The Demon of Yodok tells the story of Areum and her family as they are taken from their home and brought to live in a re-education facility far removed from the society they are used to in the capital city. At this facility, they are put to work to enforce the core values that they have been led to believe allow their nation to function and prosper.
Areum’s point of view is quite bitter; she has cause to feel discord with her sister and parents and this fuels much of her determination to join the national gymnastics team and move away from her family. The author definitely conveys Areum’s brainwashed attitude, which is at once both self-centered and subservient to the Great General, but her thoughts can be quite childish and whiny.
I think alternating another character’s point of view with Areum’s would help break up the tension and make sticking with her story easier. However, readers frustrated and potentially put off reading the rest of the series because of her attitude are assured by Carmichael that Areum’s character development does happen, it just takes it time.
The beginning is a little slow but it picks up; once they arrived at the re-education camp, I became more invested in the story. I am interested in seeing what happens with Areum, her family, and the other “members” (read: prisoners) of their re-education facility.
That said, some of the language could be tightened up; there were some things that I didn’t think added to the plot and were repetitive, and the excessive use of ellipses, exclamation points, and all caps lettering is distracting.
Additionally, I am not familiar with the Korean language and its dialects, but including some words would help immerse readers (for example, using a Korean word for “mom” or the equivalent of calling someone “sweetheart”).
I appreciate the level of detail and thought the author put into this story. Juche is not a concept I remember learning about prior to reading The Demon of Yodok. I don’t feel comfortable providing an informative source since I have no familiarity with this, so I encourage readers interested in learning more to do a little research.
The Demon of Yodok is Part 1 of Adria Carmichael’s Juche series. I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
To learn more about Adria Carmichael and her works, visit her socials on Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram. Carmichael has also shared this Q+A she did with Bonnie Reads and Writes, which provides great insight and I highly recommend.