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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 t 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.


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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 t 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.

30 review for Beasts of a Little Land

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    4 stars for an epic story of unrequited love, desperate poverty, and the brutality of the Japanese occupation of Korea. There are descriptions of graphic violence and rape for anyone who avoids such books. The characters are believable. They include murderous Japanese soldiers, Korean courtesans, Korean Independence activists, and homeless street kids among others. If you read The Island of Sea Women you will enjoy this book. I read it in 2 days, although it is 416 pages. Two quotes: "The sky was 4 stars for an epic story of unrequited love, desperate poverty, and the brutality of the Japanese occupation of Korea. There are descriptions of graphic violence and rape for anyone who avoids such books. The characters are believable. They include murderous Japanese soldiers, Korean courtesans, Korean Independence activists, and homeless street kids among others. If you read The Island of Sea Women you will enjoy this book. I read it in 2 days, although it is 416 pages. Two quotes: "The sky was white and the earth was black, like at the beginning of time before the first sunrise. Clouds left their realm and descended so low that they seemed to touch the ground." " Her imagination ran its circular course inside familiarities--a fountain rather than a river, particularly when it came to thinking about her own life. " Thanks to Ecco for sending me this eARC through NetGalley. #BeastsofaLittleLand #NetGalley. Pub. date Dec. 7,2021

  2. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    If I’m reading historical fiction, I want it to teach me something. This book does that in spades. I was aware that Japan had annexed Korea at the start of the 20th century, but unaware of the various attempts by Koreans to free themselves of this tyrannical rule. This book begins in 1918 and really ramps up in 1919, when the March 1st Movement began. It continues through 1965. The two main characters are a young courtesan in training and a young beggar boy who meet and become friends. Kim does If I’m reading historical fiction, I want it to teach me something. This book does that in spades. I was aware that Japan had annexed Korea at the start of the 20th century, but unaware of the various attempts by Koreans to free themselves of this tyrannical rule. This book begins in 1918 and really ramps up in 1919, when the March 1st Movement began. It continues through 1965. The two main characters are a young courtesan in training and a young beggar boy who meet and become friends. Kim does a great job of giving us a solid sense of the time and place (although she occasionally slips up using contemporary language). She manages to sneak in enough facts to explain what’s happening in a “big picture sense” without disrupting the story. The story is told from multiple perspectives - in addition to the main characters, there is an older courtesan, two sisters who are also training as courtesans, a rich Korean, one of the rebels and two Japanese majors. This keeps the story moving at a nice, steady pace. While the story was very plot rich, at times, it came across as flat. It didn’t grab me emotionally, although it totally interested me intellectually. Surprisingly, for all the unrequited loves and affairs, it’s the romantic parts of the book that fell the flattest. In some ways, the book reminded me of Dr. Zhivago - a romance spread across the history of a country in turmoil. But, don’t get your hopes up too high. This doesn’t come close to living up to that epic romance. Still, I recommend this for those looking to learn about Korea. My thanks to NetGalley and Ecco for an advance copy of this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    Sweeping historical fiction that covers decades in Korea. Often brutal and gory but also fascinating and made me realize just how little I knew about Korea's Independence movement. Nothing like a good book to make you realize how stupid you are. I can usually read two books a day but this one took me two days alone so if you're looking for a long epic with lots of characters it's a good read. Sweeping historical fiction that covers decades in Korea. Often brutal and gory but also fascinating and made me realize just how little I knew about Korea's Independence movement. Nothing like a good book to make you realize how stupid you are. I can usually read two books a day but this one took me two days alone so if you're looking for a long epic with lots of characters it's a good read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Juhea Kim

    Beasts of a Little Land is my debut novel, and after years of hard work I'm incredibly thrilled to see it out in the world very soon! I love it very much (biased!) and I hope it resonates with readers, too. Beasts of a Little Land is my debut novel, and after years of hard work I'm incredibly thrilled to see it out in the world very soon! I love it very much (biased!) and I hope it resonates with readers, too.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alwynne

    The debut novel of Korean American writer Juhea Kim is a saga charting the lives of a group of individuals tied together by destiny, linked by the red thread of fate, which may stretch but never breaks. Inspired by her family’s past, Kim’s is a broad sweep narrative covering the colonial era and the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea, running through from 1917 to independence in 1945 and beyond. Its vast array of characters includes Jade, ten when the book opens, who becomes an apprentice to a The debut novel of Korean American writer Juhea Kim is a saga charting the lives of a group of individuals tied together by destiny, linked by the red thread of fate, which may stretch but never breaks. Inspired by her family’s past, Kim’s is a broad sweep narrative covering the colonial era and the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea, running through from 1917 to independence in 1945 and beyond. Its vast array of characters includes Jade, ten when the book opens, who becomes an apprentice to a courtesan. When Jade's sent to Seoul with the courtesan’s daughters, she meets an orphaned boy JungHo, the start of a fateful relationship that will last a lifetime. Alongside central Korean figures, we have Yamada a Japanese official and his associates, including the vain, sadistic Ito who will play a part in Jade’s future survival. It’s a richly-detailed piece, perhaps too detailed, which manages to incorporate elements of everything from Korean myth and legend, Seoul’s café society in the 1920s, through to resistance group factions, post-independence partition, and even the beginnings of the car industry, finally reaching the 1960s and the early years of Park’s military dictatorship. The result’s a well-researched and, in its early stages, fairly involving story. The prose is uneven, competent, even lyrical at times, at others clunky and clumsy. Kim’s characters are sketchily drawn, with a tendency towards cliché – the Japanese military are almost cartoonish in their villainy - and there’s more than a dash of sentimentality and melodrama. Even so it’s very readable novel, at least until the half-way point when the action rapidly speeds up, shifting back and forth between characters at an almost bewildering pace. In its later stages it’s increasingly fragmented as Kim fast forwards through entire years and sequences of years, many skipped over altogether. I didn’t dislike the novel and I was fascinated by the depiction of key moments in Korea’s traumatic history but the style and episodic plot didn’t quite work for me. Although I think fans of Lisa See, Jin Min Lee or sageuk k-drama should find plenty that appeals here. Thanks to Edelweiss plus and publisher HarperCollins for an arc

