Summary and book reviews of Star of the North by D.B. John

Star of the North

by D.B. John

Star of the North by D.B. John X
Star of the North by D.B. John
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  • First Published:
    Feb 26, 2019, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

A propulsive and ambitious thriller about a woman trying to rescue her twin sister from captivity in North Korea, and the North Korean citizens with whom she forms an unlikely alliance.

Star of the North opens in 1988, when a Korean American teenager is kidnapped from a South Korean beach by North Korean operatives. Twenty-two years later, her brilliant twin sister, Jenna, is still searching for her, and ends up on the radar of the CIA. When evidence that her sister may still be alive in North Korea comes to light, Jenna will do anything possible to rescue her - including undertaking a daring mission into the heart of the regime. Her story is masterfully braided together with two other narrative threads. In one, a North Korean peasant woman finds a forbidden international aid balloon and uses the valuables inside to launch a dangerously lucrative black-market business. In the other, a high-ranking North Korean official discovers, to his horror, that he may be descended from a traitor, a fact that could mean his death if it is revealed.

As the novel progresses, these narrative strands converge and connect in surprising ways, ultimately building to an explosive and unforgettable climax.

BAENGNYEONG ISLAND
SOUTH KOREA
JUNE 1998

The sea was calm the day Soo-Min disappeared.

She was watching the boy make a fire out of driftwood. The tide was rumbling in, bringing towering clouds that were turning an ashy pink. She hadn't seen a single boat all day and the beach was deserted. They had the world to themselves.

She pointed her camera and waited for him to turn his head. "Jae-hoon . . . ?" Later, the photograph she took would show a strong-limbed youth of nineteen with a shy smile. He was dark for a Korean and had a dusting of salt on his shoulders, like a pearl fisher. She handed him the camera and he took one of her. "I wasn't ready," she said, laughing. In this photograph she would be in the act of sweeping her long hair from her face. Her eyes were closed, her expression one of pure contentment.

The fire was catching now, wood groaning and splitting. Jae-hoon placed a battered pan onto the heat, balancing it on three stones, and poured in oil. Then he lay beside ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It's summertime. You're looking for an absorbing thriller while you flop at the beach. Bonus points if it's somehow tied to current events where a summit with "Little Rocket Man" has just migrated to the rearview mirror. You're in luck because Star of the North doesn't just have the advantage of being an engaging rollercoaster ride, it's also a story that's that much more relevant because it's set in a country that's got enough intrigue for miles: North Korea.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (620 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A sometimes-suspenseful but never gripping novel about North Korea circa 2010.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. John excels at drawing the everyday details of life in a closed society - the drug use of the lower classes, the paranoia and fear of those who have gained access to the upper ranks, the omnipotence of the Bowibu, the state security force. Those seeking a realistic, highly readable look at North Korea will be richly rewarded.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Conceived on the author's 2012 trip to North Korea, this well-researched, fast-paced, and pertinent thriller will keep readers' attention from start to finish. Readers of all sorts - whether spy fiction fans, thriller aficionados, or book junkies looking for a fantastic read - will enjoy.

Booklist
Starred Review. The lives of these people collide in a harrowing thriller that exposes an amazingly corrupt regime that embraces savage brutality and nearly every kind of lucrative criminal enterprise. John concludes with a fascinating 10-page bibliographic essay supporting his claims, but Star of the North would be a superior thriller even if it was pure fiction.

Author Blurb Lee Child
Extraordinary ... smart, sophisticated, suspenseful - and important. If you try one new thing this year, make it Star of the North.

Author Blurb Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Never Let You Go and Still Missing
From the very first page of this riveting thriller, I knew that D.B. John was a talented writer, and that Star of the North wasn't like any other book I've read before... John portrays the hardships of North Korea and its people with painful accuracy while never losing sight of their humanity. This one is definitely a star.

Author Blurb Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of The One Man
A superior thriller, deftly plotted and richly human, steeped in the intrigue, culture and family of a closed regime, both terrifying and upliftingly emotional. It delivers on all fronts.

Author Blurb Steve Berry, New York Times Bestselling author of The Lost Order

This one brims with marvelous characters and delivers heart-in-your throat action. Every page brims with reality, intensity, and passion, all unraveling at a perfect pace. Enjoy.

Author Blurb Sabine Durant, author of Under Your Skin
As gripping as it is shocking, this is an adrenalin-rush of a thriller that is also a devastating portrayal of a brutal regime. I couldn't pull myself away.

Author Blurb Matthew Fitzsimmons, author of The Short Drop
D.B. John delivers the timeliest thriller of 2018. An intricately constructed puzzle box of spies and tradecraft that plunges the reader on a cyanide-laced sprint through North Korea. The real star though is D.B. John's crackling prose, which breathes humanity and dignity into the most repressive nation on earth. The last hundred pages read like ten, I had to fight the urge to flip to the end.

Author Blurb James Swallow, author of Nomad and Exile
Tense and compelling.

Reader Reviews

PeggyT

Star of the North
Gripping and timely story but also very informative about North Korea. Made me want to learn more.

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Beyond the Book

Appendix from Star of the North

Korean FlagStar of the North is full of intriguing asides about the North Korean regime. The author, D. B. North, includes much of the background behind these nuggets as an appendix at the end of the novel. Below is an excerpt from it, and you can read the rest of it here.

The idea for this story came to me during a visit to North Korea in 2012, when my small tour group was suborned into some of the daily rituals of the cult of Kim. On each day of the tour we were asked to pay our respects by lining up and bowing before one of the innumerable statues of Kim Il-sung, the country's founder and self-styled Great Leader. To refuse would have risked getting our two guides, a man and a woman, into trouble. My group formed a real bond with the guides. ...

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