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It should be like a dream come true.  Chae-Kyung grew up living a normal life, but now she finds herself as the betrothed to the Crown Prince of Korea.  The only problem?  The Crown Prince, Shin Lee is a royal jerk.  Chae-Kyung is taken away from her family and her life as she knew it and thrown into the strange world of the Royal Palace, where she struggles against loneliness and her growing feelings for the Crown Prince amidst the political and romantic background of the Royal Palace.

Goong 5By Park SoHee
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/Drama
Price: $10.99

Goong takes place in an alternate reality, where Korea still has a royal family, and the government is a constitutional monarchy, like the United Kingdom.  Chae-Kyung is from the ordinary world, where she lived an ordinary life, and is suddenly thrown into the turmoil of learning the traditional and customs of the Korean royal family as well as deal with political and romantic intrigue.  This is a title wrought with melodrama and a crisis of some sort at every corner.  It’s a title that you know you shouldn’t want to read, but just can’t help getting drawn into.

Starting a series that’s already established can be confusing.  You have all these characters that are already established in the story and plot lines going that can be difficult to untangle.  Fortunately, Goong isn’t like that.  With only a minimal description of the title’s basic premise I still had no problem getting into the story and characters.  Chae-Kyung is a conflicted character.  She longs for her normal life and doesn’t want to be drawn into the palace intrigue, but she still finds herself falling in love with Shin.  Shin himself sends out confusing signals, making it harder for her.  He can be so cold and unkind to her, but then suddenly seem to care very much about her.  He too finds himself falling for Chae-Kyung, and it’s their stubbornness to ignore their feelings and keep to the deal they apparently made at the beginning of the series to stay together until they are of age and then divorce that fuels their conflict.

Goong 6Of course that isn’t all that’s making things hard for them.  The situations going on around them only makes things more complicated.  The deceased king’s widow and son are both making plays to get back into power, but for different reasons.  Yul, the former Crown Prince, loves Chae-Kyung and wants to take her away from Shin.  His mother, the Daebi, wants her son to be Crown Prince for the power it will bring her, but hates Chae-Kyung and doesn’t want Yul marrying her.  She makes life miserable for Chae-Kyung and her plans cause havoc for Shin and Chae-Kyung, as well as the current queen, Shin’s mother.  The current king was, and possibly still is, in love with the Daebi, and the favor he shows her has not gone unnoticed by either wife or son, and both begin to show their claws.  So, even though the plots can get complicated, they aren’t difficult to understand, or get involved in.

Goong is an engrossing title, even if it’s only for the soap opera style of writing.  It’s strength is in how well done both the plots and characters are.  They all act like real people, not the stereotypes typically seen on daytime TV.  Chae-Kyung is under so much stress that she doesn’t eat much and consequently looses and lot of weight.  This is treated realistically and without a lot of melodrama.  The people around her, and even Shin himself show concern for her, even if he denies the one things she really wants; to go home.  The situations aren’t so outrageous that you couldn’t believe they could happen, but just melodramatic enough to keep you reading.

Goong 7The art is very nicely done, though I have to admit some problems with the eyes.  Sometimes on a profile, it’s hard to tell if the eyes are open or closed.  And SoHee’s chibis aren’t the same kind of cute as in manga, but after a while, you get used to them.  But what I love most is all the detail that goes into the costumes.  The women of the Korean Royal Family wears the traditional garb whenever they are in the palace or conducting palace business.  The costumes are intricate, and beautifully rendered.

I didn’t think I would like Goong from its initial description.  But that turned out to be completely wrong, and I gladly join the growing fan base for this title.  Goong is a great sunjeong, or shojo/romance title that lover of these genres or just plain drama will enjoy.

About the author

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

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