prince Jangheon disappeared to.

The next morning, as Hyeon and Jieun are leaving the palace, they hear a servant tell Lady Hyegyoung that four women were murdered at the Hyeminseo. The nurses rush to the medical facility and see four bodies laid out in the courtyard, under straw mats. Hyeon pretends she was summoned to view the bodies and quickly examines the four corpses, who turn out to be a head nurse, two student nurses, and a court lady. Police Commander Song arrests Hyeon's mentor, Nurse Jeongsu, for the murders, but Hyeon is certain her teacher is innocent. So Hyeon decides to look for the real killer herself.

Hyeon's astute observations about the corpses impress a young police inspector called Eojin, who allows Hyeon to join his investigation.

Meanwhile, handbills are going up around the city, claiming the Crown Prince killed the women at the Hyeminseo. Eojin tells Hyeon that his superior, Police Commander Song, will be even more determined to blame Nurse Jeongsu now, to protect the royal family.

According to the law a verdict must be passed on Nurse Jeongsu within ten days of her interrogation, so Hyeon and Eojin have to hustle to solve the crimes. They look for the murder weapon and travel around the region to speak to witnesses and search for the truth. As the duo work together, romantic sparks ignite, but the situation is complicated by Eojin's much higher social status. A man of his class would normally take a commoner like Hyeons as a concubine rather than a wife, and Hyeon would never agree to that.

A highlight of the book is the peek at customs, laws, and palace politics of 18th century Korea, which was a paternalistic society with rigid social stratification, strict rules for men and women, and domestic spies everywhere. The novel also presents an informative picture of nursing in 1700s Korea, which was divided into three specialties: pulse reading to determine the level of balance in the body and mind; diagnosing illnesses and concocting and administering medicines; and acupuncture to alleviate illness and pains using the body's pressure points.

Acupuncture Chart

In an author's note at the end of the book, Hur explains that the story is loosely based on the real life of Crown Prince Sado (1735 - 1762). Crown Prince Sado was a murderer who allegedly killed a hundred people in his lifetime. To punish Sado, his father King Yeongjo had the prince enclosed in a rice chest, where Sado died of starvation eight days later. However, that doesn't mean Crown Prince Jangheon is the culprit in this book.

Crown Prince Sado

King Yeongjo

This is a compelling historical mystery in a unique and interesting setting.

Thanks to Netgalley, Jane Hur, and Macmillan Publishers for a copy of the book.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,460 reviews182 followers
March 5, 2022
Another fascinating and nicely paced YA mystery from this incredibly talented author. I love well researched historical Asian novels. They are rich, beautiful and complex tales. Traditional Asian cultures are often driven by honour systems that I thoroughly enjoy learning about. This one is set in 18th century Korea and our main character is intelligent and loyal but constantly aware of her low standing in this very hierarchical society. June has a talent for writing relationships that the Reader can become fully invested in but all written with a delicacy that seems appropriate for this time period and culture. Back when a glance or gesture held so much meaning and had characters all a flutter. The courtly intrigue was also fascinating as people plotted and manoeuvred themselves to win favour. Well worth a read if you, like me, are a fan of Asian historical fiction.

Also, I spent ages on the Googs after as this story is based on a real Korean Crown Prince.

Lastly, the cover is stunning!

CW: bloody and violent murders
Profile Image for Darla.
3,143 reviews448 followers
January 20, 2022
This was the story of all lives, and I felt its dearness so deeply, so painfully, as one faded beneath my touch. Fading, fading, like the pulse of the murdered victims, whose cold wrists I had read. Too many had died, their lives gone like a flash of lightning, consumed by another's rage.

Two-time Edgar nominee June Hur returns to Joseon (Korea) for an 18th century mystery seeped in palace intrigue. The inspiration for this tale was the life and death of Crown Prince Jangheon. Hyeon, our narrator, is a palace nurse and the daughter of a concubine. As in the previous books by June Hur, the oppression of the caste system is juxtaposed against a respect for human life. After an early morning massacre at the Hyeminseo (medical authority), Hyeon discovers that her mentor Nurse Jeongsu has been arrested and wrongfully accused of the murders. She finds herself partnering with a young police inspector (Eojin) to discover who is behind the murders. There are some who believe it is the crown prince and Hyeon's palace connections will be helpful in getting to the truth. Along the way family relationships are motivational and transformational. I love the way June Hur's heroines grow as they persist in their own particular mission.

Thank you to Feiwel & Friends and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
May 26, 2022
blogthestorygraphletterboxd tumblrko-fi

“I wanted to love and be loved. I wanted to be known. I wanted to be understood and accepted.”

