Sunday 17 April 2022

Book Review: Beasts of a Little Land by Kim Juhea (Historical Fiction)

Title: Beasts of a Little Land
Author: Kim Juhea
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Publication Date: 6 January 2022 (2021)
Pages: 399
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Bought Copy
An epic story of love, war, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement, following the intertwined fates of a young girl sold to a courtesan school and the penniless son of a hunter

In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.

In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s. Immersive and elegant,
Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.


Beasts of a Little Land was an enjoyable historical fiction tale, with an interesting plot and memorable characters. The story moved at a good pace, and the transitions in time were nicely handled, avoiding info dumping, but giving enough information for us to follow any changes that had taken place. The descriptions of locations and characters were clear and engaging, and I was interested in the figures and what was happening to them throughout. Whilst it didn't captivate me quite as much as Pachinko, this was still a delightful book that I am glad I read. I already knew a bit about the historical events portrayed, but that didn't make it any less interesting, and it would certainly be informative for those wishing to know more about Korean history from the early half of the twentieth century. It gets four stars from me.

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