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    4.5 stars When I finished reading Juhea Kim’s debut novel Beasts of a Little Land , the first thought that came into my head was that this did not read like a debut at all. From the story structure to the development of the characters, to the historical details as well as the various themes and motifs incorporated into the narrative, the writing flowed so well and so seamlessly that I was completely immersed in this epic story from beginning to end. The story spans a time period from 1917 to 4.5 stars When I finished reading Juhea Kim’s debut novel Beasts of a Little Land , the first thought that came into my head was that this did not read like a debut at all. From the story structure to the development of the characters, to the historical details as well as the various themes and motifs incorporated into the narrative, the writing flowed so well and so seamlessly that I was completely immersed in this epic story from beginning to end. The story spans a time period from 1917 to 1965 — a half century that bears witness to Korea’s evolution over the years, as a Japanese-occupied territory up through World War II, and later divided into the North and South Korea that we are more familiar with in modern times. Against this backdrop, we are introduced to two characters whose fates become inexplicably intertwined — JungHo, an orphan who roams the streets as a beggar, later becoming a revolutionary fighter for Korea’s independence, and Jade, a peasant girl sold by her family to a courtesan school who later becomes one of the most sought after actresses in Korea. As Jade and JungHo come of age amongst the changing landscape of their country, they experience moments both glorious and harrowing, but all have a profound impact on them in some way. This is a story where all the supporting characters play vital roles in the narrative, but not only that, all of the characters – whether good or bad, endearing or despiscable – are all equally unforgettable. One of the things I love most about this story is the complexity of the characters and the mixed feelings that evoked – for example, with the Japanese generals Ito and Yamada, they are supposed to be the enemy and majority of their actions are indeed abhorrent, but then, at certain points, they reveal their humanity through certain acts of kindness or a redeeming factor that made it hard to despise them completely. By the same token, there were also moments where I found it hard to root for some of the “good” characters, even with the understanding that some of the morally questionable actions they take are out of a need for survival. I also found it interesting the way nearly all the characters that appear in the story are connected in some way, whether directly or indirectly, that is apparent to the reader, but not necessarily to the characters themselves. This aspect, coupled with the atmospheric nature of the historical setting and time period, made for a truly immersive reading experience. With all that said, my one complaint would probably be that, given the epic nature of the story, I was expecting more emotional depth, which I felt was a bit lacking in this instance (hence the reason why I rated this 4.5 stars instead of 5). Nevertheless, this was absolutely a worthwhile read, especially for historical fiction fans. In addition to learning a lot about Korea that I didn’t know before, I also appreciated the time period being one that isn’t commonly covered in many historical fiction works. I definitely recommend this book and at the same time, look forward to reading more from this author in the future. Received ARC from Ecco via NetGalley and BookBrowse First Impressions program.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This sweeping saga tells of the lives of a young girl sold to a courtesan and the son of a poor hunter in Korea from 1917 to the 1960s. Annexed by Japan in 1910, life is becoming more difficult for the Koreans as their land is given to Japanese migrants, their taxes are raised, most of the rice harvest is sent to Japan and it is impossible to find enough to feed their families. Jade considers herself lucky to be sold to a courtesan who has several pupils she clothes and feeds and educates her in This sweeping saga tells of the lives of a young girl sold to a courtesan and the son of a poor hunter in Korea from 1917 to the 1960s. Annexed by Japan in 1910, life is becoming more difficult for the Koreans as their land is given to Japanese migrants, their taxes are raised, most of the rice harvest is sent to Japan and it is impossible to find enough to feed their families. Jade considers herself lucky to be sold to a courtesan who has several pupils she clothes and feeds and educates her in the arts and music they will need as courtesans. Her ability to act and dance will later see her playing starring roles in silent movies and leaving her profession of courtesan behind her. While still children, Jade meets orphan boy, JungHo, son of a peasant farmer and hunter, outside her house in Seoul where he makes his living as leader of a street gang of child thieves and pick pockets. He will later become swept up in the Korean movement for independence. Juhea Kim’s debut novel and epic tale is a fascinating look at Korea under the brutality of Japanese rule. The history is well researched and blends in well with the lives of the characters. I never felt particularly invested in any of the characters and their relationships which seemed to lack emotional depth, perhaps because there was so much story to be told in one novel. However, it is an immersive and satisfying read, particularly if you enjoy historical novels. With thanks to Oneworld Publications and Netgalley for a copy to read

  8. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    January is for reading “sweeping epics of love, war, and redemption.” I don’t make the rules.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Trish (concerningnovels)

