This is a great combination of both dystopian and historical fiction, as it is really 1994 and the Kingdom of Choson is, of course, North Korea, and the Great General is their leader at the time, Kim Il Sung. This is not just about an evil Communist dictatorship, although much is exposed. It is about the great resentment Areum feels towards her parents and sister and the fact that she doesn’t feel a part of her own family. Her resentment is shocking at times and is so well described.
The descriptions of the horrible treatment of the citizens of the “Kingdom of Choson” and the way that evil actions are portrayed as good things is heartbreaking. Adria Carmichael paints a vivid picture of a society filled with fear, and leaders who look on those in their charge as less than nothing. Through it all runs the concept of Juche, a North Korean version of communism/totalitarianism as invented by Kim Il Sung. Carmichael takes us to a society that tells its people how great it is while they starve and murder them. Her idea to present North Korea as the setting of a dystopian novel is a good one, because it really is a dystopian society right here on Earth. The story is riveting from start to finish. This is a great debut novel from the very talented Adria Carmichael.