Anyone who knows me well knows how interested I am in everything to do with North Korea. Even my dissertation was about this closed off, political anomaly! I’ve read a number of non-fiction books about North Korea, their dictators, escapees, refugees, and so on. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been more fascinated by a country than this one. So, when I’ve heard about Star of the North, I was quite excited, as it’s the first fiction book set in North Korea that I’ve come across. But as it usually is with hyping yourself up for something… it was a tad bit disappointing.
Title: Star of the North
Author: D. B. John
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
Number of Pages: 448
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Synopsis: In 1992 a young Korean American girl disappears without a trail from a South Korean island. The story continues after 12 years, focusing on her twin sister Jenna, who doesn’t believe that her sister is dead and is still hopeful to find her one day. Due to her extensive research and knowledge on North Korea, she gets noticed by the CIA and it all kicks off. On the other side of the world, Mrs. Moon is starving under an oppressive regime in North Korea, but due to a lucky event she starts her own black-market stall. And finally, a high-ranking North Korean official comes across some distressful information that changes his life completely.
Overall Impression: I’m not the biggest fan of thrillers, but I picked this book up as it focuses on North Korea, a country I’m fascinated by. It wasn’t as gripping as promised, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story line and how D.B. John stayed true to all the historical facts about North Korea. The book intertwined three very different stories very well and remained fairly fast paced. For anyone who hasn’t read anything about North Korea, all of the details about the country will seem like a far fetched, dystopian fiction. The appendix is a nice addition which distinguishes between true and false facts.
I was enjoying the book at a leisurely pace but the culmination and the ending were so implausible (I know it’s fiction, but even still) that it really put me off from finishing the book. But as I had only 50 or so pages left I couldn’t just put it down. For me personally, the book was ruined by that particular turn of events.
Likes: I thoroughly enjoy books about North Korea, so the setting of the book was really appealing to me. D.B John ingeniously intertwined the real historical facts into his thriller and ensured that it all stayed as accurate as possible. While weaving a captivating story, he still managed to use the platform as an author to educate readers on a “self-reliant”, socialist state. Also, Mrs. Moon’s story was the best in the book; I wanted to read more about her daily struggles, her innovative ways to make money. and help others with such a loving heart in a barren country.
Dislikes: Worst thing for me was the shocking ending (don’t want to reveal anything) that felt more like a cliche action film ending, rather than a good book. The culmination was so outlandish that I took a star off the potential four star rating. Apart from the ending, another issue was that the main character, Jenna, excelled at basically everything she did: CIA training, martial arts, surveillance, you name it. She was very human with her emotions and certain errors, but I didn’t find myself rooting for her as a main character. All in all, it was not as gripping as everyone else were making it out to be. Something was missing and I can’t explain what.
In Conclusion: A good read for anyone who knows nothing about North Korea and loves a thriller. It might feel like you’re reading about a made up country, but all the facts about North Korea are accurate, cold hard truths of an inhumane regime. I enjoyed reading this book and finished it pretty fast, but the most upsetting thing for me was the events that took place at the culmination of the novel.