A Crane Among Wolves

­Feiwel & Friends. May 2024. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250858092.
Gr 8 Up–In 1506 Joseon, 17-year-old Hwang Iseul walks three days to the capital with one goal: save her older sister Suyeon, who was kidnapped by the tyrant King Yeonsan and added to his harem. After their parents were executed for treason, Suyeon and Iseul grew estranged as Iseul refused to give up on the aristocratic life their parents promised her—leaving Suyeon to shoulder the burden. Upon arriving, she learns a serial killer called Nameless Flower has been taunting the king, and any information leading to his capture will gain a royal favor. If Iseul can help find Nameless Flower, she can ask for her sister back. Prince Daehyun is hunting for the Nameless Flower, too. As the king’s favorite brother, he lives on a knife’s edge as the king’s paranoia forces Daehyun into senseless acts of violence to prove his loyalty. He knows the chance to overthrow his brother is approaching, but not if the Nameless Flower kills him first. The final pieces of the coup elude him—until he meets Iseul. Alternating perspectives between Iseul and Daehyun ramp up the tension as readers wait for Yeonsan’s end with bated breath. The romance and found family elements offer moments of hope to balance the darkness. Yeonsan was a real king, known as Korea’s worst tyrant, leaving his people to suffer and starve while he imprisoned hundreds of women as concubines. Hur does not shy away from the horrors of his reign, nor does she exploit them. Characters are Korean, and a content warning precedes the story.
VERDICT An intense mystery and slow-burn romance that highlight a historical moment. Recommended for all YA collections.

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