Book Review – “Gilded” by Christina Farley

OK.  So I don’t think I’ve ever done a book review here in the “Tech Tips” blog, but after reading the recently released Young Adult novel, “Gilded,” I thought this would be worth sharing with my fellow KBS listeners and Korea-philes out there.

So, why does this book warrant a mention here in “Tech Tips?”  Well, the novel, “Gilded” by Christina Farley, is about a 16 year old Korean American, Jae Hwa, who moves to Seoul with her father after losing her mother to cancer.  In the midst of adjusting to that new culture and getting to know her gruff, and seemingly disapproving grandfather, she learns that her family is cursed and that the first born daughter of each generation has been kidnapped by a Korean demi-god named Haemosu.  It seems Haemosu was spurned centuries before by the beautiful princess and never quite got over that slight.   Jae Hwa happens to be the first born female of her generation and Haemosu is, shall we say, putting the moved on her.  Can Jae Hwa (who’s also a Tae Kwan Do black belt and Korean archery expert) save herself and the souls of her ancestors?  And how will she balance that with a complicated family life, school work, and a boy that she’s kind of falling for?

As far as I can tell, this is the first YA fantasy novel set in Korea that also introduces the pantheon of Korean mythology.  Not being an expert in Korean mythology I can’t say how accurate “Gilded” is, but it appears that the author did her homework.  Most of the mythological creatures and deities were new to me, but there were a couple of familiar ones.  For example, KBS listeners may be somewhat familiar with the lion-like creature, Haechi, who appears throughout the story as a sort of guardian for Jae Hwa.  In 2008 a less fierce looking Haechi was debuted as a sort of mascot for Seoul.

 Friendly Haechi

 Guardian Haechi

I thoroughly enjoyed “Gilded” though I’m pretty sure the intended audience isn’t 40-something men.  I found some of the “dreamy” descriptions of Jae Hwa’s love interest a bit distracting but, like I said, I don’t think that was intended for me.  The story does a nice job of integrating descriptions of Seoul and other parts of Korea as well as aspects of Korean language, culture, and mythology.  The book was well paced and exciting.  And, as a final bit of praise, I was glad to know that there will be a sequel released in September of this year.  I’m looking forward to further adventures with Jae Hwa and the Korean pantheon!

“Gilded” is officially released on March 1st, but Amazon made advanced Kindle editions available earlier this month.  If you’re interested in learning more about “Gilded” you can check out the author’s website.  For a more “dramatic” preview of the book, take a look at this “trailer”: