Review: Mark Russell's First Novel, Young-hee and the Pullocho
Some readers may recall that I was invited by Mark Russell about a month ago to partake of drinks and delicacies at the book launch of his first novel, Young-hee and the Pullocho. He invited me because we'd had a passing acquaintance some years back in journalism - the X-pat Files or somesuch for the Korea Herald - and we knew of our mutual predilection for reading good literature.
I had accepted the invitation despite some apprehension, for I knew I'd be expected to post a review - and what if the story were flawed . . . or not flawed, but nevertheless not my sort of literature?
I need not have worried. The tale is excellent . . . and even my sort of literature.
I won't give away any plot spoilers in this review. Sufficient unto the day is this: The protagonist, Young-hee, has lost some irreplaceable something or other in the magical world of East Asian fairy tales and must set off on a quest for a legendary root similar to, but stronger than ginseng, a root known as "pullocho," to trade for the irreplaceable thing she has lost.
Will she succeed in a land not only magical but also as dangerous as many a fairy tale can be? I should add that we learn much about the fairy-tail creatures in this novel by the brief retellings of old East Asian fairy tales interspersed throughout the book, usually at the end of a chapter. I wish only that Mr. Russell had included a glossary of words and expressions unfamiliar to readers who aren't East Asian, and perhaps he will do so in a later edition.
Hint, hint . . .
Even without a glossary, the story is fully intelligible and will fascinate adults as well as children. It ought to prove as successful as another book I've recently read that also mines fairy tales - albeit Western ones - for a story.
Five stars, and best hopes for Mr. Russell's success!