I don’t know that I believe in fate or destiny or anything like that, but I do believe that things happen for a reason. Like when a book comes across as a suggested post on Instagram. That’s exactly what happened with Lena Jeong’s debut novel And Break the Pretty Kings. I was pretty sold on the cover alone (and the fact that it was a Korean-inspired tale), but when I saw it pitched as a Korean Lord of the Rings? Sold.

Mirae is the crown princess of Seolla and she is meant to save them all. But when the ceremony that is meant to crown her as the new ruler of the land ends in terror and death, she finds herself with an unexpected new power, a missing brother, and an ancient threat looming. Desperate to save her brother, Mirae sets off on a journey to the sovereign land of Josan with an unlikely group of companions and an unsteady grip on her new power that is showing her visions of the future that terrify and confuse her.

Filled with Korean mythology, this book was a sweeping adventure that I couldn’t put down. On its surface, it is a story of a girl trying to find her lost brother, but she has a lot to learn along the way. Told from Mirae‘s point of view, we are able to see what goes on inside her mind and how she’s handling the stress of all that is put upon her. Despite having a destiny that has been foretold for generations, she is at her very core a young girl who is just trying to find her place in the world and I think that is something that we can all relate to. She may be the chosen one, but she’s not perfect and she’s not meant to be.

The world building is spectacular in this story and the magic systems are easy to understand so you never feel taken out of this world for one moment. While a story that is built around a journey from one place to another in search of something has the potential to get very monotonous, there are enough stops along the way that you never feel like it’s repetitive. Each distinct point along the way feels like a different adventure, even though it’s all part of the same journey.

Filled with twist and turns, I found myself constantly surprised by what came next, even when I predicted some plot points along the way. Lena has the ability to foreshadow what’s going to happen next without making it too easy to guess. And the ending? I am unwell. The fact that I have to wait until Fall 2024 to find out what happens next is actually cruel and unusual punishment. A stellar debut, Lena Jeong has planted her flag in the YA Fantasy genre and I don’t expect she’s gonna leave anytime soon.

And Break the Pretty Kings by Lena Jeong hits shelves on June 20, 2023 and you can preorder your copy here, but if you preorder from The King's English Bookshop, you can get a signed copy and preorder goodies!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the author for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."