Last Days of the Morning Calm

Written by Tina Jimin Walton
Review by J. Lynn Else

Korea, 1895. Ji-nah believes something very wrong is happening, but she can’t fit the pieces together. After a long absence, her guardian abruptly sends word he’s traveling to America and has left Ji-nah’s tutor in charge. It’s quickly apparent the tutor has sinister plans for the household and its staff. One servant, Han, uncovers a threat to the queen, but how can a powerless girl and servant boy convince anyone of the danger when their proof disappears overnight? And especially after Han is sold to foreign missionaries, leaving Ji-nah on her own?

Last Days of the Morning Calm is a quick read about the final days of Korea’s fallen kingdom. The narrative alternates between Ji-nah and Han as they discover clues within their spheres of influence. I enjoyed the way the author contrasted different cultures. Most strongly realized is Han expecting the foreign missionaries to be one way, but working alongside them, he discovers a different narrative to their story. That being said, character and plot development are somewhat predictable, and the second half of the story feels rushed as multiple clues are revealed in quick succession. While emotions and intrigue are light, the exotic landscape and culture are enchanting. The author possesses great knowledge of the time and place and utilizes it well to create a coming-of-age tale for young adults.