The Red Palace | ARC Review

The Red Palace by June Hur

Published: January 25, 2022

Cover of The Red Palace by June Hur

Format: E-book 📱

Tags: YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Korean Lit, Thriller, Romance

| Synopsis from the Publisher |

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.

Keywords to describe this book:

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group & Feiwel & Friends, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

~My Thoughts~

| 📖 Content 📖 |

I sped through this book, it was so compelling. The plot, the characters, the setting – pretty much everything grabbed me from the get-go and it stayed good the whole way through.

Some of the main things I enjoyed:

📘 Hyeon & Eojin

I connected with Hyeon right away. She is exactly the kind of main character I like to read – someone who fights for what they believe, but who isn’t willing to sacrifice those they love/care about to meet their goals. Hyeon proved herself again and again to be a very loyal, kind friend. Not only does she set out to solve a crime in order to save the life of her falsely convicted mentor, she also does everything she can to protect those around her.

Eojin, similarly, is another character who shows great trust and faith in those he meets. In a time when class is very much a barrier between people, in addition to sex-based discrimination, Eojin values Hyeon’s opinions, pledges to work with her to solve this crime, and ultimately gives her his support in front of other officials. They make such a powerful team and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their support for each other grow over the course of the novel.

Also, relationship goals!

“We are women,” she continued, “and nothing short of death stops us from doing precisely what we wish to do.

Lady Hyegyeong

📘 Historical characters woven into the story and attention to detail in period elements

I really love this period in history. Hur often sets her novels in historical Korean eras, but this is the first time I got to see historical figures I recognized – Lady Hyegyeong and Prince Sado. I found their story fascinating and so it was so cool to see them depicted here and I think Hur did an excellent job of weaving them into the story.

Also, the details throughout the book, like the uniforms uinyeos wear, the garb of the policemen, nobles, etc. was so fun to read! I have watched plenty of K-Dramas, so it was fun reading this story because I could picture this in my head as I was reading. I love that Hur gets so detailed when it comes to this kind of thing.

Sometimes – oftentimes – we cannot do both what is right and also please those around us.


📘 Strong women in varying roles

Similarly to the historical detail, I also love that Hur shines a light on the different roles women played during this time in history. Hyeon’s job as a palace nurse allows her to gain valuable insight into the investigation. She is shown to be resourceful and adaptable to situations she finds herself in.

Similarly, the other female characters in this novel are depicted as complex and strong in a variety of ways, from being a master sword-wielder, to being knowledgeable about medicines, to establishing their independence after spending years under the thumb of a powerful male figure. It’s just really nice to see so many women, especially in YA fiction, be strong in different ways.

If you do continue with this investigation, remember this: Everyone must choose the paths they will walk. And when you choose, remember to count the cost. Do not live with regrets.”

Hyeon’s Mother

📘 A complicated villain, characters with flaws

With every murder-mystery there is a bad guy at the end who gets caught and brought to justice. I like that Hur has created a villain who isn’t one-dimensional. This villain is emotional, was a promising young person who became twisted by unfortunate circumstances, who isn’t completely unfeeling, and who ultimately comes to understand the harm their actions caused. There is a very poignant moment between Hyeon and the villain that brings such power to this story.

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. It can only be achieved by remaining sober-minded and rational.


| 📝 Literary Value 📝 |

In my opinion, this is Hur’s best book yet. With each book, I think her writing gets better, her characters more developed, and her plots more engrossing and well-built. For one thing, the historical aspects to this book are woven throughout and really give this book a sense of place. I felt swept up in the story, not just because of the little details, but also because the writing really flows and moves you along.

As I mentioned earlier, the characters in this book, from the main character to the supporting characters, are so well-written. I believed in each of them and I connected with so many of them as the book progressed. This story is very well-balanced between a strong plot and a character-focused story.

| 🎭 Entertainment Factor 🎭 |

If you couldn’t tell by now, I love this book. I was fully entertained, from start to finish. The book gets going right away, I got lost in the mystery, and the main characters developments had me turning the pages. I enjoyed the setting so much, all the historical elements, and I felt like I was fully immersed the whole time.

Read Alikes:

| My Rating |

My New Favorite Thing

This book is so good! I tore through it because I couldn’t put it down. Not only is the story completely engrossing, the main character, Hyeon, is so well written. She feels so real, relatable, and worth protecting. I wanted to know what would happen to her, hoped for her happy ending with every page.

The mystery plot is well-formed. I loved the steady accumulation of evidence, of watching the characters put the pieces together, and I was ultimately surprised by the end! Hur has gotten better with each book she’s written and this story felt so complete that I was completely satisfied by the end.

The relationship between Hyeon and Eojin was so, so good! A highlight of the book, I loved seeing them grow to trust each other, rely on each other, and slowly fall for each other. I love the dynamic between them, how they each believe in and support the other and do everything they can to help them realize their dreams.

Truly an amazing book, one that I will return to again because it is so well-written, the characters are fantastic, and the mystery is so compelling. Plus, I love the backdrop of this period in Korean history. I’ve read the memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong and seeing her and Prince Sado as characters in this book was a lovely surprise and I think Hur did an amazing job of weaving them into this story.

How about you?

Let me know what you think! If you’ve read The Red Palace, share your thoughts! If not – are you going to read it or pass on it? Tell me all about it in the comments. Keep up the reading!

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2 thoughts on “The Red Palace | ARC Review

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