The Red Palace makes for a fairly suspenseful read, one that will definitely appeal to fans of YA mysteries where the lead girl goes all Nancy Drew trying to figure out who the culprit is. And of course, given the setting, Korea in 1758, The Red Palace will likely appeal to fans of historical K-dramas. Personally, I think The Red Palace is the kind of book I would have loved 10 years or so ago. Now, I am a bit more nitpicky and there are a few things that prevented me from being fully immersed in Hyeon’s story.

“We are women,” she continued, “and nothing short of death stops us from doing precisely what we wish to do. That is what the laws and restrictions binding our lives breed: determination and cunning. The likes of you will not obey me. You will tell me that you intend to be as still as a rock, and yet I know you will dart from shadow to shadow like a fish.”

Hyeon is the illegitimate daughter of Lord Shin, who refuses to acknowledge her as his daughter. In their kingdom, Hyeon is seen as ‘belonging’ only to her mother, one of Lord Shin’s concubines, and therefore belongs to the ‘cheonmin class’ which she describes as ‘the lowest of the low’. Hyeon refuses to grow up into her mother however and dedicates herself to the study of medicine, eventually earning the coveted position of palace nurse. Hyeon hopes that her hard-work and ambition will result in her father’s approval but he continues to largely ignore her existence.
Hyeon’s life is upended when four women are murdered at the palace, most of whom were nurses like her. After her beloved mentor is accused and arrested for these murders Hyeon is determined to clear her name. Concerning rumours around the city claim that the Crown Prince is the killer, and Hyeon has no choice but to pursue this lead, even if doing so could potentially result in her ruin. Thankfully, Hyeon doesn’t have to navigate this world of dangerous court intrigues alone as she is aided by Eojin, an actual police officer. Eojin has some personal reasons for wanting to find the real killer so the two decide to combine their efforts. As they confront various people of interest they slowly begin to untangle the truth…of course, not everyone is happy with that and Hyeon risks losing what she’s worked so hard for.

The stakes were certainly high in this novel so I found myself reading this in quite a short amount of time, wanting to find out how our leads would manage to bring the real killer to justice.
The historical setting is the most well-developed aspect of the narrative. While there were some interactions that had slightly ‘modern’ dynamics (especially between the two leads), overall I liked the amount of detail that went into the setting. The author does use Hyeon as an ‘intermediary’ to the Joseon period (she sometimes forget certain key factors of her society, and asks someone to fill her in, other times she explains about Confucianism or other things that she would not really need to ‘explain’ to herself) but it kind of works as Hyeon does function as an extension of the reader. Her Daddy Issues™ and her role as a nurse are her main defining characteristic, which didn’t make for a truly fleshed out and fully dimensional character. All of the characters, in general, were fairly one-note, even Eojin. The story was more interested in establishing and exploring the setting and the mystery than in developing its characters. I am the type of reader who prefers character-driven stories (rather than plot-driven) so I wasn’t quite able to love this as much as I hoped I would. The mystery itself was a bit predictable, but that’s probably because I have read a ton of thrillers and whodunnits…(and watched one too many scooby-doo episodes/movies). Still, even if the storyline was vaguely formulaic I liked learning more about the Joseon era and I appreciated that the story isn’t romance heavy. Hyeong struggle for self-worth and self-actualization in a society that sees her as ‘less than’ was compelling, and the author also does a good job in regards to her conflicted feelings towards her father (wanting his love and respect while at the same time resenting what he stands for and the way he has treated her and his mother). The writing was at times a bit too dramatic and cheesy for my tastes (“silence fell, as chilling as the shadows enveloping us”, “a thought lurked in the far shadows of my mind”, “we seemed to have, in that moment, merged into one mind with one purpose: find the killer, find the truth”, “revenge begets revenge […] we become the monsters we are trying to punish”, “[her] mouth parted as though in a silent scream”). Still, I recognize that this type of style may very well work for other readers.
The romance was surprisingly cute. In fact, the ‘partnership’ between our leads was one of the most enjoyable things about the story. During their shared scenes Hyeon character became a bit more rounded and interesting.

