Star of the North by D. B. John

Star of the North

D. B. John

In 1988, a Korean American teenager is kidnapped. Twenty-two years later, her twin sister will do anything possible to rescue her from North Korea.

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“A thrilling tale of abduction and escape in North Korea....highly entertaining." —The Washington Post

A propulsive and ambitious thriller about a woman trying to rescue her twin sister from captivity in North Korea, and the North Korean citizens with whom she forms an unlikely alliance


Star of the North opens in 1998, when a Korean American teenager is kidnapped from a South Korean beach by North Korean operatives. Twelve years later, her brilliant twin sister, Jenna, is still searching for her, and ends up on the radar of the CIA. When evidence that her sister may still be alive in North Korea comes to light, Jenna will do anything possible to rescue her--including undertaking a daring mission into the heart of the regime. Her story is masterfully braided together with two other narrative threads. In one, a North Korean peasant woman finds a forbidden international aid balloon and uses the valuables inside to launch a dangerously lucrative black-market business. In the other, a high-ranking North Korean official discovers, to his horror, that he may be descended from a traitor, a fact that could mean his death if it is revealed. As the novel progresses, these narrative strands converge and connect in surprising ways, ultimately building to an explosive and unforgettable climax.


Advance Galley Reviews

Star of the North is an interesting fictionalized look into North Korea from three different perspectives. It follows Korean-American Jenna whose twin sister disappeared from South Korea. After seeing reports about Japanese citizens returned from being kidnapped by North Korea, she believes that also happened to her sister so she joins the CIA to investigate. I enjoyed Jenna’s CIA perspective, but felt that it was highly exaggerated to what she would actually experience. A second perspective was a high-ranking North Korean official, Cho. When his brother is going to receive a higher position, his family is investigated. Since they were adopted, they don’t know their family heritage. He also realizes something isn’t quite right with his country when he has to go on a diplomatic trip to NYC. His perspective was heart breaking to see his awakening to the true horrors of his country, as well as his torture due to some of his family members being classified as blood traitors. The third perspective is Mrs. Moon. She is a peasant in the countryside who happens to find a balloon sent by South Korea. She uses the items in the balloon to fund a small business at the local market. Mrs. Moon’s story felt more realistic, because it looked at a normal citizen’s viewpoint. The most shocking thing was the end where the author stated defectors’ memoirs as the source for the storylines. Sometimes the book feels like it’s greatly exaggerated, but it’s probably closer to the truth than we realize.

A rather entertaining thrill read of a book. It's an interesting read and I definitely enjoyed it.

Very adventurous but not my kind of book.

I loved this book! It was thrilling to read, and packed with adventure. Even more amazing finding out that most of it really happened/ is happening in North Korea right now!

This book was absolutely fantastic! It was terrifying to read that mostly everything that the story talked about is actually true to life in North Korea. And this is not an historical atrocity that has been obliterated and the people who were once oppressed are finally free. Nope. These sadistic practices are going on today, right now. It is beyond frightening. This book really taught me a lot about Korea that I did not fully know, and now I want to read the books that the author recommends in his Author’s Note. Thank you for giving me a chance to read this amazing, eye-opening book.

What a thriller! The Star of the North gives a little peek into North Korea. Even though this is a fiction novel, in the author’s notes it reveals many of the events are true. Which leads me to believe North Korea is a lot more scarier than I’ve ever imagined in my wildest dreams. Twin sisters, CIA, mystery and espionage.....take a bite and read it! Thank you to First To Read and Penguin Random House for the ARC. It was a wild ride!!

A fascinating book altogether, but my favourite part was the author's note where they discuss the book's inspiration and real-life events. I intend to read several of the non-fiction books used to research Star of the North.

This book caught my attention as information real or imaginative is so hard to come by out of North Korea. The DPRK is in the news constantly lately and the timing of this book is perfect. The descriptions and situations depicted in the story was so fluid and detailed, I couldn’t tell which parts were actual accounts vs author imbelishment. There is a section in the back the explains all that. To be honest, as I was reading this I was thinking “Star of the North” would make a great movie. If I had the money, I would produce it myself. I loved the book.

Satr of the North, while fiction, is draws heavily from real life information about North Korea. Chilling and heartbreaking, the book sucks you in. Told from the perspectives of three different people, John delicately weaves there stories together in fascinating ways. The story mainly revolves around Jenna, a Korean- American whose sister disappeared while visiting South Korea. Her journey to find the truth of what happened to her sister is heroic and harrowing. The book also introduces us to Cho who works in the North Korean government, yet still feels the terror of what could happen if he even thinks something treasonous. The third perspective, and most heartbreaking is of Mrs. Moon, a poor old woman who can barely makes ends meet and has to manipulate a terribly corrupt system just to stay alive. As the plot weaves these three together, you'll be taken for a twisty-turny rollercoaster ride. You'll experience the fear and degradation of the poor in North Korea and be appalled and the delusions of the leaders. While there were moments when I felt the author was abrupt or was missing information, if you keep reading, all will be made clear. This was an excellent story that I read as quickly as possible; the prose was clear and the story was easy to follow. It made me want to do more research into the world of North and South Korea.

