Audiobook Review: The Red Palace

Published January 25th 2022

Author: June Hur

Narrator: Michelle H. Lee

Audiobook Length: 8 hours 41 minutes

To enter the palace means to walk a path stained in blood…

Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father’s approval.

But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon’s closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher’s innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.

In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed. 

The Red Palace is a captivating historical mystery that takes the reader back to the Joseon era in Korea. It takes inspiration from the real historical events surrounding Crown Prince Sado and then builds a fictional story around it. I loved the author’s note at the end that explains how she took the real events and incorporated them into the story. When I lived in South Korea, I had the opportunity to learn about many of these historical tales and I liked how the author put it all together. Even though I am familiar with many historical Korean customs, the mannerisms, and the era in general, I liked how the author transported the reader so even those with little to no prior knowledge could still picture everything while not going into info-dump territory where it would potentially bore those more familiar with all of the elements. The writing itself also reads like a historical drama where it was easy to picture everything in my mind and it all flowed well.

Hyeon is the illegitimate daughter of a lord, who wishes to have her father’s approval. She becomes a palace nurse, a position that she worked very hard to get and she intends to do everything she can to keep it. When Hyeon is summoned to the chamber of the ill Crown Prince, the mysteries begin to unfold when along the way multiple murders are discovered. Her mentor, Nurse Jeong, is accused of the crime and Hyeon is determined to solve the mystery. During her investigation, she encounters police inspector, Seo Eojin. Although the two of them come from different backgrounds and positions, they share the same goal of wanting to find the murderer and stop them from killing again. Along the way, the two of them get to know each other and I loved the relationship that formed between them. Due to their positions (and the time period), there was a natural progression that fit their circumstances. The two of them shared excellent chemistry and although there was a blooming romance, the focus remained on the mystery element of the story.

The mystery part of the story was very well done as there are hints throughout without making it too obvious the author is trying to push one person or another into being the culprit.  Hyeon’s complex background with her parents and her position were incorporated into the story with the introduction of both. It was very interesting to see the dynamics that exist in her relationship with her mother compared to her relationship with her father. As the youngest inspector, Eojin has a lot to live up to while also trying to navigate the career environment. Politics play a huge role in the story as the complexity is difficult to navigate well without putting either character’s life in danger. While Eojin and Hyeon were very well crafted, I do with there was a little more given to the background characters. There is some, but more would have added another element of enjoyment to the story. Overall, this was an excellent story that was difficult to put down as I wanted to know everything at once. Based on my experience with this story, I cannot wait to try more by the author!

5 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: The Red Palace

  1. Lovely review!!! It was my first book by the author and despite not knowing anything about the era or Korean history, I completely fell in love with this world and writing…


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