From the back cover:
Hoping to clear the air between Shin and Chae-Kyung, the ladies of the court pressure the young couple to get more intimate. But even a night together may not be enough to push the two close. Amid lingering suspicious of Shin’s involvement with Hyo-Rin, Yul takes the offensive in claiming not only his right to the throne, but to Chae-Kyung’s heart as well… Will her commitment to her husband and her duty as crown princess prevail?
In this volume, Shin and Chae-Kyung are forced to spend a night alone together by order of the queen mother, who buys into the theory that Chae-Kyung’s recent poor health is caused by problems in her relationship with Shin, and that by forcing them to consummate their marriage, those problems will immediately evaporate. Alas, things do not go as planned. Later developments include Yul admitting his feelings to Chae-Kyung, an attempt to gain more political power for the royal family, a subplot involving the girl Shin used to like, and the news that Chae-Kyung’s grandfather has cancer.
It’s really impossible to convey the awesomeness of Goong through a mere plot summary, because so much of the story is carried by the characters rather than the events. The night Shin and Chae-Kyung spend together is a fascinating example. When they’re first locked up together, Shin asks, “Are you scared? Do you think I’ll attack you?” Chae-Kyung, however, is more worried that she might attack him! Shin abruptly kills any mood that might’ve been brewing, though, when he says, “A man can sleep with a girl whom he doesn’t really like.” Readers can see that he’s developing feelings for her and just trying to protect himself by feigning detachment, but Chae-Kyung can’t. When he’s later moved by her eyes, which speak so honestly of her feelings for him, and tries to kiss her, she slaps him. Shin, of course, has no idea what he did wrong.
What a complicated and complex relationship! This is the sort of situation that two people, no matter how attracted they are to each other, would probably just give up on after failing time and again to truly connect. Shin and Chae-Kyung don’t have this option, however, and continue the pattern of hurting each other. Their struggle is both captivating and frustrating; it’s going to be so vastly rewarding once they finally work things out.
Shin’s insecurities and ignorance of a loving family come into play in the latter half of the volume, when he refuses to allow Chae-Kyung to visit her ailing grandfather. The excuse he gives is that she has duties to attend to, but he’s really worried that she’ll want to stay with her family rather than return to the miseries of palace life. Yul uses this situation to try to get on Chae-Kyung’s good side—suggesting that she get her marriage with Shin annulled and marry him instead since Shin’s dysfunctional upbringing makes him treat her badly—but only succeeds in strengthening her sympathies for Shin. The final scene suggests that Yul’s meddling might backfire on him even further, to which I say, in Nelson’s voice from The Simpsons, “Ha ha!”
An awful lot goes on in a single volume of Goong and all of it is wonderfully balanced and exciting to read. About the only flaw I could mention is that the unattractive artwork during comedic moments still persists. Because of this, I’ve never been able to award any volume a straight-out A, much as I have wanted to, because the random bits of ugly pull me out of the story. They don’t appear to be going anywhere, alas, so it looks like I’ll just have to resign myself to their presence.
Review copy provided by the publisher.