This was a fascinating and horrifying glimpse into the nightmarish world of North Korea. This story of familial love and the degree to which people will risk their lives for their loved ones under such dire circumstances kept me rapt. Also, I was up past my bedtime because I was so enthralled and had to know what happened next. I thought there were a couple of things that happened toward the end that might indicate a sequel. I hope so. Beyond all that, it was very educational and has led me to look into further reading about this part of the world.

Wow.....this was an amazing ride. Such a harrowing tale of love, and hardships along the way. I was pulled in immediately, and entranced with the North Korean culture! The lives of Jenna and Cho, could not have been further apart, but their friendship was fascinating to witness. I appreciated the author’s addition of references for further reading about people that actually endured North Korea. I would highly recommend this book; and wrote the same on my Goodreads account. Bravo!

I loved this book! It was thrilling and absolutely scary. The setting was all too real and the timing with current events made it even scarier. It is rare that I am kept in suspense and on the edge of my seat but I was with this book. Five stars.

Star of the North is a fictionalized account of a land where the truth is stranger than fiction, a land which is more like George Orwell’s 1984 than he could have ever imagined. It is at once a spy thriller but more so a peek into the inner places of the Hermit kingdom. Particularly shocking are the kidnappings by North Korea over decades of primarily South Koreans and Japanese, often young people on picnics or tourists captured in submarines for nefarious schemes such as brainwashing them into becoming spies or later breeding them to raise spies. The story is told through three narratives, two from inside the North Korean monolith. One narrative shows the poverty and desperation of the ordinary folks to whom a balloon ?? carrying Choco pies from the South is a treasure beyond dreams. Behind every rock lay an informer or spy. Rules are set arbitrarily and changed almost daily. Another narrative is from a high-up in the Kingdom and shows the thought control and distrust and the punishment hanging over heads of thought crimes going back generations. A third narrative is of a Korean-American whose twin sister disappeared decades earlier on the coast in South Korea and how that disappearance haunts her. All three narratives intersect and on the way we are treated to a view of this hidden world ?? rarely discussed and a realization of how evil the regime there really is when we see how people are mistreated and sent to gulag camps and what the absolute loss of freedom really looks like. An epic work. Many thanks to Penguin Publishing for providing a copy for review.

Extremely entertaining and well written. Not my usual genre but really enjoyed it. Good characters and plot twists. Recommended!!

Read this propulsive thriller to trace the adventures of Jee-Min (Jenna) Williams as she leaves academia and joins the CIA in search of her twin sister Soo-Min, who disappeared 22 years before. Captured by the North Korean Navy from a South Korean beach, Soo-Min has been indoctrinated and held in captivity by the North Koreans for all of that time. Interwoven with their story is the story of Mrs. Moon, a North Korean worker who becomes a successful cook and market trader, only to be taken prisoner when she attempts to use bribes to save the life of another women in the open air market. Taken to a secret camp, she ultimately reconnects with her son, the disgraced former official Cho, tainted by the political misdeeds of his ancestors, most of which occurred before he was born. Read this fast-moving story for a searing picture of an isolated country and ordinary people caught up in a corrupt, oppressive regime.

The Star of the North is an engrossing thriller that provides the reader with a glimpse into life in North Korea. At the beginning of the book, we meet Dr. Jenna Williams, an assistant professor at Georgetown University, who is recruited by the CIA because of her expertise and background, to assist with intelligence regarding North Korea, as that countries missile program becomes a growing threat to the US. As she becomes involved iwith a North Korean government official, she learns about the secret programs carried out by the government, programs that pose a threat to the US. And we learn about life in North Korea, about life as a public official, life in penal colonies and in the gulags. An enlightening look at North Korea in a suspense-filled novel.

Compelling, educational, suspenseful, a thriller, spying, and fantastic characters you really care about - this book is all that and more. From page one to the end you are thrilled and horrified. Engrossing book that I didn't want to put down once I started reading. This book was so much better than I expected it to be, even had some twists and surprises when the characters converge. I would definitely recommend this book to any who likes edge of your seat thrillers, this book did not disappoint.

So much going on in this book, from the beginning with teenagers kidnapped from a South Korean beach to all an out spy thriller. Jenna goes to unbelievable lengths to find and rescue her kidnapped twin, while political intrigue boils to a climax in North Korea for the other characters, mainly Cho, a high ranking official finding he's out of favor. Many intersecting vignettes of the harrowing lives of the poorest citizens. Plenty of action and block buster movie excitement. Kept me engrossed and hoping for more in a later book. Recommend.

 


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