Joseon (Korea), 1426: The year of the crown princess selection when young women like Hwani should be dreaming of entering the palace as a princess. Hwani has never been interested in marriage or the selection process.
Instead, she is crossing the sea to travel to Jeju, a penal island of political convicts. Her childhood home.
Months ago, Hwani’s father made the same journey. He didn’t return.
Detective Min went to the island investigating the disappearance of thirteen girls–disappearances that might be tied to the forest incident–an event so traumatic that Hwani has blocked out all but the barest details.
Coming back to the island will bring Hwani face to face with her estranged younger sister, Maewol, for the first time in years. In their search for the truth, both sisters will have to confront buried memories from their past and the island’s dark secrets in their search for the truth in The Forest of Stolen Girls (2021) by June Hur.
Hwani’s efforts to find her missing father and solve his last case contrast well with the smaller story of her own difficulties in deciding how to balance societal conventions with her own dreams and goals. Hwani’s tentative reconnection with her sister–who has been left alone on the island for years to train with the local shaman–adds further depth and tenderness to this thoughtful story.
An author’s note at the end demonstrates Hur’s thoughtful research for this novel while contextualizing the story here into the larger context of Korean history.
The Forest of Stolen Girls is a tense and atmospheric mystery that is both well-plotted and nuanced. Recommended.
Possible Pairings: Mirage by Somaiya Daud, Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy, Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic, The Beast is An Animal by Peternelle Van Arsdale, The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*