All in all, I liked The Red Palace well enough! I would definitely recommend you check this one out for yourself and make up your own mind about it.
Profile Image for Azanta.
179 reviews259 followers
May 15, 2022
no wait this was really really good and i didnt expect the way the story unfolded but i genuinely loved it. im not a huge fan of mysteries and thrillers because i cant handle the suspense but this was so well done PLUS I REALLY LOVED THE LIGHT ROMANCE. a very good and quick read!
Profile Image for akacya ❦.
780 reviews122 followers
December 28, 2022
buddy read with aaku!

hyeon has worked hard to earn her place as a palace nurse. but when four women are murdered in one night, hyeon is suddenly thrust into the mystery and danger the police seem to be overlooking. she works with eojin, a young inspector, to figure out the real culprit, despite many people warning her to stay away from the crime...

i need more historical mysteries with female leads, i cannot get enough! though i didn’t like this book as much as the other book i’ve read from this author (the forest of stolen girls), i still really enjoyed it and will absolutely be reading more of her books. my only complaint is that it was sometimes hard to follow where the characters were, how much time passed, etc. besides that, though, i really enjoyed the mystery and the interactions between hyeon and eojin, and i highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for aarya.
1,143 reviews
September 19, 2021
2021 Fall Bingo (#FallInLoveBingo🍂): Red

4.5 stars

I am kicking myself for not reading June Hur earlier. I avoided her first two books because I'm not always into gore/scary mysteries, but decided to try THE RED PALACE when the blurb promised romantic elements.

Verdict: pure excellence. I am starved for Asian historicals with romantic elements and THE RED PALCE delivered in every possible way. I basically passed out with bliss because of the intricate worldbuilding and thorny court intrigue concerning Prince Sado's tragic life. I know nothing about Korean history; the story is completely understandable/enjoyable with zero context. After I finished reading the book, I spent two hours down the wikipedia rabbit hole (I know, I know. Not the best sources) and reading about Korean royals.

The ship was SO GOOD and gentle and made me clutch my chest. The romantic element is secondary to the murder mystery, but SO WELL EXECUTED for what little exists on page. I will stop using caps-lock eventually (sorry). I'm trash for across-class-lines trope (not sorry). I loved the secret-inn-meeting scenes (A+ "let's pretend to be a married couple as an excuse for being in the same room together so we can catch a murderer"). Also, I cried like a baby at the end, which is how you know I've set sail on a ship and am never returning to land.

I don't know what else to say about the mystery without spoiling the book. I do think the less you know before reading, the better. I highly recommend that you add THE RED PALACE to your TBR if you enjoy historical mysteries.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for hiba.
223 reviews292 followers
January 31, 2022

historical mystery isn't my usual genre but this was a pretty solid and engaging read. june hur's beautiful atmospheric writing style really brought joseon dynasty korea to life - i loved learning all the details of the era's class structure, palace life, and medical practices.

hyeon was a great protagonist - i liked how ambitious, curious, and determined she was, how she felt about her place in a strictly hierarchal, misogynistic society, her complicated relationship with her mother - it was all so well done.

the side characters, on the other hand, weren't nearly as developed or interesting. eojin was a sweet guy and a nice love interest but nothing much beyond that - i did enjoy their interactions though and their subtle slow-burn romance.

the mystery itself was fairly intriguing and there were some emotional moments towards the end that really hit for me - i liked how it touched upon themes of class privilege and palace politics. i do wish the author had hyeon work a bit harder in figuring the mystery out instead of having people conveniently telling her what she needed to know whenever she asked them - but i also understand the limitations women had in that time and there's only so much she could've done.

the ending and how everything wrapped up felt super rushed and abrupt to me - we should've had at least one more chapter to resolve everything properly. also, i don't like a certain decision hyeon made in the epilogue (although i do get it).

overall, this was a good time and a nice change of pace from what i usually read - definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,893 reviews3,111 followers
January 18, 2022
There's so much good about this book, I wish I loved it more than I actually did! The Red Palace is a historical murder mystery set in 1758 Korea. From the author's note, I know that this story is actually drawing on real historical events and it's clear that the author did a ton of research. I love what this book is trying to do, but it tended to drag in the reading experience.

We get so many details in the text on the period from clothing and titles to food and social norms, you really do learn a lot about historical Korea. Our main character is a palace nurse helping investigate a series of murders, in a society where men and women who aren't family can't touch and there are intense social and class hierarchies. We get a look at various swathes of society, but while that can be interesting, the amount of historical detail, combined with a more formal style of writing (both description and dialogue) do make what could be a page-turning mystery feel like more of a slog to get through. Specific scenes were sometimes riveting and if I think back to all the major plot points in solving the murders, it's really interesting. But I didn't find myself wanting to keep reading and it was easy to put down.

