Excerpt from Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Beasts of a Little Land

A Novel

by Juhea Kim

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim X
Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim
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    Dec 2021, 416 pages

    Dec 2022, 336 pages


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He felt, rather than saw, the leopard climb up onto the ledge, its silhouette weaving through the brume. He gasped and lowered his bow when it finally revealed itself, just yards away from him.

It wasn't a leopard at all, but a tigerling.

From nose to the tip of the tail, it was as long as his arms stretched wide apart—just the size of a full-grown leopard. It was too big to be called a cub, though still too young to hunt on its own. The tigerling looked at the hunter with curious eyes, twitching its circles of ears padded with white fur. Its calm yellow irises were neither threatened nor threatening. It had almost certainly never seen a human being before, and looked mildly puzzled by the strange apparition. The hunter gripped his bow tighter. It was, he realized, the first time he'd spotted a tiger within range.

Hunted by the Japanese in every hill and valley, tigers had been driven deep into the wildest mountains. The prices had gone up accordingly for their skin, bone, and even meat, which had never before been the reason they were hunted, but had become a fashionable delicacy on the tables of wealthy Japanese. They believed that eating tiger flesh gave you its valor, and held banquets where officers decked with epaulettes and medals and upper-class ladies in European dresses sat down to taste courses made entirely of tiger parts.

With this kill, he would be able to buy enough food to last three years. Perhaps even a plot of land. His children would be safe.

But the wind howled into his ear, and he lowered his bow and arrow. Never kill a tiger unless it decides to kill you first.

He got up to standing, which sent the tigerling scampering backward like a village pup. Before it even disappeared back into the fog, the hunter turned around and started his descent through the thickening snow. Within a span of a few hours, the snow had already gathered halfway up his calf. The hollowness that had made his feet lighter was now dragging him closer to the earth with every step. A gray, colorless dusk was draped over the shivering trees. He started praying to the god of the mountain, I've let go of your attendant creature, please let me make it down.

The blizzard stopped at nightfall. He came halfway down the mountain before his legs buckled and he fell knee first into snow. He was on fours like an animal; when even his elbows gave out he curled into the powder, sparkling white in the moonlight. Then he thought, I should be facing the sky, so he heaved himself over onto his back. The moon was gently smiling down on him: it was the closest thing in nature to mercy.

* * *

"WE'VE BEEN GOING IN CIRCLES," Captain Yamada said. The others around him looked frightened, not just because what he was saying was true, but also because he dared to voice this calamity in the presence of his superior.

"These trees are all growing thicker on this side—so that way must be south. But you see how we have been heading the opposite way for the past hour!" Captain Yamada exclaimed, barely concealing his contempt. At twenty-one, he already had the manner of someone used to giving orders and opinions without once being challenged, which was a habit born out of his highly influential family. The Yamadas were a cadet branch of an ancient samurai clan, and his father, Baron Yamada, was a close friend of Governor-General Hasegawa himself. The Hasegawas and the Yamadas both hired Englishmen to educate their sons, and Genzo had toured Europe and America with a Hasegawa cousin before returning to take the commission. That was how he'd been made a captain at such a young age, and why even his superior Major Hayashi was careful not to offend him.

"We can't keep going around like this, sir." Captain Yamada finally directed his comment at Major Hayashi, and the whole group came to a halt. These were four sergeants, the local police chief Fukuda and two of his men, and a Korean guide.

Excerpted from Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim. Copyright © 2021 by Juhea Kim. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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