    ❝ I tried to get rid of her but her soul clung to me by a thread. It’s an uncanny thing—inyeon. If it’s not meant to be, you can’t hold on to people no matter how hard you try. Some people you love deeply will turn into a stranger in an instant, if the inyeon has run its course. And sometimes people will be attached to you forever despite all likelihood. —— ❝ Jungho didn’t understand much of what was said, but he saw around him the rapturous faces, many wet with tears, and was surprised by the ho ❝ I tried to get rid of her but her soul clung to me by a thread. It’s an uncanny thing—inyeon. If it’s not meant to be, you can’t hold on to people no matter how hard you try. Some people you love deeply will turn into a stranger in an instant, if the inyeon has run its course. And sometimes people will be attached to you forever despite all likelihood. —— ❝ Jungho didn’t understand much of what was said, but he saw around him the rapturous faces, many wet with tears, and was surprised by the hotness welling up in his own eyes. […] What he now understood was that the world was a desperately dark place, not just for his family and for the beggar boys, but for everyone standing there. Their shared pain reverberated through his body like a common heartbeat. —— — Do you love me? — Yes, I love you. I really do. — Why? Since when? — Why? Because you were you, standing there, and I was also standing there… It’s that simple and that complicated. But it couldn’t have been otherwise. —— ❝ Everyone dreams, but only some people are dreamers. —— ❝ Death was such a small price to pay for life. —— ❝ There are just two things in the world that give you true confidence. One is overcoming difficulties on your own, and the other is being deeply loved. If you experience both, then you will be confident for the rest of your life. —— ❝ Life is only bearable because time makes you forget everything. But life is worthwhile because love makes you remember everything. —— There is a Korean idiom that (roughly translated) says: even if two people, in passing each other, only brush their coat collars, it is karma. This idea is the heart of Beasts and 인연 inyeon — human thread — the belief that “connections and encounters between people are preordained,” is the driving force. What results is an epic saga in which every encounter between two people is meaningful and significant, eventually revealing its true purpose in shaping the characters’ lives. Beasts is a dazzling and captivating novel that had my heart in its grip from the prologue all the way to the last page of the epilogue. I absolutely loved it. 🐅 —————— Midway Impressions: I’m a visual reader - the kind that casts the characters and watches the plot play out like a movie in my head as I read - and this book is a cinematic experience. From the very beginning, I was drawn in by the dramatic and captivating encounter between a Korean hunter, a Japanese military group and a tiger in the dark, snowy mountains. And though the prologue itself sounds like a climactic episode, it aptly sets the tone and foundation for the political, societal and romantic tensions that follow in the rest of the novel. Something I particularly noticed (and appreciate) is how Kim shows us her characters’ vulnerabilities soon after we meet them. Within a few pages, I feel like I know a character’s central motivations, flaws and virtues. This is significant because as I turn each page and begin new chapters, I’m constantly afraid of what fate might have in store for these people I’ve grown to care for — an attachment and feeling that was distinctly lacking when I read Pachinko. Whether I’ve known a character for a few pages or a hundred, Beasts makes me feel like any character’s death would be a great injustice. If you loved Pachinko, get this book. If, like me, you found Pachinko lacking in certain qualities but still crave Korean historical fiction, GET THIS BOOK ASAP. The legends, dialogues, social etiquettes and nuances that Kim describes highlight Korean culture and mannerisms in a beautiful and subtle way. It’s the little things like hearts “fluttering” and not pouring one’s own soju when with company that makes this book so incredibly immersive.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Everything about Jejudo is different from the mainland, starting from the sea. It is light turquoise near a sandy beach, and deepens to emerald-green and sapphire-blue farther from the shore. In some places where the black volcanic rock dashes off to a sudden bluff, the indigo waves look like they’re reflecting the night sky even when it’s sunny and bright. In midwinter the camellia trees with their glossy green leaves were in full bloom, and when the wind blew, their red flowers fell on the bla Everything about Jejudo is different from the mainland, starting from the sea. It is light turquoise near a sandy beach, and deepens to emerald-green and sapphire-blue farther from the shore. In some places where the black volcanic rock dashes off to a sudden bluff, the indigo waves look like they’re reflecting the night sky even when it’s sunny and bright. In midwinter the camellia trees with their glossy green leaves were in full bloom, and when the wind blew, their red flowers fell on the black cliffs or tumbled into the sea. The air smelled of salt and ripe tangerines. Hesoon used to say that Jejudo is the most beautiful place in the world. I haven’t seen much of the world to truly know, but she may have been right. Beasts of a Little Land, set in Korea from 1917-1965 is both a historical novel (of the Japanese occupation of Korea and the independence movement)combined with a love story, but one where neither the tides of history nor love run smoothly, both frequently diverted by tragedy and division. I say 'love story', but this would better be described as a story of Inyeon (인연), or more specifically first-love Inyeon 첫사랑과의 인연, a concept that denotes a strong life-long connection between two people, here Jade and JungHo (정호), both born in the latter half of the first decade of the 20th century. Their first connection is coincidental and one that the characters themselves don't realise even when a clue emerges decades later. The hanja in JungHo's name mean Righteous Tiger, and Korean tigers (한국 호랑이) are a key motif through the novel. As the story opens in 1917, a Japanese party in the Korean mountains are being (deliberately we discover later) astray by Baek, a travelling silk merchant who they have press-ganged as a guide.  At the same time a hunter Nam is tracking what he thinks is a leopard, only to find it is a young tiger, which he doesn't shoot, remembering his father's advice, despite his own reputation for having killed a huge beast, that one only kills a tiger to protect one's own life. Nam has gone too far from home and into the snow in his hunt, and collapses from exhaustion, but is discovered by the Japanese party, who first save him, with heat, food and drink, but then rely on his skills to save them and guide them back down the mountain. En-route they encounter a much larger tiger, but Nam scares it away, saving both the men and the animal from harming each other. On arrival back in the town, a Japanese major executes Baek for his incompetence, while a captain gives Nam the gift of a silver cigarette case. In another strand of the story, we discover that Baek traded silk with Silver, a courtesan in Pyongyang. But secretly Silver also raises funds for the independence movement, which Baek then traffics back to them. Learning that Nam's family buried Baek, Silver sends them a gift of a silver ring. Meanwhile, Jade, a young girl is sold to Silver as an apprentice. A few years later, Jade is sent to live with another courtesan in Seoul and at the same time Nam's son, Jung-ho, arrives in the city from the countryside, making his living as leader of a gang of beggars, his two prized possessions, which he keeps for the rest of his life, the ring and the cigarette case, both inherited from his late father. And there the two meet for the first time. Rather neatly the Inyeon concept enables what otherwise might be seen as contrived plot coincidences to become a key part of the book's themes. I mentioned the connection between Jade and Jung-ho, but there are several such connections - almost 30 years later Jung-ho's life is spared when the Japanese captain, now much more senior, recognises the cigarette case. And yet, as so often in this novel, tragedy follows redemption, and post-war the same cases leads to him being condemned as a collaborator, despite his war heroics in the resistance. Some favourite quotes: The island paradise of Jeju-do, where Jade finishes the novel in a first-person postscript - this quote is where she first heard of it, from her aunt's maid: Jade begged their maid Hesoon to tell them stories of her childhood in Jejudo, the magical southern island where there were trees without any branches and wild horses running freely under a snowcapped mountain. Hesoon said her mother and her four sisters were all seawomen who dove in the water to harvest abalones, holding their breath for two minutes at a time. The rather fractured nature of the resistance (which was to carry forward into post-independence factionalism): MYUNGBO RETURNED HOME LATE that week after meeting with his comrades in the Coalition. It tied together groups from all points of the political spectrum under the one banner of independence: the Anarchists, the Communists, the Nationalists, the Christians, the Buddhists, and the Cheondoists. He was one of the senior leaders of the Communists, but among their ranks there were those who saw the struggle as primarily between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the rich and the poor, and not between Japan and Korea, as MyungBo had always believed. The Anarchist credo was that any social order was destructive and oppressive. The Nationalists were the conservatives and some of them put more faith in America than in Korea itself. They also opposed the Communists almost as often as they fought the Japanese. Then some of the Christians were Pacifists, although a few of them had gladly assassinated Japanese generals and governors before putting a gun to their own heads. All the groups believed that Japan would send every Korean man to the mines and every Korean woman to the military brothels rather than admit defeat; their opinions diverged on what they could do to implode Japan from within before that point. The Andong Kim family (from which my mother-in-law originates): Where is your family from?” “I was born in Seoul, but my family is originally from Andong.” “You mean you’re an Andong-Kim?” SungSoo blurted out, and HanChol gave a slight bow of his head. His intuition about the kid being exceptional might prove true, after all. He surely came from an impoverished cadet branch, but he still belonged to one of the most important families in the country—one that even kings have feared over the centuries. 3.5 stars - historical love-stories aren't really my thing, so 3 stars for me, but recommended more generally to fans of the genre.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    To be published Dec 7, 2021 Received an early copy from BookBrowse, for which I thank BookBrowse, the publisher and the author. The story takes place in Korea and starts in the mountains in 1917. We move to Pyongyang, currently the capital of North Korea. In that year, North and South Korea were not separated. A train ran between Pyongyang and Seoul. I love historical fiction because references within encourage me to do research and I learn much. This book is a prime example of one that makes me w To be published Dec 7, 2021 Received an early copy from BookBrowse, for which I thank BookBrowse, the publisher and the author. The story takes place in Korea and starts in the mountains in 1917. We move to Pyongyang, currently the capital of North Korea. In that year, North and South Korea were not separated. A train ran between Pyongyang and Seoul. I love historical fiction because references within encourage me to do research and I learn much. This book is a prime example of one that makes me want to look deeper. The characters seem real and are well described. I loved what I learned and following the story of Jade-a courtesan in training Silver-her original teacher Dani-her second teacher (Silver's first cousin) Luna-Silver's love child Lotus-Luna's younger sister Nam JungHo-an orphan living in Seoul HanChol-a rickshaw driver Nam's Father-saved the life of a Japanese Captain The story covers the years 1917-1964. Korea gains its independence from Japan upon the conclusion of WWII. The lives of those listed above change dramatically in the course of the 47 years. Very good and compelling historical fiction. 5 stars