I think the author is doing really important work in a subgenre that doesn't have a lot of this representation. I don't know that I've seen anyone else do murder mysteries in historical Korea and a lot of what she's doing is very cool! So I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the historical details, just know that if you're looking for a fast-paced mystery, that's not really what you're getting here. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Abbie.
18 reviews12 followers
February 21, 2022
No summary? Only a title? Doesn’t matter as long as it’s written by June Hur I will read it and love it!

**EDITED ON 9/14/2020**
“Emily Settle at Feiwel and Friends has bought The Red Palace, a YA historical mystery by June Hur. After a bloody massacre takes place at court, 17-year-old palace nurse Hyeon and 18-year-old police inspector Eojin must clear the Crown Prince’s name after is accused of the murders. Set in 1750s Korea, this is based on the tragic relationship between Prince Sado and his father, a well known story in Korea.”

I’m not a greedy bitch or anything because I can’t wait for The Forest of Stolen Girls as well, but can’t I have The Red Palace come out next year instead of having to wait for two years?!😩😭😩😭
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,003 reviews200 followers
January 9, 2022
More of a 4.5 but I’m rounding up.

I have always heard great things about June Hur’s books from my fellow blogger friends but never did pick her previous two books because mystery thriller is not my go to genre. But I couldn’t resist adding The Red Palace to my tbr because it sounded like a mystery with a palace drama kind of backdrop and you all know how much I love my palace dramas these days. And I’m so so happy that I got to read this book in advance.

The book is a little over 300 pages and it went by so quick that I didn’t even realize how much time had passed. It is immediately immersive from page one and then the tension just builds up until we are swept away in its magic, not bothering with what’s happening around us. I’m actually not a kdrama watcher nor do I listen to much kpop, so I had trouble initially to keep track of the names and other Korean terms but once I got into the story, I found it very easy to absorb it all. The writing is perfectly descriptive, letting me feel like I was exploring the palace and hiding from the killers myself, creating a very lush and mysterious atmosphere - which definitely makes for a great setting for a multiple murder mystery. I had also read the author’s newsletter where she mentioned her inspiration for this story, Crown Prince Sado and I was quite intrigued to see how she would incorporate his tragic life into this novel. And I have to say, the way she seamlessly blends fiction and history is masterful and there were many times I felt this book would make for a great drama.

Hyeon is a palace nurse who has worked really hard for years to achieve that position. It was heartbreaking to see her strive for the approval of a father who never treated her like his daughter just because of her mother’s class status. But I was also glad to see her always try to stand up for truth and justice, even if it meant that she would lose whatever she had earned, and maybe even her life. She is stubborn that way - once she has decided on a path, she doesn’t let anyone or anything deter her from her decisions. I loved how competent she was at her job and so intelligent at figuring out various clues and solving mysteries. I also enjoyed how the author showed us her various relationships - the admiration and love she had for her mentor, her complicated feelings for her mother, and a sweet friendship with Jieun.

And then there is Eojin - child prodigy extraordinaire who is a police inspector already at the age of nineteen, full of ideals about fighting for justice and never for revenge. Also a shining light in this very hierarchical kingdom because he never lets his higher class or gender dictate his behavior and treats Hyeon with all the respect and consideration that she deserves. Theirs is a very organically progressing friendship to romance, but the author treats it very subtly, because they are two intelligent individuals with goals in life and not the type to demonstrate their feelings in a big manner. It’s a calm and quiet kinda love, steady and unwavering in the face of danger.

The crown prince is a very small presence in person, but he is an ever running thread across all subplots. After having read about the historical prince, I could see how the author decided to depict his character - an only son of the emperor who can never live up to his abusive father’s expectations and takes out his anger on helpless people who can’t fight back. We know he is on a downward spiral but we only get to see glimpses of it and I was fascinated by my own reactions to him - sad at times at his tragic home and political situation but also angry at his actions. It’s really to the author’s credit for being able to depict such a character so deftly.

There are quite a few other side characters but most of them have limited page time. But everyone has a distinct personality that shines even through the few dialogues they have and it was impressive. I also don’t want to giveaway any spoilers about the suspects and killers but the way the author developed their characters was very skillful, giving us enough hints that might lead us to the perpetrators but also not making it too easy to guess. I never did and it felt nice seeing the way Hyeon and Eojin deduced it all towards the end.

