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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But even so, Yamada momentarily saw something in the other man's eyes. Soldiers on opposing sides are much more alike than different, often resembling one another more closely than they do their respective civilians. Despite his mangy appearance, Nam looked like he would kill his enemies and protect his allies; Yamada respected that.

"I'm confiscating your weapons. If I ever hear you've been hunting again, I will arrest you personally. Consider that your reward for leading us back down."

Baek relayed the message while bowing deeply at the young officer. Yamada gave a curt nod in acknowledgment, but Nam only glared back for a moment before turning away.

"Hey, Baek!" Major Hayashi called out, and the old merchant shuffled forward.

"Yes, sir."

"You led us astray, you stupid worm," Major Hayashi said, almost lazily. Baek cowered and kept his head bowed low.

"I'm sorry sir, the snow covered the trails and made it impossible to find them, I've gone up and down these mountains hundreds of times, but ..."

"You ruined our hunt, and almost got us killed," Major Hayashi said. "Go. I'd run fast if I were you."

Baek trembled, dipped his head multiple times, and turned on his heels to run as quickly as his old body would allow. When he had nearly crossed the length of the rice field, Major Hayashi slung his rifle over his shoulder—and fired.

Baek fell forward as if he'd tripped on a rock, his arms splayed wide. He didn't make any noise—or perhaps it was too far for the sound to carry, muffled by the icy ether. The blood spread slowly from the center of his back and soaked through his pack filled with silk.

"That made up for the lack of real sport, what do you think, Chief Fukuda?" Major Hayashi asked, and Fukuda agreed obsequiously.

"And as for that man Nam, I'll turn him over to you, since this is your jurisdiction."

"Ah yes, of course. We will make a very good example out of him," Fukuda said. "After we are done with him, no one will dare pick up a weapon again in these parts."

"That doesn't seem called for, Chief." Captain Yamada stepped forward. "This Josenjing led us down from the mountain. We wouldn't have made it otherwise."

"You also saved his life, so I'd consider that even. But add to that his poaching—seems the scale is tilted against him," Fukuda said, smiling as if satisfied by his own cleverness.

"But he also saved us from that tiger," Yamada replied coolly. "It appears to me that squares the score back to even." He looked from Fukuda to Major Hayashi, then back to Fukuda. "I have no love of filthy Josenjings, and have no doubt that I have killed enough of them on the field. But if you harm this man, you would be owing him a debt of life, and nothing is more dishonorable than owing something to an inferior. As he also saved my life, I can't allow that to happen and be shamed. Let him go free."

"You really speak out of turn, Captain," Fukuda said, turning red in the face. He looked at Major Hayashi to back him up.

Hayashi looked almost expressionless, which was when he was at his most dangerous. He licked his lips, a serpentine habit.

"It doesn't seem necessary, after all, to kill every Josenjing who knows these parts. He was indeed useful, unlike that worthless old man Baek," Hayashi said.

At that, Fukuda quickly gave up and they decided to head to the police station.

When he was sure of not being noticed, Yamada breathed out with a sense of genuine relief. He had never wished anything for or from others, which gave him a secret satisfaction all his life. He felt complete in his independence, and never longed for warmth even from his mother—a quiet, elegant lady with cold white hands—or for the love of a woman. But the possibility of losing his face because of Fukuda's brutishness had roused Yamada more than he'd even expected. He was irritated by this sense of attachment to another's fate. The less he could be certain of Nam's safety, the longer this attachment would last. So he pulled Nam aside, who had been frozen silent, staring at Baek's body ahead. Crows were already gathered on it, cawing excitedly.

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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