A Crane Among Wolves

A heart-pounding tale of romance and court politics – for fans of historical K-dramas

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Pub Date 14 May 2024 | Archive Date 28 May 2024
Headline | Wildfire

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A devastating and pulse-pounding tale that will feel all-too-relevant in today's world, based on a true story from Korean history.

Hope is dangerous. Love is deadly.

1506, Joseon. The people suffer under the cruel reign of the tyrant King Yeonsan, powerless to stop him from commandeering their land for his recreational use, banning and burning books, and kidnapping and horrifically abusing women and girls as his personal playthings.

Seventeen-year-old Iseul has lived a sheltered, privileged life despite the kingdom's turmoil. When her older sister, Suyeon, becomes the king's latest prey, Iseul leaves the relative safety of her village, traveling through forbidden territory to reach the capital in hopes of stealing her sister back. But she soon discovers the king's power is absolute, and to challenge his rule is to court certain death.

Prince Daehyun has lived his whole life in the terrifying shadow of his despicable half-brother, the king. Forced to watch King Yeonsan flaunt his predation through executions and rampant abuse of the common folk, Daehyun aches to find a way to dethrone his half-brother once and for all. When staging a coup, failure is fatal, and he'll need help to pull it off-but there's no way to know who he can trust.

When Iseul's and Daehyun's fates collide, their contempt for each other is transcended only by their mutual hate for the king. Armed with Iseul's family connections and Daehyun's royal access, they reluctantly join forces to launch the riskiest gamble the kingdom has ever seen:

Save her sister. Free the people. Destroy a tyrant.

'June Hur reigns supreme in making the past come alive.' CHLOE GONG

'Gripping and devastating.' ANN LIANG

'There were literally moments in this book where I forgot to breathe.' ELLEN OH

A devastating and pulse-pounding tale that will feel all-too-relevant in today's world, based on a true story from Korean history.

Hope is dangerous. Love is deadly.

1506, Joseon. The people suffer...

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ISBN 9781035420865
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Featured Reviews


In 1506, Joseon, Iseul lives a privileged and sheltered life until she loses her sister to the King, thus forcing her to face the brutal and sad reality of her kingdom and all its turmoil. The King ravages the land like a hungry predator, and all his subjects are made to bow to his tyranny, including Prince Daehyun, who ultimately becomes entangled with Iseul in a strange but wonderful turn of events. To move the heavens, and bring the change that their land so desperately needs, Iseul bands together with Wonsik, Yul and Prince Daehyun; all of whom provide Iseul with the friendship that would allow her to open her eyes and heart farther than she ever thought she could. Their goal is to save Iseul’s sister, free the kingdom and bring the end of tyrannical rule once and for all - however, as with all great ambition, comes a great risk of ruination and even death. In this gripping tale of love, friendship, sisterhood and freedom, arises a story that ultimately sheds light on the harsh realities of life and the historical accuracies that were paralleled within the book allows readers a glimpse into Joseon at a time of great disquietude due to the tyrannical rule of a well-known real-life ruler, which I personally found so intriguing.

The characters -
My favourite character was Prince Daehyun because he was just such a softie underneath his veneer of pretend cruelty and coldness. Despite all the cruelty he has faced due to his oppressive and abusive brother, the King, Daehyun remained compassionate, humane and never once succumbed to the same cruelty he faced. He is a baby and needs to be protected at all costs. Not only that, but he is so observant, calculating, smart and strategic! He is honestly just the standard. As for Iseul, I felt that she was such a force to be reckoned with and I loved it! She felt very realistic because her flaws (being reckless and a little naive at times) make her feel very real and I liked that she strayed from the societal constrictions of her time.

The romance was beautiful and wholesome, and I giggled and laughed at some of their bickering and interactions, which were full of sweet youthful longing. Prince Daehyun is the greenest green flag and Iseul was the perfect storm to break his calculated calm and I just really admired their friendship and love for each other.

The Ending -
This book had some dark themes, with implications of abuse, rape, and death, and although I was devastated by the events that occurred, I absolutely loved getting stabbed in the heart by June Hur because she nailed this story to be perfectly hopeful yet heartbreakingly realistic. The characters who survived had their happy endings, but not in the way that we are used to seeing in books and films because this ending was raw, it was real, and I feel that it most certainly captured the reality of the Joseon that this book was based upon to such a great degree. For instance, some of the women may have been freed from the tyrant king – but there are still the women who were still traded as if commodities to those in power – which tragically encapsulates the truth that even the death of tyranny cannot eliminate all that is evil in the world. In fact, what June shows us is that sometimes, power is traded just as the women were traded amongst the still powerful government officials – and this is so cruel but so real.