To conclude, this is a great mystery novel which has the perfect combination of thriller novel tropes as well as an immersive historical setting that is absolutely adaptation worthy. If you are in the mood for some sleuthing in Joseon era Korea with smart and competent characters who you would want to be friends with, don’t miss this one. And I’m especially looking forward to the author’s next novel because I loved her nods to its title in this story.
Profile Image for Sam.
99 reviews7 followers
February 7, 2022
I went into this really not expecting a lot but I at least expected to be entertained but sadly I guess that was asking too much. Had I read this book when I was younger, I feel like I would've liked it. It's definitely more of a younger side of YA. I don't hate this book despite the fact I gave it 1 star, I just feel like so many things could still be improved and I'm extremely disappointed (I was supposed to say something else but while editing this part of the review, I completely forgot what it was lmao so I might edit this review when I eventually remember, if I do at least (⊙_◎))
Also warning, minor spoilers ahead.

The best way I can describe my problem with this book is that it feels very underdeveloped. For example, the character of Madam Mun. She was one of the suspects but I never really understood why because she didn't have enough of a convincing motivation that made sense to me. And then her whole plotline got abandoned all together and you never heard of her again. The suspicion around her too, I found to be very shallow. Also the whole Old Doctrine Faction, which I found out from the Author's Note was the ruling group (idk if that's the word) at the time or whatever. But I never actually got explained what it was going into the story, so if you didn't know Korean history, you wouldn't know what that is. Which is weird because this book involves the royal family and the characters get accused of being with the Old Doctrine Faction quite a lot as a motivation to go for the royal family?? So I felt like I was really missing something here.

Another one is that the characters just do not have any personality at all. They're like moving, talking, and breathing motivations. They're given enough motive for them to have a connection to why they wanna solve the murder but not enough personality outside of the investigation. Added to what this makes this worse is that there's a romance between them.

The romance, which i would categorize, falls under the Reluctant Allies to Lovers trope. Which is HANDS DOWN my FAVORITE trope of all time. That trope has me on such a chokehold with Newt and Tina from Fantastic Beasts, Kell and Lila from Shades of Magic, and more recently Arisu and Usagi from Alice in Borderland (go watch it, it's great!) But it sadly didn't work for me this time, because of the lack of personalities from the characters. Which sadly left them to not have any chemistry at all. And I thought this trope was unbeatable ಥ‿ಥ

Last thing I just wanna mention is the fact that everyone just kept info dumping what they knew to the mc. Like whenever they need to talk to someone for information, they get it so easily. Which 1) I didn't get because, like I said, the massacre involved royalty and I would think people would be wary of letting go such crucial information and 2) Just really annoyed me and didn't present any type of struggle for the main character at all.

Anyway, I have other problems like the mcs dad suddenly becoming a good guy towards the end despite being a known corrupt person just because of the power of family ig? among other things. However negative this review sounds, I'm not mad nor hate this book or author, I would still very much recommend this especially if you're younger or not very critical of books and just want to be entertained. I just felt like so many things could be developed more and that's why I bothered writing this whole review.

Time for me to go read fanfiction now (~ ̄³ ̄)~
Profile Image for Sunny ✨wordslikefury✨.
273 reviews234 followers
March 14, 2022
Very much like a murder-mystery historical k-drama.

A young palace nurse and a police inspector team up to investigate the murders of four women. I really enjoyed the cozy murder-mystery feel. And the setting in 1700s Korea was very atmospheric. My main issue was the mystery aspect itself, which is what the book is supposed to be about. It was all very predictable to me.

A lot of the secondary character were also very underdeveloped. Not to mention a lot of the characters gave up information of what they knew so easily? There is suspicion that the royal family could be involved with all these murders. When there is so much talk about classism and how the royals could silence anyone and easily get away with it, you would think people would be way more reluctant to give up information from fear of what might happen to them. But apparently not? This made the entire concept of investigation too easy for our main characters. It didn't feel like they had to work too hard for it.

Despite being predictable, I think the story would've been better if the characters were more developed. I can get over a predictable plot if the characters are very enjoyable. But they just weren't.
Profile Image for Kate.
391 reviews231 followers
June 17, 2022
This is really June Hur’s wheelhouse. The ability to make you clench up and fear for what’s going to happen next. The sheer talent it takes to transport us readers to a setting literal centuries away from us and see it vividly in our minds. The build-up of the mystery is a perfect match for Hur’s atmospheric writing. Each twist and reveal feels deliberate and well thought out, so that when the reader finally discovers the truth, it’s as much a gut-punch to us as it is to the characters.