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sujoya

    Juhea Kim's expansive and emotional epic , Beasts of a Little Land , is a beautiful work of historical fiction. The two prime characters are Jade , a young girl of ten who is sold to a courtesan house for money that would help her poor family and JungHo , an orphan living off the streets , struggling to survive with nothing but few mementos left to him by his late father , a former soldier with the Korean Imperial Army , skilled hunter and tenant farmer who once saved a Japanese officer from bei Juhea Kim's expansive and emotional epic , Beasts of a Little Land , is a beautiful work of historical fiction. The two prime characters are Jade , a young girl of ten who is sold to a courtesan house for money that would help her poor family and JungHo , an orphan living off the streets , struggling to survive with nothing but few mementos left to him by his late father , a former soldier with the Korean Imperial Army , skilled hunter and tenant farmer who once saved a Japanese officer from being killed by a tiger on a hunting expedition. The lives of Jade and JungHo and the people they meet in the course of their lives takes us on a journey spanning almost 5 decaded (1917-1965) in Japan occupied Korea . The evolution of this nation from being a Japanese colony to fighting for and winning its independance only to be divided into two nations by drawing a "a hasty line at the thirty-eighth parallel" is told through the interwoven stories of Japanese colonizers, freedom fighters, self serving businessmen, street children and courtesans. The author's use of folklore and storytelling within the main story gives us a deeper understanding of the history and culture of the country and its people. With themes of lifelong friendships and betrayals, sacrifice , patriotism, love (unrequited in some cases) and survival in times of extreme hardship and political unrest this is an exquisitely written debut . At the heart of the novel is the human thread - 'inyeon' that connects the interwoven lives of the different characters in this novel- people who were destined to be a part of eachother's stories . Vivid descriptions of the hardships faced during Korea's struggle for independance and the brutality of the colonizers is hard to read but central to how the story progresses. The plot does have some gaps wherein I was left wondering about the fate of an important character or about what events/circumstances could have led to that moment. I suppose that with a story with many characters and much ground to cover this does happen. But ultimately that this is an impressive debut novel goes without saying. Thanks to NetGalley and Ecco Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    DNF @ 22% I threw this on the DNF shelf earlier but then changed my mind and read a couple more chapters. I think it’s staying this time. The historical context is certainly interesting but that’s essentially the only thing that’s working for me. Biggest issue is that I really don’t like Kim’s writing, it reads as very cold to me. Beyond that I still don’t care about any of the characters, even almost a quarter of the way through, and there’s not really any plot beyond what’s going on in the char DNF @ 22% I threw this on the DNF shelf earlier but then changed my mind and read a couple more chapters. I think it’s staying this time. The historical context is certainly interesting but that’s essentially the only thing that’s working for me. Biggest issue is that I really don’t like Kim’s writing, it reads as very cold to me. Beyond that I still don’t care about any of the characters, even almost a quarter of the way through, and there’s not really any plot beyond what’s going on in the characters’ lives at this point so not much interest there. I think if I wasn’t so putt off by the writing I could probably stick with it because I am interested in knowing more about the historical context here but I’d rather learn about that some other way tbh.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Daige

    Beasts of a Little Land is a captivating story of twentieth-century Korea during Japanese occupation, World War II, and the rise of Communism.  It follows the life of Jade, a girl who is forced to become a courtesan at a young age, as well as the friends and lovers she makes along the way.  I learned a lot about Korea from reading this novel, but it didn't feel like a history book. The story was engrossing and I felt myself really caring about (or loathing, in some cases) the characters.  It was Beasts of a Little Land is a captivating story of twentieth-century Korea during Japanese occupation, World War II, and the rise of Communism.  It follows the life of Jade, a girl who is forced to become a courtesan at a young age, as well as the friends and lovers she makes along the way.  I learned a lot about Korea from reading this novel, but it didn't feel like a history book. The story was engrossing and I felt myself really caring about (or loathing, in some cases) the characters.  It was painful to watch Jade's friend  JungHo get excited about the ideals of Marxism and Communism.   I just wanted to hop into a time machine and go back and warn this fictional character about how Communism actually turns out!  Over the course of the story,  we follow Jade's career and those of her courtesan friends, Lotus and Luna, who are like sisters to her.  We become privy to their victories and tragedies. Jade is loved by two different men.  Which one, if either, will she end up with?  The writing in Beasts of a Little Land is gorgeous, but it didn't get so bogged down in beautiful writing that it keeps the story from moving along.  Juhea Kim achieves a perfect balance of characterization and plot.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Beasts of a Little Land and provide an honest review. I was left speechless after finishing this beautifully written, evocative epic by Juhea Kim. The gifted author explores the concept of Inyeon, the idea that there is a human thread in which connections and encounters between people are preordained, and the result is a moving and thought-provoking work that took on a cinematic quality in my imagination as I was reading. Kim's masterful Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Beasts of a Little Land and provide an honest review. I was left speechless after finishing this beautifully written, evocative epic by Juhea Kim. The gifted author explores the concept of Inyeon, the idea that there is a human thread in which connections and encounters between people are preordained, and the result is a moving and thought-provoking work that took on a cinematic quality in my imagination as I was reading. Kim's masterful phrasing created some of the best closing chapters of a book I have ever read. I am so tempted to add a few lines from some of Kim's most poignant passages to illustrate this claim, but would rather the reader come across them for themselves in hope that the words take their breath away, as they did for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Beginning in 1918 in a Japanese-occupied Korea, this epic historical sweeps through over fifty years primarily through the eyes of some beautifully drawn characters. There was much to admire -- well written, a solid rendering of the thorny relationship between the occupier and natives, and struggles for survival. The star-crossed would-be lovers, Jade and JungHo, who always seem to be there for one another but remain separated due to circumstances and the forces of history. Jade's life forms the Beginning in 1918 in a Japanese-occupied Korea, this epic historical sweeps through over fifty years primarily through the eyes of some beautifully drawn characters. There was much to admire -- well written, a solid rendering of the thorny relationship between the occupier and natives, and struggles for survival. The star-crossed would-be lovers, Jade and JungHo, who always seem to be there for one another but remain separated due to circumstances and the forces of history. Jade's life forms the core around which the events revolve, and her resilience as she is sold early on while living in the North, making her way to Seoul under the protection of Dani, an influential courtesan, and the fate of the country. I don't usually choose historical epics, but found this well researched and literary, and totally involving.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ming

    This story is a gripping read and I finished it in less than a week. The storycrafting and pacing kept me reading. The plotting is smart and intricate; it reminded me of Les Miserables--the paths of the characters criss-crossing. The writing started as very lush in the beginning...about the first 1/8th of the book. Then the tone got a bit mechanical at times, in contrast with said beginning. I thought the ending fell flat while it made sense within the context of the story. Too many bows were tied This story is a gripping read and I finished it in less than a week. The storycrafting and pacing kept me reading. The plotting is smart and intricate; it reminded me of Les Miserables--the paths of the characters criss-crossing. The writing started as very lush in the beginning...about the first 1/8th of the book. Then the tone got a bit mechanical at times, in contrast with said beginning. I thought the ending fell flat while it made sense within the context of the story. Too many bows were tied up. Ok, this book is about how Koreans lived under Japanese occupation. As another recent book about the atrocities the Japanese Kingdom perpetrated in Asia, this is also a story about the evils of colonialism/imperialism. We must remember this or be doomed to repeat history's errors. Upshot: I would definitely read more from this author. Several quotes: The hunter felt himself fall into a soft, cloudy mound of memories. It was so sweet to let go of his grip on the present and dwell among the shadows of the past. Slipping into death really wasn't so bad--it was rather like passing through a door to a world of dreams.... ...When she showed her face and even deigned to flash a small smile in their direction, Jade felt her insides clamp with yearning. Instead of the more common kind of female beauty that elicited jealousy in other women, this stranger had the much rarer kind that drew them in with a promise of something that might also rub off on them. But underneath an air of general benevolence, she was not easygoing. She seemed to toy with people's attraction to her, raising their hopes and then watching them cower. ...Perhaps this was why her mother had warned against the corruptive power of education--even without any man in sight, language itself seduced her. She fluttered with the knowledge that certain words in a certain order could rearrange her on the inside, like moving furniture. Words changed and remade her constantly, and no one else could even sense a difference... ...Even worse, she was not even naturally curious: the books she liked best didn't teach her something new, they talked of things that she already understood just in a more beautiful way. Her imagination ran its circular course inside familiarities--a fountain rather than a river... ...Jade took to dance the way she did to poetry--she discovered that they both originated from the same unfathomable place. She could imitate any movement on the first try; on the second or third try, she made it her own by adding a slight twist of the torso, a tilt of her chin, or a simple breath where there was none. With those nearly imperceptible differences, other girls remained girls while she became a crane, a legendary heroine, a season, an idea...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim is an excellent historical fiction novel that gives a passionate and brutally honest view of one woman’s life story amongst the unrest and changes not just in her own life, but also within her country. This is a topic I honestly knew very little about, so it was fascinating and enjoyable to learn so much more about some of the events that took place in regards to the Korean independence from Japanese occupation and colonization in the early part of the 20th ce Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim is an excellent historical fiction novel that gives a passionate and brutally honest view of one woman’s life story amongst the unrest and changes not just in her own life, but also within her country. This is a topic I honestly knew very little about, so it was fascinating and enjoyable to learn so much more about some of the events that took place in regards to the Korean independence from Japanese occupation and colonization in the early part of the 20th century. Here, we not only follow the political and historical changes, but also one woman’s life and how it is shaped based on her gender and societal position at that time, and also how in association with all of these restraints and expectations, her inner struggle for survival, happiness, love, and purpose. This book is not a “light” book content-wise. The author is honest and open about some of the atrocities that took place to the people living at this time, as well as how women were affected as well. Those scenes were challenging to read, but shying away from subject matter does not make its reality disappear. I was appreciative of the author’s ability and passion to be able to present this material as part of a wonderful tapestry of life’s journey for the cast of characters written for this narrative. An excellent novel. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Ecco for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ariel (ariel_reads)