Even Prince Daehyun, who suffered so much and who I would argue is the most important person who instigated the whole rebellion in the first place with Hyukjin, never got to claim the honour that I feel he so deserved. Instead, he was cast out and had to live life in exile despite all he has done for the kingdom. It breaks my heart, but I do appreciate the message that this conveys, which is that of sacrifice. His sacrifice ultimately led to Iseul and her sister’s freedom and because of this, Daehyun is arguably one of the best book boyfriends to have fulfilled the “would die for her” trope!! This ending was a HEA but with a heartbreakingly realistic twinge, and I absolutely loved it.

Overall, this was a wonderful story brimming with emotion, depth and insight into the darkness of pasts long gone and will most certainly resonate with readers who love k-dramas and historical fictions that combine the greatest elements of k-dramas in one big, beautiful tale of love, freedom and sacrifice.

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PSA: Please check the trigger warnings for this book before reading!

This book has made me a life-long June Hur fan. While I've only ready one other book by this author - The Red Palace - I can confidently say that A Crane Among Wolves is June Hur's best work. I devoured this story in one sitting and I'm caught between I-wish-I-could-read-this-for-the-first-time-again and I-need-a-K-drama-of-this-entire-book-now!

I am in awe of Hur's talent. She manages to create an intriguing plot with such a vast array of complex characters while expertly weaving in ancient Korean history in a way to make the story engaging and memorable.

The writing was absolutely stunning in this book and after learning that Hur studied Korean history extensively, I am unsurprised how atmospheric the setting was. I really did feel like I was watching a historical K-drama playing out in my head.

The romance between Iseul and Daehyun was wonderful. Their dymanic from strangers, to reluctant allies, to friends and finally lovers was fun to see and done very well for such a short book. I love how Hur highlights their differences - their motivations, their upbringing, their personalities - and despite it all, the romance that blossoms between them is very sweet and genuine.

June Hur is also able to evoke such a wide range of emotions with her work. She doesn't shy away from talking about very heavy issues such as violence, corruption, psychological trauma, sexual assault and sex trafficking. The way she expertly weaves these topics within her work - without using it for shock value - and creates a teaching moment for the reader, makes her story even more impressive in my eyes. I truly believe that she is overlooked in the YA genre. I know she only has 4 published works (I'm including this book) but as someone who reads YA fairly regularly, I wasn't even aware of her until October 2023 and after reading 2 books by her, I am shocked that her work isn't recommended more.

Overall, A Crane Among Wolves is a story full of heartbreaking emotion about a period of history that is completely unknown to the Western world. I believe that readers who enjoy historical K-dramas and those who are looking for a murder mystery in a lyrical setting will find this novel to be a beautiful, unexpected and heartbreaking surprise.

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"A Crane Among Wolves" is a ya historical romance, with mystery overtones, written by June Hur.

This is the first book I have read by the author and I was definitely captivated! Set in a tumultuous period of Korean history, the tale deals with strong themes such as abuse, rape, and death, but it also speaks of hope, courage, friendship, and love. In addition, there is a beautiful found family and a slooow burn that made me sweat a lot! I enjoyed the search for Iseul's sister, the organization of the coup, while the mystery part is the one that convinced me the least.

Iseul and Daehyun, protagonists with their respective first and third person povs, convinced me. I found them to be well portrayed and with excellent development. Iseul is a rather spoiled and conceited 17-year-old girl who lived a privileged and sheltered life before tragedy struck her family, leaving her alone with her beloved and at the same time detested older sister. When her sister is captured and taken to the capital to serve as the king's concubine, Iseul sets out to try to rescue her, maturing a lot. On the other hand, Daehyun is a prince raised in the shadow of his half-brother, the king, forced to observe his atrocities against the people. Cunning, lying, and manipulative, in order to survive he has learned to wear a cold, uncaring mask, under which he hides pain, doubts, fears, and plans for a coup. The romance made me swoon so much! The two detest each other, do not trust each other, but their common hatred for the king leads them to join forces. Amidst arguments and wry banter, Iseul and Daehyun slowly begin to grow closer, developing a sweet, painful, and thwarted relationship. Seriously, sloooow burn and angst rule supreme here!

All in all, "A Crane Among Wolves" is a dark, bewitching, and intense novel that completely won me over!

Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Headline for the eARC.

To illustrate how excited I was to read this book, I added it to my GoodReads TBR almost a year ago and started reading it the same evening I got approved for the eARC.

This ended up being a delightful read, which feels strange to say with the horrible historical events featured in this novel.