One of the things that also made The Red Palace such an interesting read is the political intrigue sprinkled throughout. In the author’s note, Hur tells us about the tragedy of Crown Prince Sado. At the age of 27, Crown Prince Sado was executed by being imprisoned inside a rice chest and starving to death. Modern-day historians consider the prince to have been suffering from mental illness, but at the time, he was simply viewed as a violent man prone to outbursts and lashing out. The Red Palace offers us a peek at Sado’s life, and while also allowing for grace and compassion, doesn’t erase the gravity of his acts either.

I for one really enjoyed the emphasis of life as a member of a royal household being dangerous and steeped in treachery and tragedy. It’s such a great contrast against the thought that if you end up a court lady, or a palace nurse, you’re set for life with all sorts of money and benefits. To quote the book’s tagline, “To enter the palace means to walk a path stained in blood.” Phew. Shivers.

Aside from that, I’m 100% certain too that if you’ve followed me on Twitter, then you’ve probably seen me scream multiple times that The Red Palace had me so kilig. Of course, the murder mystery is still the forefront of the plot, and the ultimate driving force behind Hyeon and Eojin’s actions. But I absolutely would be lying to you if I said that every moment that Hyeon and Eojin interacted with each other did not have me squealing like a little girl.

If you’re a K-Drama fan, you’re probably familiar with those scenes between a protagonist and a love interest that makes your heart go all a-flutter. Hur is an absolute master at those scenes, which I find particularly impressive considering there was no romance in her previous two books. And boy, when I tell you this was slow-burn, I’m really not kidding! Hur teases out every moment that Hyeon and Eojin are together with infinite possibilities of what could happen. So much so that by the time the pay-off does come, you’re honestly just so relieved that they can finally be happy. That ending! I’m honestly still not over it!

🌿 Read my full review at my blog, Your Tita Kate! 🌿
Profile Image for rain.
600 reviews335 followers
February 3, 2022
tw & cw: graphic description of murder, dead bodies, mentions of torture, violence

JUNE HUR DID IT AGAIN. i have read all of her novels and this, by far, is her best. i also mean it when i say that the red palace is one of the best mystery books i have ever read.

what i loved about this book:

• the very well-plotted mystery — june hur writes intricate mysteries that will never fail to amaze me. in this book, the mystery unfurled at just the right pace. i also loved how hard to guess the perpetrator was, which made the reveal satisfying. it's like i was personally there with hyeon and eojin in their search for the murderer.

• the romance — i loved the subtle romance so much! hyeon and eojin have great chemistry and they complemented each other so well. i love mystery romances because they often have the characters going feral over each other's safety and this book gave me that. also adored their teamwork while working on the case.

• the atmosphere — i can't explain it but the red palace just has the perfect vibe. it's shrouded by a gloomy atmosphere that fits the book so well. it made the reading experience very immersive. this, among many other reasons, makes jun hur's writing worth the read.

• the historical bits — i love how jun hur weaves tidbits of history into her stories and does so excellently. the red palace is inspired by the story of a tragic (and homicidal) prince. if you ever feel like slipping into the past, picking this book up is the best way to go.

those are just a few reasons why i love the red palace. trust me, you need this book in your life!!
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books460 followers
January 15, 2023
I never thought I'd find a new favourite author in a YA mystery/historical fiction, but it looks like I'm going to have to run off and start reading everything June Hur has ever written, because this was almost impeccable. The prose is clear and crystalline, the historical setting is beautifully evoked without ever sounding like a history lesson, the suspense is amazing, the murder mystery investigation is satisfyingly clever, and I loved the restrained but absolutely satisfying use of kdrama tropes in the understated romance. Plus the dark atmosphere of terror, secrets and palace intrigue was my jam precisely. If I have a complaint, it's that the ending felt a whisker rushed, but overall this was the sort of book I dream about finding but rarely do, and I could easily have swallowed it in a couple of sittings.

I want to particularly point out two things I loved. First, it was truly said that "the past is another country" and every historical fiction author must balance historical accuracy against modern comprehension and the sympathies of their audience. All too often, this tension is resolved by giving the protagonists crashingly modern sensibilities which are clearly and inexplicably at odds with the culture in which they supposedly grew up. Hur doesn't merely avoid this pitfall but deals with it deftly by showing how her most forward-thinking character might have come to believe as he does, via family background and genuine quotations from Korean literature of the time. Maybe it's a small thing to notice, but it made me so extremely happy.

