Wednesday, May 1, 2024

IWSG and A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur

It's IWSG time!  This group is definitely worth celebrating. Starting as the brainchild of the amazing Alex J. Cavanaugh, this support group for writers has transformed from a monthly blog hop to a true platform, where many just as amazing writers gather and exchange thoughts, worries, ideas, support, encouragement, and more. We still meet the first Wednesday of every month, though, the group can be now found in many other settings. 

Special thanks goes to this month's co-hosts:

I think this month's question hits the nail on the head:

How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?

First, define distraction because life is the biggest 'distraction', especially this time of year when the work around house and farm kicks into high-gear. I think it's safe to say that this is the busiest time thanks to repairs after winter, getting everything growing, animal sales happen right now, and...and...and... But I consider that more of a time issue.

Now, if we're concentrating on 'distractions' as in I'm sitting and typing, I can usually shove anything aside and don't get distracted easily. I grew up with six younger siblings and foster kids in a three bedroom house in the city. So I've learned to block out the world.

If it's a family member (kids, husband), that's a different realm again. I can't ignore them (although it would be nice, sometimes). Thanks to my 'block out everything' ability, they do need to be loud and repetitive to get my attention. But after that...yeah, I'm derailed because that usually means my writing time is done.


Today's read:

I read the blurb and immediately placed this one in my must-be-read pile. It's set in 1506 Joseon, Korea, and promises to weave in a tale of intrigue, survival and enemies-to-friends romance, while addressing the very difficult events of that time. I'm always in for a good historical work of fiction, especially when the author has already gotten much praise for their other works...which June Hur definitely has.

Ready to dive into the past and see how tense this one gets?

by June Hur
Feiwel & Friends
Young Adult Historical
364 pages

MAY 14th!!!

June Hur, bestselling author of The Red Palace, crafts a devastating and pulse-pounding tale that will feel all-too-relevant in today’s world, based on a true story from Korean history.

Hope is dangerous. Love is deadly.

1506, Joseon. The people suffer under the cruel reign of the tyrant King Yeonsan, powerless to stop him from commandeering their land for his recreational use, banning and burning books, and kidnapping and horrifically abusing women and girls as his personal playthings.

Seventeen-year-old Iseul has lived a sheltered, privileged life despite the kingdom’s turmoil. When her older sister, Suyeon, becomes the king’s latest prey, Iseul leaves the relative safety of her village, traveling through forbidden territory to reach the capital in hopes of stealing her sister back. But she soon discovers the king’s power is absolute, and to challenge his rule is to court certain death.

Prince Daehyun has lived his whole life in the terrifying shadow of his despicable half-brother, the king. Forced to watch King Yeonsan flaunt his predation through executions and rampant abuse of the common folk, Daehyun aches to find a way to dethrone his half-brother once and for all. When staging a coup, failure is fatal, and he’ll need help to pull it off—but there’s no way to know who he can trust.

When Iseul's and Daehyun's fates collide, their contempt for each other is transcended only by their mutual hate for the king. Armed with Iseul’s family connections and Daehyun’s royal access, they reluctantly join forces to launch the riskiest gamble the kingdom has ever

Save her sister. Free the people. Destroy a tyrant.


Every page propels the mystery and intrigue forward to create an exciting adventure with more than a few dark undertones.

Iseul is determined to save her older sister after the king nabbed her from the village and dragged her to the capital to join his ever-growing circle of concubines. The entire kingdom suffers under the tyrant's cruel rule, one which has left Iseul parentless after the king's last 'purge' on his government officials. With no money and no allies, the task is dangerous and impossible, but even if it means her death, Iseul won't let her sister suffer. When she's set face-to-face with a series of murders which is threatening the king, she realizes that finding the criminal might be the only chance she has to save her sister. But that brings her to the prince, and he will either be her undoing, her greatest ally, or both.

When I picked this up, I was expecting an historical read...which this is but not with as many details as I expected. Instead, the setting radiates through the little things, which demonstrate the aspects of the daily life, ideologies, and cultures around 1506. This was a tumultuous time in Korean history, where the king lost his mind in greed and power. The author doesn't numb the cruelty, which also means there are more than a few triggers in this read. Still, it doesn't settle into the gore of details, but rather, lets the situations hit with the seriousness and emotions they deserve. 

It's a darker read, which even goes beyond the cruelty of the king and heads into a string of murders and mystery. There's quite a bit of intrigue thrown in, which when mixed with the planning of a coup, creates a heavy weave that thickens and thickens. There's a lot to work through, and that in just this one novel. It creates a quick-paced read with little time to take a breath before the next twist arrives. The general world building does slide back in terms of scenery and surroundings, and this will be an easier read for those who have already sunk into Asian culture before. But it's a tale, which grabs and stays tense the entire way through.

On the character end, the author has placed the leads in two, very different realms before bringing them together. The tale switches back and forth between Iseul and Daehyun, and they don't meet until several chapters in. This gives the reader time to get a feel for both personalities as well as gain the needed foundation of life inside and outside of the palace. When the two meet, it's not insta-attraction by any means. Romance isn't high on the list when lives are at stake on so many levels. It was refreshing to see the main issues remain in control over the romance in a YA read. This strong flow of plot did mean less on character depth and reflection, but that also makes it a lighter read...if it can be called that.

While this didn't have as much of the historical flair as I expected, it is an exciting read. The intrigue, mystery, and dangerous situations drive each moment forward and add many tense moments. The characters are determined and easy to root for as they try their best to turn everything around. Add the powerful ending, and it's well-worth a read for those who enjoy darker adventures set in historical times.

And here she is...

June Hur is a bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of YA historicals, including The Silence of BonesThe Forest of Stolen GirlsThe Red Palace, and A Crane Among Wolves. Born in South Korea, June spent her formative years in the USA, Canada, and South Korea before studying History and Literature at the University of Toronto, and working at the city’s public library. Her work has been featured in Forbes, NPR, The New York Times, CBC, and KBS. June resides in Toronto with her family and can be spotted writing in coffee shops.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You'd have to be good at blocking things out with that many people in a small house.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't see your work on the farm and your family as distractions. They're important in your life too. I'm glad you enjoyed A Crane Among Wolves. I'm interviewing June Hur next month and this book is on my TBR list.

Sherry Ellis said...

I saw this book on someone else's blog. It's getting around!

So many writers have responded with the line, life is a distraction. So true! So many things to do, it's a wonder any books get written! LOL!

Fundy Blue said...

Hi, Tonja! I grew up in small houses and a big family, so I can really block things out well at times. But what I can't handle is quiet which is also a result of being surrounded by noise most of my life. So I sit at my kitchen counter and write with my music on and the tv muted in the background. Crane Among Wolves sounds like an interesting read. Happy IWSG Day!