    This book was probably one of the most engaging historical fiction novels I've ever read. The writing style worked really well with me, and I appreciated every aspect of this book. The different characters and their narratives felt distinct and each of their choices had long-term consequences that were explored further in the book. The historical aspect of the fight for Korean independence from the 1910s to the 1960s felt balanced without getting too dense, and it even made me want to conduct my This book was probably one of the most engaging historical fiction novels I've ever read. The writing style worked really well with me, and I appreciated every aspect of this book. The different characters and their narratives felt distinct and each of their choices had long-term consequences that were explored further in the book. The historical aspect of the fight for Korean independence from the 1910s to the 1960s felt balanced without getting too dense, and it even made me want to conduct my own further research on the era. I loved how there was an exploration of roles within the community, from characters with wealth, to characters with none, to characters who were assisted out of their impoverishment, and to characters who tried to elevate themselves. Each of these roles were distinct and played different parts in the overall story of what it means to be a bystander or an activist during times of oppression. Overall this book felt so thoughtful and poetic, and ended on a beautiful note. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Some content notes to be aware of: violence, rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, war, starvation, domestic abuse, animal death/cruelty. Thank you so much Ecco books and Netgalley for a copy of this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cathy S.

    There is Korean word ,inyeon, that refers to the lifelong interconnection with the people we meet during our lives. Furthermore it means predestination, that it is our destiny to meet them. It is the inyeon between JungHo and Jade along with others they meet along the way that is explored. But don’t worry this is not an in-depth psychological exploration. We watch their lives unfold against the backdrop of the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea.,the Korean independence movement and WWII. I knew There is Korean word ,inyeon, that refers to the lifelong interconnection with the people we meet during our lives. Furthermore it means predestination, that it is our destiny to meet them. It is the inyeon between JungHo and Jade along with others they meet along the way that is explored. But don’t worry this is not an in-depth psychological exploration. We watch their lives unfold against the backdrop of the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea.,the Korean independence movement and WWII. I knew very little of Korea’s history prior to WWII. I was surprised to learn that Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910! I knew a little about the occupation during WWII but did not realize it had gone on so long. This book is rich in the history of this time. The history is well intertwined with the storyline so as not to feel force fed or like reading a dry history book. We become spectators to the events. If you enjoy learning a little history while enjoying a great storyline this book is for you! I received an ARC of the book from the publisher, HarperCollins through net galley. This fact in no way influenced my review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cam Kovach

    The story begins with an almost mystical set of circumstances -- a hunter stalking a tiger in 1910, Japanese-occupied Korea. It's winter, snow is falling, and the hunter, weak with hunger and pushing onward to find food for his starving children, despairingly lays down to sleep. Found by a Japanese patrol, he is revived and used to guide the patrol back to the village. In a parallel story, Jade is sold by her family to work for a courtesan. From these inauspicious beginnings and through dramatic The story begins with an almost mystical set of circumstances -- a hunter stalking a tiger in 1910, Japanese-occupied Korea. It's winter, snow is falling, and the hunter, weak with hunger and pushing onward to find food for his starving children, despairingly lays down to sleep. Found by a Japanese patrol, he is revived and used to guide the patrol back to the village. In a parallel story, Jade is sold by her family to work for a courtesan. From these inauspicious beginnings and through dramatic circumstances. Jade leaves Pyongyang for Seoul. Her story, and that of JungHo, the hunter's son, become intertwined with each other, as well as with the stories of the Japanese patrol. The setting of this historical novel is Korea, occupied by the Japanese prior to WWII. This time period, before Korea was separated into North and South, and occupied by a hostile aggressor, may not be well-known by many in the west. The unwinding of the occupation as well as the many and varied storylines makes this a compelling read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This is an absolutely wonderful and engrossing story that takes place during the Korean Independence movement. There are a few main characters that intersect throughout the years, and their lives from childhood to mature adulthood create a saga that you won't be able to put down, so be prepared to stay up late into the night. It's the story of Korea, which is a very bitter one and unknown to most Americans. It traces the colonization of Korea by Japan through those cruel years and with character This is an absolutely wonderful and engrossing story that takes place during the Korean Independence movement. There are a few main characters that intersect throughout the years, and their lives from childhood to mature adulthood create a saga that you won't be able to put down, so be prepared to stay up late into the night. It's the story of Korea, which is a very bitter one and unknown to most Americans. It traces the colonization of Korea by Japan through those cruel years and with characters from different walks of life, the reader can gain understanding of this era in history. The choices the characters make in their lives are discussion-worthy and as such, this would make an excellent book club selection for a book group focused on Asia. Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nichole

    This book blew me away. It will stick with me just like Pachinko. This is an amazing historical fiction. The characters are very memorable. I love how all the stories intertwine and become one. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction. Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for allowing me a digital arc of this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Starting in 1917 occupied Korea, a local hunter is saved by a young Japanese soldier. Their chance meeting leads to a saga that spans half a century. This is a book that the words sweeping saga fit perfectly. There are many characters, but there are also many pages so you have plenty of time to get to know them all and begin to recognize who is who. I loved how all the characters lives intertwined and made meaning for each other. The war background Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Starting in 1917 occupied Korea, a local hunter is saved by a young Japanese soldier. Their chance meeting leads to a saga that spans half a century. This is a book that the words sweeping saga fit perfectly. There are many characters, but there are also many pages so you have plenty of time to get to know them all and begin to recognize who is who. I loved how all the characters lives intertwined and made meaning for each other. The war background made for good drama but also taught me a lot. I love books that are both entertaining and educational. “The world feels like an oil paining rather than a photograph, and the dreamers are forever seeing hidden colors where others just see the top shade. The non dreamers look through glasses and the dreamers through a prism.”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alyson