First off, I think a really good choice was made regarding the timing of the start of the novel. It felt like a really good entry point to Iseul’s story.

One of the strongest points of this story is the setting. It is very clear that the author did a lot of research on this time period in Korean history. Everything was so well described that I felt like I was walking next to Iseul. The used Korean words or suffixes really added to the setting as well without disrupting the flow of the reading for me (non-native English speaker with barely any knowledge of the Korean language).

I liked Iseul and her stubbornness. I also appreciated following a main character who was aware of the privilege she’d had and how sheltered her life had been before tragedy struck. The mystery of Nameless Flower was also really intriguing and I liked Iseul’s mentorship under Wonsik.

I found the relationship between Iseul and Daehyun really cute and I loved their bickering. They were overall very sweet and their relationship developed at a pace that suited the novel very well.

Negative (contains SPOILERS):

My only negative feedback is related to Iseul and the rebellion. I felt that it was not portrayed in a very believable way and that she was a bit too much of a key player. If she had joined when the rebels had been a bit more established (as opposed to her being the fourth member), I would have bought her connection to her uncle being key to connecting the rebels to the government officials and the rebellion happening very quickly thereafter.


As a person who vastly prefers third perspective, if someone had told me I’d read a book with alternating first and third person chapters, I’d hesitate to pick it up thinking the change would be too jarring. However, the alternation was done very well and was so smooth that I didn’t even realize it was happening until halfway through the book.

The writing style is very atmospheric while also being very straight to the point and simple, which might not be for everyone but worked well for me.

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I love June Hur's works and A Crane Among Wolves was no exception.
Once again, I was absolutely in awe of June Hur's writing. It truly manages to convey all the emotions needed for each scene and it set the atmosphere of the world Iseul & Daehyun have to live through every day of this story so incredibly well. The clear research that went into crafting a story around a real historical time period made the novel even more captivating. I felt for every character and I could feel my heart break for them throughout the novel.

Iseul was such a compelling character to read about. I adored reading her character growth journey. Her point of view being written in first person really served the story and her character so well as it enabled the reader to truly understand her, for all her qualities and flaws. Daehyun's point of view being in third person was also a great choice in my opinion. It conveyed the coldness and distance Daehyun tries to create around himself as a way to protect himself. His character was engaging to read about and I looked forward to his chapters as much as I did Iseul's.

While the pacing of the plot did feel a bit hectic and off at times, as it juggled quite a few storylines, I was still invested and so curious to find out the reveals. And I was truly surprised when all the pieces of the story came together. However, I would have appreciated a bit more of a focus on the mystery as it fell to the background a few times.

Overall, A Crane Among Wolves was an amazing novel full of emotion, depth from the characters to the plot and its historical setting and incredible heartbreak.

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I really enjoyed this historical book set during the reign of King Yeonsan in Korea. It was beautifully written and had strong elements of mystery, romance and political intrigue, and includes the very real horrors of this tyrant’s reign.

It is a dual perspective novel, which I really appreciated because we got to see both in and out of the palace. And we also got to see the romance from both characters. Iseul’s development was especially nice to read about, especially the complicated relationship with her sister.

I liked the buildup towards the climax of the coup, but I felt like I wanted more y the end. More scenes with Iseul and Daehyun, or Wonsik, and more after the fallout of everything, to really settle with the emotional impact. Overall, this was very good and I can’t wait to read June Hur’s other books.

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If you're looking for a K-drama in book form, this is precisely that. Now let me elaborate.

The premise is quite simple: the protagonist leaves her village to reach the capital, where her sister was forcibly taken to. She'll try anything to bring her back, even if it means killing a tyrant. Of course, the main antagonist also has a half-brother who will elevate your standards in men and leave you disappointed with what we're dealing with in reality.
Romance ensues, offering us the chance to enjoy a love story, but there's so much more to this book: an intriguing plot, complex characters, heavy topics, and a realistic ending. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for each of these elements and is curious about this kind of setting.

June Hur created the perfect atmosphere and—I suspect—did a lot of research to accurately set the story in the Joseon era. At the same time, I appreciated that she didn't go for a sweet, perfect ending, but instead chose to break our hearts a little and include a bit of thought-provoking bitterness.

All of this comes in an exceptionally pretty package (seriously, shout out to whoever chose and created the book cover—it's beautiful!), which I'll never stop raving about. There's something incredibly precious when a story is not only good but also a perfect candidate to fill our shelves.

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Thank you to Headline and NetGalley for providing me with a preview copy of Crane Amongst Wolves in return for a honest review.

TL:DR: makes all its characters do the heavy lifting resulting in a fairly engaging historical K-drama style story.

