“This will be my great, tear-filled finale!”
Melodramatic lines like this, spoken in this case by prince-in-waiting Yul are why I enjoy this melodramatic manhwa so much. The misadventures and heartbreak of Prince Shin and common girl turned princess Chae-Kyung continue in Goong, as she deals with the death of her grandfather and forces within the royal family conspire to drive the couple apart.
Shin is consumed with guilt over not being able to tell Chae-Kyung that the palace kept her from going to her grandfather’s side as he was dying. The King begins to crack under the weight of the promise he made to make Yul the Prince instead of Shin. Yul manipulates the Queen into putting forward the divorce of Shin and Chae-Kyung even as he’s saddled with his own fiancee, the psychotic rich girl Mi-Roo. Yul justifies his actions by thinking of the love he has for Chae-Kyung, thinking that she’ll be happier outside the palace. While it is clear that living in the palace is taking a toll on her physical health, her growing devotion to Shin ensures that she’ll be experiencing plenty of trauma if she’s separated from her young husband.
As I was reading this volume I appreciated how far Shin has come as he’s adjusted to his royal responsibilities. The reader gets a sense of the king he could become when he hears out his father’s confession and makes an audacious speech to parliament. Shin and Chae-Kyung manage to sneak off with each other a little bit, and as a couple they seem stronger, which means that surely disaster lurks ahead.
The 12th volume marks a turning point, as the divorce between Chae-Kyung and Shin becomes public. Even thought the queen attempts to get Chae-Kyung to keep the reasons for the divorce secret, Shin quickly figures out that his wife isn’t divorcing him willingly. Chae-Kyung prepares to live the life of an ex-princess and Shin is determined to get her back somehow even after the divorce goes through. Chae-Kyung at first protests the idea of leaving the palace with money and property but Shin insists on giving her what she’s due because that’s the only thing he can do for her during the divorce.
More than anything else, I finished reading this volume with a sense that the institution of the palace in Goong damages most people in irreparable ways. The King seems like he’s about to have a nervous breakdown. The Queen vows revenge on her evil sister-in-law. Yul continues to be both handsome and deluded. Chae-Kyung and Shin are devastated, and while there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll end up together, I’m guessing that it’ll take a bit of time before that’s possible. The glimmerings of kingly behavior Shin has displayed recently make me think that he might be up to the task of manipulating the Royal Family and leaning on public opinion until he gets what he wants.
Goong is a very satisfying, soapy series. The slapstick comedy elements combined with all the scenes of emotional devastation sometimes make the tone a little off, but the elaborate settings, ongoing plots, and stylized art combine to tie everything together nicely. I’m looking forward to reading volume 13, and I was excited to see that it looks like previous volumes of Goong are going to get a release on the kindle in the next couple months.