An Asian read! Plus it is Korean, YAY…! Totally worth reading if you love mythology in a modern setting… come see what I mean… (Plus I’m test driving a new review format…let me know what you think!)
Gilded series #1
by Christina Farley
Published March 1st 2014
Jae-hwa has a black belt and a deadly skill with arrows. Returning to South Korea after 16 years in L.A. she meets her widowed dad’s father for the first time and he wants her to return to America. STAT. Then she learns about the family’s curse and it all becomes much clearer, especially after she meets Korean demi-god, Haemosu, who has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation for centuries. And now his sight is set on her…
Gah! That title and cover… I picked this up spur of the moment due to my instincts and NOT due to the underwhelming cover or the horrid little title! Just a more modern title would benefit this book tremendously… and a watercolor like cover with some mythological elements. Haechi for instance would be SOO great on the cover or a girl in traditional dress with a bow! The bird was not a huge part of the story nor does it help one to imagine what it looks like. Gilded wasn’t an off title so much as being totally unhelpful as to what the story is about (hint, hint the point of titles!)
Nor does the title or cover really intrigue you… BUT…
Korean gods, magic and location…
KOREAN MYTHOLOGY!!! Korean culture, Korean setting… the only thing missing is a Korean love interest! Very creative in the use of Korean mythology in present day events! I loved the varied demi-gods that showed up and how the curse on the family would effect each generation. Korean raised in America with Korean values but the American way of life! Love that! I really liked how Jae-hwa was “gilded” and even using metamorphosis for the magic. The end is all tied up in the mythology and the locations of Korea and that is really cool! Even a ferry is used which is a way Koreans get around the waterways there.
The author is NOT Korean but she lived in Korea teaching at an international school… I thought it an excellent thing that she wrote what she knew from first hand experience rather than try to mimic life in Korea as a Korean. This is what it means to write what you know… and I totally bought the high school parts of the book!
I do wish that a legitimate Korean was a major player in the book. For example, Marc could have been 100% Korean but been born in another country (not America) hence he knows all sorts of languages and he’s at the international school because they are more liberal with their absence policy. He could have taken her around Seoul and fallen in love exploring the city! That would have been more fun… and we could have visited places from the POV of a newbie!
Fairy tale driven plot…
For all the contrivance riddled through the plot the actual individual events were quite well thought out, especially when dealing with the mythology. Paired with a nice balance between the international school scenes and the Korean fairy tale scenes and the pacing worked to keep me reading! I don’t want to give away the best part of the book but the events use the world building in the best possible way!
I puzzled about this girl’s choices… not ever calling the lion guardian, not showing her dad the bracelet, never seeing her g-pa. The problem is that this conflict should have happened early in the book and instead happened at the 70% mark. Basically there was a saving of ideas until the end which adds up to limited development…
The writing is basic but easy to read. It’s not bad but doesn’t blow me away. I would really have liked to read Marc’s POV if he were Korean. Coming from two different directions and having to develop plot for Marc’s POV would have immeasurably improved the development of the story as a whole. As it is the style smacks of those high school reads that are a tad generic. That includes Jae-hwa going back & forth about being with Marc. Her narrative was just plain whiny! She can be as badass as she wants but if she is constantly complaining it is hard to deal with her…
Unfortunately, diverse but not diverse…
I really liked her relationship with Michelle… as the new girl I thought this friendship could have been explored more! No mean girl Min needed… (More contrived conflict.) I wanted more relationship with Komo and her grandfather… here are two people who believe her and that is only minutely developed… And GAH! Her relationship with her father was terrible!! I wanted Haemosu to kill him off so that she would be forced into her grandfather’s hands… These all became lost opportunities to add REAL CONFLICT!
Marc, oh Marc… what a misstep you were!! I wanted to like you but as a lover of all things Korean I could not get behind a love interest that is a white wash. I understand why he was and why his back history was setup the way it was but no, there is no excuse not to add some lovely pretty Koreanism to the horrible villain Koreanism!!
As a Reader…
I wanted to LOVE THIS BOOK! The storytelling quality just got in the way. There is creativity and knowledge working in the story but it needed some interpersonal development added in too! Relationships make a character feel real and worth following… if these are shallow the entire story becomes shallow. We read to become immersed in the world and the actions of the character… there must be a genuine sincerity to the character for us to take the plunge.
Mythology! Diversity! Family Curses! Strong Female Archetypes! High School Setting!
The story wasn’t well executed. You have to have good storycraft for foreshadowing to work well and for motivations to be believed… and you’ve got to have reasons why things happen and happen that particular way otherwise you are pulled out of the story. There was major contrivance at times just to add conflict. Jae-hwa acts dim even though she’s a smart girl just to have her make a stupid choice! And even though she has a good relationship with her father she never tells him anything even though her life is in danger. Storycraft is the underpinning of a good premise and needs to be present in order for the reader not to jerk out of the story.
Cover & Title>⭐⭐
Premise & World Building>⭐⭐⭐⭐
Plot & Pacing>⭐⭐⭐⭐
Development & Storycraft>⭐⭐
Writing & Narrative>⭐⭐⭐