It follows Iseul, a girl hell-bent on saving her sister who was kidnapped by the King to become one of his numerous concubines. From there, her path crosses with the death-destined Prince Daehyun who is waiting for the golden moment to launch a coup and bring down his brother's reign. All the while, a killer hunts down the King's most loyal officials causing chaos and opportunity for our protagonists.

The premise is good but not fantastically executed. A lot of the mystery is overshadowed by the coup leaving both a little watered down and neither really progress the plot forward.

It was one of those books that for me eventually came to be all about the characters rather than plot.

Iseul is a motivated girl with so much rage she's ready to bring down the heavens to get her sister back. She grows from such a bratty character to a true heroine driven by not just by her love for her sister but rather her love for her fellow woman too.

Daehyun is a lot more understated. He's not loud on the page rather you get that sense that this is a man who has a lot things hiding under the surface, which of course, is exactly what is happening. All I wish with Daehyun is that we got a few more scenes with him and his brother to really explore that relationship.

The romance between the two is really beautifully done. I sometimes find "doomed lovers" really boring and melodramatic but here, it's done with such tenderness and care that on multiple occasions coming to the book's conclusion, a tear was brought to me eye.

In all, this book is great if you're the kind of person who loves character over plot, who wants a gentler romance that takes it time and has partners that mutually respect each other, and those who want a fairly good love story with a side of politics and murder to keep you entertained for a while.

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This book made me cry multiple times😭. It’s actually very rare nowadays for books to make me sob and this book did a great job at breaking my heart but also piecing it back together again🫶🏻.

This book is about a girl and a prince who reluctantly works together to rescue her sister from a tyrant king and also try to solve a series of murders.

I truly felt like I was watching a historical k-drama! It’s also inspired by a real tyrant king who ruled in Korean history.

I enjoyed the swoon-worthy romance that blossomed between Iseul and Daehyun!! It was such a good slow burn and I loved their dynamic!

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Well, June Hur has done it again. Everytime i read her books, it's like i'm watching a historical kdrama rather than just reading words on a paper. I love her writing and how she manages to transport me back in time.

I really enjoyed this book and the storyline. I am always fascinated with how Hur manages to mix history with fiction without straying too far from the truth and i'm, constantly, learning so much about korean history from her.

The characters were great (Daehyun was my favourite) and i enjoyed reading about each one. I like how Iseul was fierce and wasn't afraid to do what needed to be done and can i just say, THE ANGST!!! I was swooning over the tiniest of moments.

This book is perfect for all the kdrama lovers. June never disappoints me and, in my opinion, always writes 5 star reads. I can't wait to add the physical copy of ACAW to my bookshelf.

Thank you so much netgalley and headline books for allowing me to read an early copy of one of my anticipated reads for an honest review.

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"A Crane Among Wolves." It delves into the characters' growth, the enemies-to-lovers dynamic, and the intricate plot elements, offering readers valuable insights into the book's strengths. The evident excitement and anticipation, as seen through comments about checking NetGalley and the reaction to the cover reveal, reflect a genuine enthusiasm for June Hur's work. The breakdown of the plot, including its various components and the handling of historical themes, contributes to a comprehensive review that may resonate with others who share similar literary preferences.

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Title:A Crane Among Wolves By June Hur

Release date: May, 14th, 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Stars

In the oppressive kingdom of Joseon, ruled by the tyrant King Yeonsan, hope is a dangerous luxury and love is a deadly gamble. Seventeen-year-old Iseul embarks on a perilous journey to rescue her sister from the king's clutches, only to confront the harsh reality of his absolute power. Meanwhile, Prince Daehyun, burdened by his brother's atrocities, seeks to overthrow the tyrant. When their paths converge, Iseul and Daehyun form an unlikely alliance to challenge the king and bring liberation to their people, risking everything in a daring bid for freedom and justice.

In her captivating novel "A Crane Among Wolves," June Hur introduces readers to a richly crafted historical world filled with intrigue and danger.

As a newcomer to the author's work, I found myself thoroughly immersed and engaged to the story, captivated by the vividly drawn characters and the intricacies of the plot. Hur's skillful storytelling kept me eagerly turning the pages, eager to read each page.

I look forward to delving into more of her work in the future.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and mystery.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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This is the first book I've read written by June Hur. I've followed her on social media for a while and does she really know how to market her own book. The K-drama comparison is spot on.

Her prose is phenomenal. At first, I was wary of the switch in first POV to third POV, but it worked so well. I loved Isuel and Daehyun. The books brought tears to my eyes on many occasions.

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