    I received a copy through BookBrowse (kindle edition through NetGalley). Juhea Kim’s “Beasts of a Little Land” reminds me in some ways of Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago” but with much more vivid and captivating characters. Not being familiar with Korean history, it was an eye-opener learning about the Japanese occupation. Kim captures the brutality of colonialism and its costs to subjects – the Korean body as an object of use – physical labor for men, sex for women, and the starvation and dea I received a copy through BookBrowse (kindle edition through NetGalley). Juhea Kim’s “Beasts of a Little Land” reminds me in some ways of Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago” but with much more vivid and captivating characters. Not being familiar with Korean history, it was an eye-opener learning about the Japanese occupation. Kim captures the brutality of colonialism and its costs to subjects – the Korean body as an object of use – physical labor for men, sex for women, and the starvation and death that leads to orphans (JungHo) and girls sold into courtesan-ship (Jade). Introduced to a suite of characters from various levels of Korean and Japanese society, we see individuals at once subject to forces larger than themselves (even the Japanese officers) but finding agency within existing structures in order to survive, oftentimes in morally questionable ways. Kim raises the question through her character-development, what would you do if faced with these circumstances? The two primary protagonists Jade and JungHo remain at the core of Kim’s storytelling, leaving and entering each other’s lives like stars in orbit, but leaving an indelible footprint on each other, finding at times joy, heartbreak, and human connection in life-altering circumstances. I would highly recommend reading “Beasts of a Little Land”, and to note, Kim’s ending was one of the most well-executed and beautiful endings in fiction I have ever read. Looking forward to reading more of her work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    3.5 ⭐️ — i went into this novel with high hopes. i thought i would be absolutely captivated with the characters and the setting, but unfortunately it never quite got there for me. this story spans over many decades, and there were so many supporting characters that i found it difficult to keep up with. i felt that the characters were also very hard to empathize with. by the end of the story, i only liked one character :-( all that being said, Juhea Kim’s writing is impeccable. her lyrical prose is 3.5 ⭐️ — i went into this novel with high hopes. i thought i would be absolutely captivated with the characters and the setting, but unfortunately it never quite got there for me. this story spans over many decades, and there were so many supporting characters that i found it difficult to keep up with. i felt that the characters were also very hard to empathize with. by the end of the story, i only liked one character :-( all that being said, Juhea Kim’s writing is impeccable. her lyrical prose is truly unlike any other, and the way she was effortlessly able to weave so many different people and relationships was beautiful. the content in this novel was definitely heavy at times, but Juhea Kim never failed to approach it with sincerity and i never felt like these moments were included for shock value. in addition to the writing, i enjoyed how Korea was treated as if it were a character in the novel, rather than just the setting. the vivid descriptions of Korea were so alluring and lovely, it gave the country a magical feel. as someone who wasn’t too familiar with Korea, or the Korean Independence Movement prior to reading, this novel captured its essence in a stunning and alluring way. thank you to NetGalley and Ecco for allowing me to read this ARC! CW: violence, rape, sexual assault, animal death, sexism

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Rich, and colorful, and glorious! I love a sprawling historical fiction which dazzles and stuns me with a well-honed cast of characters, each ambitious in their own way and where fate and destiny intertwined them in each other’s lives in a tumultuous time and place. Kim’s artfully constructed debut novel hit all of the right criteria for me and I was engaged and engrossed throughout this story. Set in Korea from 1917 to 1965, turbulent times to say the least, and as the characters see their ambiti Rich, and colorful, and glorious! I love a sprawling historical fiction which dazzles and stuns me with a well-honed cast of characters, each ambitious in their own way and where fate and destiny intertwined them in each other’s lives in a tumultuous time and place. Kim’s artfully constructed debut novel hit all of the right criteria for me and I was engaged and engrossed throughout this story. Set in Korea from 1917 to 1965, turbulent times to say the least, and as the characters see their ambitions and fortunes rise in fall in all the tangled web of secrets their private and professional lives against the background of the Korean Independence Movement.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Oh, this is why I read! I loved this from the first page. Here's how it started: “The sky was white and the earth was black, like at the beginning of time before the first sunrise. Clouds left their realm and descended so low that they seemed to touch the ground. Giant pines loomed in and out of the ether. Nothing stirred or made a sound. Hardly distinguishable in this obscure world, a speck of a man was walking alone. A hunter. Crouching over a raw paw printing, still soft and almost warm, he s Oh, this is why I read! I loved this from the first page. Here's how it started: “The sky was white and the earth was black, like at the beginning of time before the first sunrise. Clouds left their realm and descended so low that they seemed to touch the ground. Giant pines loomed in and out of the ether. Nothing stirred or made a sound. Hardly distinguishable in this obscure world, a speck of a man was walking alone. A hunter. Crouching over a raw paw printing, still soft and almost warm, he sniffed in the direction of his prey. The sharp smell of snow filled his lungs and he smiled. Soon, a light dusting would make it easier for him to track the animal---a large leopard, he guessed, from the size of the pring. He rose quietly like a shade among the trees. The animals moved without a sound, here in their own domain, but the mountains belonged to him also---or rather, he, like the animals, belonged to the mountains. Not because they were generous or comforting, for nowhere in these woods was safe, man or beast. But he knew how to be when he was on a hill, to breathe, walk, think, and kill, just as a leopard knows how to be a leopard. The ground was mostly covered with red-brown pine needles and the footprints came few and far between. Instead, he looked for scratchings on tree trunks or places where the thickets were left almost imperceptibly disturbed, perhaps just a few wispy hairs caught at the ends of a broken branch…..” I couldn’t care less about hunting but something about that writing drew me in immediately. I was there in the cold night with the hunter, I was holding my breath too to stay quiet. Magical. The prose is consistent for the rest of the book, always descriptive and insightful but not overly flowery or literary to the point we are drawn away from the plot. I read a lot and it’s so hard, such a very fine balance to give plot and writing equal concern and do them both justice. To actually keep things going but still reflect on the events and the inner workings of the characters is much easier said than done ---because I read plenty of books that don’t achieve this. And honestly, that's not a bad thing. I love plenty of books where the plot is more crucial than the writing, and plenty where it's about the writing, the reflection and the plot is secondary. I don't mind it, but wow--those rare books that can do BOTH are exciting. I don’t like to summarize the plot because to me that’s not the point of the reviews---you can read the synopsis. So I’ll just say I also love that you learn so much about Korean/Japanese history from this but never in that annoying forced way where authors just fact dump things into historical fiction. It’s weaved naturally in. I’m at a loss for how else to gush about this, so here are a few other excerpts I appreciated. “Every human being fundamentally believes in his or her own unique and inherent significance, without which life would be unbearable; but in Kim SungSoo’s psyche, that belief was not merely a foundation but the piece de resistance. He himself was not conscious of that fact, of course, since such people are precisely the least likely to admit to selfishness. Being a well-educated, modern man, he had his own code of conduct and was sufficiently pleased with himself meeting it without too many difficulties. That is too say, he was pro-independence but against any form of native activism (change could only come top-down through imploring the United States to free Korea, he believed). Among friends, he would say aptly vitriolic comments about the oppression, enjoying the eloquence of his own speech and the smooth taste of his Japanese cigarettes. He could carry on love affairs that were physically, financially, and sometimes even emotionally involving; but he wouldn’t be so base as to flaunt them in front of his wife, subjecting her to needless humiliation. In short, his moral character is no worse than any other Korean male who is born the only son of a prominent landowning family with an annual income of nearly two hundred thousand won.” “It appeared to him that no matter how much he gave, he would always have more than enough. As he grew older, he even relished the struggles brought on by his sacrifices. There was a soaring awareness that illuminated his soul whenever he did the right thing, which also cost him something. This euphoria, however, was balanced by the utter terror he felt when he looked around and saw so many others to whom this conciousness was not only absent, but unknowable and abhorrent. Most people, MyungBo realized, were made of a different material than his, and it was not something that could shift, as from coldness to warmth, but an elemental and fundamental difference, like wood from metal.” “The concept of a nation is a pure construct. It serves to hold up our reality, we need it for government et cetera but it is neither self-evident nor natural and becomes more meaningless when you think of it in historical context. For all of human history, nations have been destroyed, absorbed into others, reborn, or forgotten and that makes no difference to the well-being of the posterity. Whether it’s Koguryo, the Roman Empire or ancient Persia, it’s all the same. We were annexed by Japan nine years ago, now that’s a fact. If nothing changes, then in a thousand years, there won’t be a Korea or the Korean people. But people then will not care one bit that their country as once, a thousand years ago, independent.” An amazing debut and can’t wait to see what else this author does. Also, I love this cover!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Deepak Srinivas

