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A Forest Ridden With Secrets -Reviewing The Forest of Stolen Girls

Has it not been too long, since I last visited here? I have been having way too much fun on IG that I kinda, neglected this blog, which I started with so much passion.

And it has been even longer, since I wrote a full-on book review, I hope I haven’t gone rusty.

Without much ado, let us start.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Title: The Forest of Stolen Girls

Author: June Hur

Genre: Dark, Historical Fiction, Mystery, YA, & Triller

Story: 5/5

Writing Style:  4.8/5

Overall: 4.6 /5

Warning: Kidnapping, Parental Abuse(implied), Suicide & Murder

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

“The forest watches me. Hostile and still, with remembering eyes.”

I have a bad habit when I choose books to read. Never have I picked a book based on the synopsis. I look at the cover, title, and genre that I’m in the mood for. If something catches my eyes, I get it. 

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

So being the creature of habit that I was, when I saw The Forest of Stolen Girls paperback on the bookshelf under mystery, I had to get it. 

The cover looked gorgeous and gave a whiff of mystery and I just loved the name.

As a fan of modern-day crime/mystery/ thriller imagine my surprise when I realized that this wasn’t the modern-day YA thriller I thought it to be. Taking me fully by surprise, Forest of Stolen Girls was set in 1426 Joseon Dynasty, Korea!

And I didn’t know it until I was on the 2nd or the 3rd page. This is why I usually don’t read blurbs as I feel most of these little surprises get spoiled by them.

And it was such a welcoming surprise! 

As I don’t read a lot of historical fiction books in general, seeing someone investigate without CCTV, DNA, or anything to rely on apart from the limited medical knowledge, testimonies, and techniques used centuries ago was fascinating, and a delight. 

Though the synopsis of The Forest of Stolen Girls doesn’t give much away, I was still glad that I didn’t read it. 

But here is the blurb for those who love to read them. 

“Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

The story is very atmospheric. The eerie, spooky, and the tense atmosphere created by the author, won’t let you put the book down. This was also the first book by June Hur that I have read. And I can’t believe it took me so long to find her. Her writing is very clean and bold. You can visualize perfectly as you read. It makes you want to go to the next page and the page after that. 

This is perfect for a rainy day binge.

A part that I absolutely loved was how history is intertwined with the mystery and it plays a role here that almost gets you thinking, that the book probably isn’t that far-fetched. History isn’t the focal point but is in the background, drawing the lines. 

This has no romance. It is all about a family/families that had been torn apart by an incident. Them finding peace within each other, forgiving each other, and learning to move on. 

“Every corner of the house was now haunted with what had once been and would never be again.”

The rekindling of Hawai and her younger sister Maewol was endearing. I am a sucker for family reunions. And the relationship between them was a treat to read. The bickering, accusing, and the longing for not wanting to lose each other again. Absolutely beautiful. 

“Maewol-ah” I rasped. “Why are you here?”

She shrugged her small, delicate shoulders, as she always did. “I thought you might need some help.”

Maewol is also my favorite. She is headstrong and fearless. And I love her.

Our MC Hwani is also very strong as a female character from the Joseon era. 

‘For all my life, I had always followed someone. First my mother and then, when she’d died, my father. I’d never needed to get anywhere alone.’

This quote gives us a great perspective of what type of life Hwani had lived. And what she had to endure to travel across a sea to find her father. I really liked her in the beginning chapters. She was smart, headstrong, and very sentimental. But later in the book, I also discovered that she is also kinda dumb as she made a few idiotic decisions. But judging by the circumstances that she was in, maybe we would have had made the same mistakes.

If we talk about the characters of the book then there are quite a few in number. Apart from the main cast, the filler characters are the one who drives the story from the back. They are the ones providing the information that our female protagonist uses to solve the mysteries surrounding the disappearances.  

It has a lot of female characters who are incredibly fierce. I think this is also the reason why I rated it so high. The male characters are here but it is solely the female characters who are the driving force behind the story. Now thinking that this is set in the year 1400 when women weren’t much other than a wife or mothers in making. 

So in contrast to the time and society back then, how the story ends, gives me an immense amount of joy.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

“The moment I chose to help you I realized something…Doing what is right, it is so utterly terrifying. And yet so freeing.”

The mystery was kinda predictable. I mean I knew who the bad guy was when I was one-third in. It’s probably caused I read more thrillers than anything else. But apart from that we also have a lot of things happening in the ending few chapters. 

It got a bit fast-paced during then. 

And everything that was built throughout the book was being concluded one after another with the edition of more things. 

Would have loved it if it was still the same pace as the rest of the book. Or if it was spaced out between a few more chapters than the last two. 

The afterword is also worth reading, as the author talks about historical events that the book is based on. The connection between the Ming dynasty of China and its connection to the story was just fascinating to learn. 

Honestly, it was really good to read. I really couldn’t stop when I was at the last few chapters, not for the mystery because I really wanted to know how it would conclude. And I really really liked the ending. 

It is open and leaves so much for us to wish on. As someone who personally loves open endings, this was on my turf.

And with that, I will conclude my review. 

So read The Forest of Stolen Girls, for the mystery but stay for the strong female characters.

With that, always remember and make sure to drink plenty of water. And have a happy reading!

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