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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"Don't!" His shout rang out in the glade and the trees trembled. "No!"

Without slowing down, the tiger spun and turned toward him.

"No! No!" the hunter repeated, until just a yard away from him, the tiger stopped in its tracks. It locked its yellow eyes with him for a moment, then circled and ran away just as quickly as it had come. When the soldiers started shooting again, it had already disappeared into the thicket—leaving a trail of bright red blood that dotted every third footprint, on its left hind leg.

"What are you all standing like that for?" Major Hayashi shouted. "We're going to follow it—it can't go very quickly. We'll kill it before nightfall."

The hunter said something rapidly to Baek. The old merchant pleaded, "This man thinks we have to let this tiger go. An injured tiger is far more dangerous than a healthy one, he says. Tigers are vengeful creatures. They remember wrongs and rights, and if it's injured, it will attack to kill.

"Even if we kill the tiger, that will be the end of us if we get stuck in the mountain for another night, and it being already colder than the night before ... so says this man, sir."

Major Hayashi looked around at his men, who looked defeated and unwilling to go deeper into the mountain after the enormous beast. It had shown no sign of slowing down even with the wound.

Hayashi had led not only hunting parties such as this one, but also combat on the field, most recently in Manchuria against the Russians, and then of course the control of unrest and rebellions in Korea. He had never turned back from a fight but not out of bravery, which he equated to foolishness. He only believed in success, and even his bloodthirst was only secondarily for his own pleasure—primarily it was to assert his superiority to his peers and to intimidate his subordinates. Since success, to Hayashi, was of practical rather than virtuous nature, he again decided on the course that would serve him best. He ordered the Josenjing hunter to lead the descent.

Even as they made their way down and away from the beast, they felt as though a pair of yellow eyes were fixed on their necks the entire time. But at last they found themselves on a trail, recognizable even under a foot of snow. A few hours later, they came out of the deep woods and onto the overlook where they could see the village down below. The straw-thatched roofs were glowing amber with an unexpected flash of the sun, finally breaking through the clouds just above the horizon.

If they hadn't been officers, they would have run down the slippery, snowy slope like children, overjoyed as they were by that sight. But tempered by the presence of their leader, they marched only a little faster. It took another half an hour before the men finally reached the foot of the hill where the village farms met the border of wilderness. The fallow fields under a blanket of snow were stamped with the footprints of birds and of children.

Major Hayashi ordered a halt and discussed something with the police chief, an oily and gluttonous man to whom a few days of hardship had given a temporarily gaunt appearance. The other officers laid down their packs and began smoking, chatting lightheartedly. They had already forgotten the terror, and were exhilarated by the prospect of warming themselves with food and fire, laughing over it all.

"You," Captain Yamada called out to the hunter, who cautiously stepped closer to Baek. "Your name."

"My name is Nam KyungSoo," the hunter said in halting Japanese.

"You were in the Korean Imperial Army?"

Baek translated for Nam, who nodded.

"You know it's illegal for Josenjings to possess weapons of any kind? I could have you arrested right now."

Baek looked mortified as he whispered in Korean to Nam, who merely glared back at Captain Yamada. The officer frowned back at the hunter. The two men couldn't have been more different: one, dressed in a warm officer's outfit and a fur-trimmed hat, handsome and lithe and bursting with energy even after three hard days in the forest; and the other, shorter man, sharp cheekbones casting dark shadows on his face, hair with more gray than black, looking as ancient, weathered, and bony as a rock.

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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