    The first hundred pages of this book are a magical experience - every sentence sets such mundane, physical things ablaze with poetic beauty, extracting numinous wonders out of the human consciousness without prickling our delicate cynicism or rationality because every description is deeply visceral, visual, emotional all at once, transforming every scene into a multisensory, abstract experience. Judea Kim makes the world seem like a beautiful, fleeting dream, a journey described by luminous mirac The first hundred pages of this book are a magical experience - every sentence sets such mundane, physical things ablaze with poetic beauty, extracting numinous wonders out of the human consciousness without prickling our delicate cynicism or rationality because every description is deeply visceral, visual, emotional all at once, transforming every scene into a multisensory, abstract experience. Judea Kim makes the world seem like a beautiful, fleeting dream, a journey described by luminous miracles and strangers that carry their own little magic with them, spreading it wherever they go and below it all, a mysterious, capricious current of cause and effect, aligning past with future and stranger with stranger, channeling emotional connections that defy race, ideology and even time. "The stub candle was flicekering modestly, without defying the darkness that protected them all like a winter quilt." "Jade came to appreciate Lotus's gift of gab, the way she could make anything sound like shooting stars-unexpected and marvelous phenomena of which they were the only two witnesses." "The world pulled at her, irresistible and real like the first hot day of summer." "There was a soaring awareness that illuminated his soul whenever he did the right thing, which also cost him something. This euphoria, however, was balanced by the utter terror he felt when he looked around ans saw so many others to whom this consciousness was not only absent, but unknowable and abhorrent. Most people, MyungBo realised, were made of a different material than his; and it was not something that could shift, as from coldness to warmth, but an elemental difference, like wood from metal." "The disappearance of its howls and yelps left a strangely lasting void in the air, like a place on the wall where an old frame has been removed." "The rumor was that in black-green jungles and insidious islands the Japanese troops were fighting to the last man with sharpened bamboo spears. At night, animals of the forest feasted on their flesh." "Only in the late afternoon did they receive the radio message about Hiroshima, and Yamada still couldn't make sense of it. How was it possible, to have these light purple flowers swaying in the wind, the turtles swimming lazily in the lake, the trees spreading their branches and straining to grow as much as possible during the heartless summer - and then at the same time, having blinding white light, charred and melting flesh, faceless people in a city of ash?" "Death was such a small price to pay for life." The book is still perfectly readable after the first act - it just felt like the storyline got bogged down by a lot of dull, soap-opera-esque sentimentality.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tash

    Very happy to confirm my second 5 star read of the year and even happier to say it's Kim's debut novel and an epic one at that. Beasts of a Little Land is an absolutley enthralling tale during the decades of Korea's fight for independence. The story weaves between the lives of multiple characters, however the main protagonist, Jade, takes centre stage in the novel and we see how the other characters fall into place around her as friends and family grow up during the turbulent times of war. The end Very happy to confirm my second 5 star read of the year and even happier to say it's Kim's debut novel and an epic one at that. Beasts of a Little Land is an absolutley enthralling tale during the decades of Korea's fight for independence. The story weaves between the lives of multiple characters, however the main protagonist, Jade, takes centre stage in the novel and we see how the other characters fall into place around her as friends and family grow up during the turbulent times of war. The ending of the book was the truly magical part for me, the way Kim manages to change the narrative tone from one of despair during the war to Jade finding absolute peace after leaving Seoul to Jejudo and learning to become a seawoman. I also learnt a new favourite word ~ inyeon ~ or 'human thread. And that word really describes what this book is about at its heart. The thread that binds us through family, friendship and even enemies. A story of unforgettable characters, trials and tribulations, and a beautiful immersion into the Korean way of life. Highly recommend for lovers of historical fiction or just plain epic storytelling. A huge thanks to @bloomsburypublishing for sending me this review copy.

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