Asia + Future Tech ÷ Star Crossed Lovers – War Conspiracy = Rebel Seoul

As a total fangirl of Korean dramas I was soooooo excited to read about this premise. Set in a future war torn Korea, where your battle prowess determines your status. We have super soldiers and war mechs too! With the scarcity of Korean protagonists and worlds I had high hopes for Rebel Seoul. (Even though I was underwhelmed by this lackluster cover design.)

Did Rebel Seoul live up to this Fangirl’s expectations!

I enjoy dystopian worlds but I’m not a huge fan of the big robot war machines. I don’t hate mechs but I’m not looking for stories about them either… Yet the end was everything with God Machines that I could have wanted. Okay I can’t hold it in any longer… I loved this book. I needed a Korean world and the future one in Rebel Seoul did not disappoint me!!

Korean culture was front and center.

Jaewon is a student at a war academy, after a rough childhood, who explains in a very engaging way the world in which he finds himself. What is now Korea has been embroiled in wars for many years now… and they are still fighting. The modern day class system is still present in the future but is all about where you fit in the war… the Old Seoul residents are the foot soldiers and cannon fodder while the Neo Seoul residents are the creme de la creme veterans and their families. Even the focus on family and a man’s relationship with his father is explored at length and is soooooo Korean.

It’s not all info dumped in the beginning either but is layered well amongst Jaewon’s everyday movements. I think the world came alive so well for me because we got to see what Jaewon explained when he was in situations where explanation was needed. It made the information he shared very natural to the situation. I didn’t feel like the author was preparing me for things that would be used later rather I felt Jaewon was my guide in this new and unknown world.

I felt like I was in a future Seoul.

The use of native Korean words that the reader could learn easily due to the way they were used really added the flavor of Seoul. And the advanced society was very developed but not in an in your face sort of way. Again whatever Jaewon interacted with we got the lowdown on, from his floating phone, to the simulation capsules, to the grid (i.e. tech streets of Neo Seoul) to the God Machines and the science of enhancement. It’s not just the tech that was cool either, all the little Korean references like the notable pop star, the street stands, the director’s tech savvy mansion and differences between Old and Neo Seoul. I didn’t feel anything was off or didn’t make sense. It all worked and felt genuine.

Plus I cared for my tour guide.

Rebel Seoul is totally centered on Jaewon and his experiences. I feel like his story could have been anything and I would have enjoyed myself. He was a very engaging POV character and I really related to his life and all the different elements and moving parts it had: his father shamed him, his mother abandoned him and his relationship with his childhood friend was not working. I just cared so much about Jaewon!

Not only was the world engaging but so were those populating it.

Tera, Ama, Alex, Young, Sela and Tsuko were all engaging as well… I cared for them too because Jaewon cared about them. The interactions between the characters were developed and each played a role in Jaewon’s story. Even the minor characters like Jaewon’s two school friends were integral to his world. While Jaewon is a loner he wasn’t alone.

Many times a character is so obviously a character because they are all alone. Even when they have people in their lives those people are presented as flat and only there to tell us about the protagonist. Not so with this cast!! All of the other secondary characters, all of them, had their own story arc that at one point or another came to bear on Jaewon’s own story.

The end was the completion of the subtle events that were forming around Tera and Ama and their weapons development department. And the people swirling around Jaewon all played their part. Not in any contrived way but so naturally that it was the perfect mimicry of life.

The forbidden romance with Tera was so sweet.

I’m not sure why forbidden romance is so seductive… probably we all want what we shouldn’t have?! I really liked Tera though… I liked how her own situation was the biggest pressure on Jaewon as well as the biggest pleasure. I do wish that there were a couple more scenes with just Tera and Jaewon. While they do interact well and I loved when they were together there were about the same number of scenes with the other secondary characters… if they were falling in love I’d have liked to have seen them together more than with others. That said I really enjoyed how Jaewon was introduced to Tera and how he came to see her perspective! Isn’t that why we love someone and how we know they love us!?

Gah!! The bromance in this book!!

Young is the childhood friend and Alex is the unexpected friend. When your life intersects with another’s you can choose to ignore what you see or you can gain greater understanding of them. That forms friendship… This is shown so beautifully with Alex in a new friendship that started as a convenience for both of them. It is also explored in a more advanced friendship with Young who acted instead of expressing himself to his best friend. I just loved these relationships and I can’t fault them for keeping their own space in Jaewon’s life (and not giving it up to love interest Tera!!)

Plus family history that binds.

There is this whole other part of the story that is connected to Jaewon’s personal back history as well as the back history of the world as a whole. It is used to great effect in the plot adding depth and breathe to the situations that Jaewon finds himself. I was quite affected at one point when Jaewon learns something about his father… it about broke my heart!!

Just because Tera is this kick butt super human this isn’t going to be all action… Rebel Seoul is a book that mimics life so there is drama, history, routine, meetings and action. It’s balanced!! And the pacing is spot on. There was always something going on or something coming up and so I was anticipating events with this ebb and flow. Because everything was very naturally developed I wasn’t suddenly surprised by anything. Unexpected things happened but it wasn’t a sudden twist that was hidden very deliberately and manipulatively.

What Didn’t I Like?

Okay, okay if you insist that there has to be something that I don’t like then I will have to say the cover. With all the pretty covers nowadays this one is very dull. Not that it doesn’t sort of reflect Seoul I just feel like it could better reflect the future. I do love the guy standing in the middle as if he is a God Machine. And I do love the title of the book. It did suit the story quite well… So there you have it the one mar on an otherwise perfect record!

Could it have been better?!

The only thing that would have made this book even better is if there were multiple POVs… like Tera, Ama, and Young as well as Jaewon or alternatively Jaewon, with Alex, Young and Tsuko. That would have been testosterone filled! Not that this being only Jaewon’s story is bad but we could have gotten a more complete view of the world with more than one POV character. Either way I still enjoyed the prose and felt it really worked well.

Rebel Seoul is a young adult sci-fi war machines masterpiece! If you want to read something truly Korean which is exciting but also true to life then you’ve got to pick this up! Seriously I could read it again (and I never say that!!)



  1. Great review, Dani! Everyone has been raving about this book and I’m really looking forward to read it! I admit, the cover is not the best and futuristic-setting books don’t always work for me, but the reviews are just too good to be ignored!

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