Authors: Christina Farley
“This richly detailed novel kept me turning the pages well into the night. Jae Hwa starts off as a strong character and ends as a noble one, using both her brains and her brawn to win the day.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
Across the Universe
“Farley brings South Korea’s fascinating culture and mythology into vivid detail in this shining debut, and Jae is a compelling heroine. An exotic, thrilling read,
had me utterly entranced!”
—JESSICA KHOURY, author of
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2014 by Christina Farley
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Skyscape, New York
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of
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ISBN 9781477847015 (hardcover)
ISBN 9781477810972 (paperback)
ISBN 9781477897010 (ebook)
Book design by Abby Kuperstock
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To Doug, for believing. Saranghae.
Stillness fills the empty stage as I press the horn bow to my body and notch an arrow. I pull back the string. The power of it courses through me, a sizzling fire in my veins. I squint just enough so the mark crystallizes while everything around it blurs.
My dress scratches my skin, and the silk material resists as I twist my body. I shift to get comfortable, my temples pounding. I shouldn’t have let the program coordinator talk me into wearing this puffy dress. How am I supposed to shoot an arrow with this thing on?
I shake my head once and breathe in deeply. I will not miss. I’ll hit the mark while wearing this monstrosity. I draw back and—
I flinch. My arrow shoots across the stage and veers off to the side. Its steel tip clanks against the concrete wall. Unbelievable. I haven’t missed a shot since—I can’t remember. I turn to face my dad.
“I’ve been trying to reach you,” my father says. “Why didn’t you answer?”
Strands have fallen forward from Dad’s slicked-back hair, and sweat beads on his forehead as if he’s been running. He’s all dressed up in a black tux for his speech tonight. Even his shoes are polished, their sheen catching under the stage lights. None of this hides the fact that the lines across his face have grown deeper in recent years. And his brown eyes have not yet regained their spark.
My annoyance fades. I should have answered my phone, told him where I was.
Slinging my bow over my shoulder, I walk to him and tug the looped ends of his tie, straightening the bow. Mom would’ve done something like that, and for a moment it’s as if we are all together once more.
Dad clears his throat. “Your grandfather is here. He wants to see you.”
I freeze. No. Not Haraboji. As if I’m not already nervous.
“I’ll find him after the show.” I gather up my arrows, already planning a quick exit so I won’t have to talk to my grandfather. “I need more time to practice. I can’t leave until I make the shot.”
“You should talk to him now.” Dad checks his phone and then rubs his hand over his face. “You can’t keep avoiding him like this.”
“I know.” I slide an arrow across my palm. Its smoothness calms me. “It’d be easier if he wasn’t so awful.”
“I know. Do I ever know.” Dad grins. “At least he promised not to make a scene in a public place again.”
I sigh. I can’t ruin this night for him. “Fine. But you owe me, okay?”
“It’s a deal.”
But as I pack up my bow and arrows, I start to worry. Could missing this shot be an omen of tonight’s performance?
I resolve to hit the target tonight and make Dad proud. Despite my flamingo-colored dress and eccentric grandfather.
We leave the backstage area and head into the main lobby of the museum. The crowds jostle around me, smelling of ginseng, lavender, and—I could swear—the foul Korean alcoholic drink
. I stand on tiptoe and scan the circular lobby for Grandfather.
Thick swathes of red, black, and gold material drape from the ceiling, along with rice paper lanterns larger than me. They light the room with pale yellows that make me think I’ve stepped back into Korea’s ancient past. A wide banner with the name of the exhibit,
, scripted across it in Hangul and English hangs against the far wall next to the weaponry and warrior displays. I can hear the deep tone of the six-string zither beneath the buzz of the crowd.
And beyond all that, past the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, lies downtown Seoul, the horizon lined with sparkling towers shooting up like bamboo stalks.
Dad points to a gray-haired man near the entrance of the traditional-housing exhibit. My grip tightens on my bow case. It’s Grandfather.
I’d met my grandfather for the first time only two weeks ago. Everything I knew about him came from Dad’s stories
about how stubborn and traditional he was. After our formal meeting at the Shilla hotel, I learned firsthand what he had been talking about. During our short visit, Grandfather and Dad had got into such a heated fight about him bringing me to Korea that Dad and I left before they brought out the drinks.
Complete humiliation. Just remembering it makes my steps falter.
I shrug that thought away and shift my bow case to my other hand as Dad and I cut through the crowd to join Grandfather. Most of my girl friends talk about their grandfathers as being like Santa Claus, all soft and jolly. Not my
. He stands tall before me with his shoulders pulled back, chin raised, and arms clasped behind him. He’s dressed in a traditional blue tunic and pants, and his gray hair is combed neatly in place. I search for a smile. Warmth, maybe. Something other than the narrowed eyes and set mouth.
Dad clears his throat.
Right. I set down my case and lean forward to bow, but I move too quickly and almost fall over. Why can’t I get anything right? I’ve bowed five million times in Tae Kwon Do and archery classes.
Grandfather scowls. “I see you still refuse to listen to me,” he tells Dad in his thick accent. “You should not have brought her tonight.”
“Abeoji,” Dad says, his face going hard. “Not now.”
“He’s right,” I say. My features are sharp and angular, and I’ve got a muscular frame. Definitely not the cute, sweet Korean granddaughter he really wants. “I shouldn’t have come.”
Grandfather’s eyebrows rise. “You misunderstand me, Jae
Hwa. It is not because I do not want you here. It is for your safety.” Then he shoots Dad a tight-lipped look. “You
take her back to America.”
Safety? I resist rolling my eyes. I suppose I can’t blame him since he’s never seen me spar or attended any of my archery competitions.
Still, I like this idea of me going back to the States, even if he’s treating me like a little kid. “He’s got a point, Dad,” I say. He blinks. I have to admit, I’m shocked to be agreeing with Grandfather myself. “Maybe I should go back to L.A.”
The veins on Dad’s face bulge. “You’re staying here,” Dad says. “It’s what your mother would have wanted.”
He shouldn’t have brought Mom into this.
If only I could walk away and go back home.
Problem: home is half the world away.
Dad’s company transferred him from Los Angeles to Seoul a month ago. This move was supposed to be the best thing ever. He’d climb the business ladder; I’d connect with the relatives I’ve never met and attend a prestigious international school.
More important, all the memories of Mom would be left behind.
He never asked what I wanted. And believe me, even though I’m obsessed with Korean archery and Tae Kwon Do, moving to the actual
—away from my friends—wasn’t on my to-do list.
I grab my case, turn on my heels, and stalk off in the opposite direction.
“Jae!” Dad calls, but I only pick up my pace.
I can’t take any more of Grandfather’s looks and expectations.
I can’t take Dad’s insistence that I belong here. They don’t get it.
It’s easy for me to slip away and escape into the crowd, but this traditional dress makes it difficult to blend in since everyone else is dressed in black suits or cocktail dresses. I duck into a side room and lean against the wall, trying to collect my thoughts. A bronze object glints from across the aisle in one of the glass cases.
I move closer, set down my case, and trail my hand across the smooth glass. The plaque on the side reads: