The Silence of Bones by June Hur

Historical/Mystery, 336 pages, published in 2020

In 1800’s Joseon, Seol is an indentured servant to the police bureau when the discovery of the body of a young noble woman sets off an investigation that she gets wrapped up in.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: graphic descriptions of corpses, torture, mentions of suicide, persecution based on religious beliefs, murder, animal abuse

This book is going to be so tough for me to review because I had a really hard time reading it. I didn’t have the motivation to pick it up even though I was really excited about it, so I switched over to the audiobook, but I still spaced out a little while listening.

I had a hard time keep track of who everyone was and what their relationships were. The names aren’t even similar, I just couldn’t keep track the different people, especially in the police bureau, so I was a little lost sometimes. This is mostly my fault, because I should have gone back and reread about who everyone was, but I thought it would be fine and I would understand later on, but I didn’t. There were some reveals at the end that did not impact me like they were supposed to because I didn’t understand the relationships.

I feel like I say this every single time I read a historical fiction book, but I knew nothing about early 1800’s Joseon, so it definitely opened my eyes to what was happening there at the time, as well as the class system that was in place.

I thought Seol’s position as a damo, which at this time was a lower position than a slave and means tea serving girl, was so interesting. She has this very low position in society, yet the police relies on her for certain aspects of the investigation involve inspecting a woman’s body or going through a woman’s rooms because of strict Confusionist ideals. Men and women that weren’t married were not allowed to touch, so using a damo like Seol was a way for them to still investigate was a way to get around that. Seol even has to be the one to examine the main murder victim’s body, because the victim was a woman.

I enjoyed the setting and I really liked the writing, so I definitely want to read more from June Hur in the future. I was just too lost to fully enjoy this book, but I definitely appreciate it what I gained from it.

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