The second thing I loved was the book's mature and complex discussion of topics such as police brutality, patriarchy, and the injustices at the heart of the kingdom. The resolution of the story is, like so many true historical events, deeply ambivalent. The murderer is brought to justice, but someone who committed no other crime than loving the wrong person is also punished. The protagonist tells the truth, but is only empowered to do so by family connections with a powerful, reactionary, and possibly corrupt court faction. A highly placed, very sympathetic character who places trust in the protagonist is ultimately betrayed by her quest for justice. Don't get the impression that this is an unhappy ending; but it's an ending that holds within itself all sorts of spoken and unspoken tensions, and I have nothing but respect and gratitude to June Hur for being bold enough, even though this is a story for young people, to include all those tensions and all that complexity.

Because that's what history is like, and too often we do it a disservice when we flatten the truth into a simplistic tale of white hats and black hats.

You know what? I've talked myself into it. Five stars. Brava, June Hur.
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,119 reviews1,326 followers
November 24, 2021

Historical mystery is one of my favorite historical fiction subgenre and The Red Palace, set in 1758 Korea, presented something more unique and unexplored. I couldn't wait to dive into the book but I did not anticipate wanting to immerse myself entirely in June Hur's gorgeous prose. I'm writing this review in 2021 and I already know that The Red Palace is a contender for one of my favorite YA books of 2022.

The book opens up with a massacre of four women. Our protagonist, Hyeon, a palace nurse, is forced into the face of danger when she begins a solo investigation to clear the prime suspect's name, her old mentor. Along the way, she teams up with a palace inspector, Eojin, who is also on the lookout for the killer. The two find themselves on a treacherous path that is neither is willing to abandon.

Reading The Red Palace was a mesmerizing experience for many reasons but primarily because of the historical Korean setting. I consume a lot of Korean media (HELLLO, k-drama addict here!), but sadly, I am ignorant when it comes to knowledge of Korean history - or any history, come to think of it. I've always been somebody who LOVES learning (which explains why I'm still in school a bazillion years later), and though I read to escape the learning, it's always brings me genuine pleasure to learn even a tidbit of something through books. June Hur mentions in her author's note how one of the characters in this book, Crown Prince Sado, is a real historical figure. Of course, she took artistic liberties with the characterization here (ones that I thought were respectful), but I still felt like I learned something because most of is grounded in reality.

I also loved how the mystery aspect of the book progressed. It's hard to speak about it because I think it would be very easy to spoil, so I'll just let you know that it wasn't what I predicted. Kudos to June Hur for throwing me off my scent! It progresses at a decent pace and add in the political intrigue and drama, the book ends up serving exactly what it promises. I was eager to get to the end and for once, I did not cheat and read the last page first!

Finally, I want to touch on the characters here in The Red Palace. Hyeon and Eojin are both terrific. They are both quietly strong characters and I could see why they worked so well as a team. There is a romance between the two and I would describe it as gentle. It's not the focus of the book but it simmers in the background and June Hur does not disappoint with the tender and romantic moments between the two.

The Red Palace is my first book from June Hur and what a stellar introduction that was. I will certainly have to dive back into her backlist! For now, I highly recommend this one to readers who enjoy a good historical mystery!

Content notes: graphic descriptions of murder, violence

Relationship disclosure: None
Profile Image for Lia Yuliana.
171 reviews56 followers
December 8, 2021
Update 18/11/2021

Find my reviews on : An Ode to Fiction
Official Release Date : 25th January 2022
Buy the book :
Amazon | Book Depository

4/5 ⭐️

ARC provided by the publisher Feiwel & Friends through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you enter the palace, you either die or you survive and become another monster within its walls …

The Red Palace is a stunning Joseon era mystery thriller that will grip you in beautiful suspense. With that I am a new June Hur stan.

Defining November as the month that I will read my pile of ARCs in ambitious notion. I recently acquired the ARC of The Red Palace after applying for it through Twitter. In all honesty, I’ve never read any book by June Hur but I have seen her books circulating around bookish friends. I trust their judgment so I picked this book as my fifth ARC to read. As reflected on my rating it is evident that June Hur didn’t disappoint at all. This books holds the title for the most gripping and fast paced ARC that I’ve ever read, I finish it within a day which never happens. Before I dive deeper into my review I would like to gush about the gorgeous cover of this book done by Park Sunga and designed by Liz Dresner. Can I just point out when June revealed the cover and back cover designed I gasped because if you watch Korean dramas you know that the woman on the cover looks like Seo Ye-ji and the man on the back looks like Woo Do-hwan. The resemblances is uncanny! The style also makes the cover stand out adding the Korean period vibes with the brush strokes.

“I chose this path,” I said, my voice rising a notch.

“This is the only path I can take now, and you must let me walk it.”

The Red Palace is a young adult historical fiction and mystery thriller set in Joseon year of 1758. Following the success of her debut novel Silence of Bones and her recent 2021 The Forest of Stolen Girls, The Red Palace is Hur’s third highly anticipated third novel that will be released early 2022. The story revolves around an eighteen year old girl named Hyeon that works as a palace nurse. Working in the palace comes with its benefits and hardships but also the dark secrets within it’s walls. One day Hyeon and another palace nurse is called to assist the palace physician late in the night, an odd occurrence and especially dangerous as they are sworn to keep it a secret. The next day she discovers that four women were murdered on that same night she was called into the palace and that her teacher is placed as the prime suspect. Hyeon is frantic and is determined to clear her teacher’s name with the truth. On her courageous path to uncover the truth she meets a young investigator named Eojin that is tasked to solve the murders. Working together Hyeon and Eojin works together to find the real culprit behind the murders and drag the dark truth into the light of justice.

“One doesn’t always need a sword to find the truth.”

“Like you,” he whispered.

June Hur’s writing is magnetic, highly addictive, and easily accessible in building the tension and stakes by transporting readers to the unforgivingly cruel inner palace dynamics of the Joseon era. Through the eyes of Hyeon we get to see a lot of the twists and turns of maneuvering around nobility and their scheming to gain power. Hur’s atmospheric writing accounts the vivid details of the setting that will tempt your eyes to wander seeking out any kind of hint that will break the bubble of mystery. I didn’t expect how beautiful a mystery thriller can be written, the story deals with grim topics such as death and murder but it is enticing and eloquent. The plot is well balance and flowed smoothly in between each reveal that gradually pushes readers to the edge of their seats with dread I associate with Korean period dramas. The way Hur pulls the strings of tension is slow, deliberate, and full of intent that by the end when the string is pulled taut, it snaps with a satisfying reveal. With every page I am gripped on to the page as the book gets more and more unputdownable leaving me in a frantic mess of suspense thirsting for answers. Hur’s pacing worked wonders in strengthening the grip of tension and suspense as the mystery is revealed slowly as Hyeon and Eojin draw closer to the truth.

Our heads nearly touching, so lost in the moment, so consumed that I could not tell where he began and where I ended. We seemed to have, in that moment, merged into one mind with one purpose: find the killer, find the truth.

An aspect of The Red Palace that got me so engrossed and invested in the mystery are the characters, specifically Hyeon and Eojin. Hyeon is an ambitious nurse that has carved a path for herself to secure a position at the palace, she has worked long and hard to get where she is especially with the hardships of being the bastard child of a noble. Hur cleverly writes Hyeon’s perspective with innocent yet experienced eyes that hones her abilities and skills that she learned to its maximum potential. Hyeon is smart, feisty, and stubborn when she has set determination to clear her mentors name. Surely, Eojin has his hands full in dealing with her which makes their dynamic all the more endearing and fun to see manifest on page. Eojin is the youngest investigator from the capital that is tasked to investigate the murders. He is calculative, trust worthy, and the calm that is the perfect balance to Hyeon’s chaos. Both characters are well fleshed out with distinct personalities and believable voices proving Hur’s masterful ability with characterization. What made me enjoy The Red Palace is their dynamics and antics throughout the story. There are underlying themes of trust, righteousness, and comradery that is weaved in their relationship dynamic that I find intriguing. The romance that developed between the two manifested beautifully and it got me craving for more of their banter.

Whatever awaited in the future, I had to trust that he would watch out for me, as I would always watch out for him.

Final thoughts, The Red Palace is an amazing stand alone mystery thriller that will transport you to the darkest depths of the Joseon dynasty filled with murder, political scheming, cover ups, and gripping crime solving. It is a story that I wish to see adapted as a drama or a movie on the big screen with the Korean actors on the cover play Hyeon and Eojin. Overall, I really enjoyed June Hur’s beautiful prose and phenomenal writing that got me addicting in a softer form of suspense that unique to Hur’s writing style. Everything is clear and crisp word for word that readers will grip readers the moment they start reading. Honestly, mystery thrillers isn’t a genre I normally would reach out towards but Hur changed that by weaving historical fiction into it that made the story the more interesting. June Hur has gained another fan as I will make sure to read her other works in 2022 such Silence of Bones and The Forest of Stolen Girls. If you haven’t please add all of June Hur’s book on to your Goodreads because you don’t want to miss out on any of her books. I highly recommend as well to read and pre-order The Red Palace if you’re looking for a fast paced gripping mystery thriller that is set in a certain period and has loose K-Drama romance vibes.

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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