The dark, macabre fairy tale atmosphere which Jungeun creates is often interspersed with an almost bland sense of reality, thereby creating an atmosphere which is both surreal and at the same time strangely relatable; whilst there is no escaping the fact that the novel is set in the real world, the dreamlike prose style and the constant references to the supernatural, including the unexplained and sentient shadows which appear to haunt human beings, is constantly unsettling for the reader.
The novel follows the development of the relationship between Eungyo and Mujae, as they slowly begin to fall in love. This is captured in a series of short, almost parabalesque chapters, where Jungeun is able to interweave the emotional interplay between the two characters against a world of almost uncanny beauty;
“The sky was a subtle blend of blues, yellows and reds, merging hazily with the sea at the horizon. I could see the car park, much further away than I’d thought, and beyond that the mud flats and one remaining salt field. The tide hadn’t yet come in, so the mud flats still stretched or into the distance. The abandoned salt field was red, though I couldn’t guess the reason. Each island, a sparse dream-like smattering on the vast sea, bore a tall electricity pylon. Like objects seen in a rear-view mirror, the islands and their towers seemed nearer than they were in reality, fading away little by little and leaving me utterly rapt…”
It is difficult to say what ‘One Hundred Shadows’ is about, or if it is about anything really, outside of Jungsun’s desire to tell a story whose atmosphere leaves the reader enraptured, just as her vision of the towers left Eungyo enraptured and just like Eungyo, the reader feels overwhelmed by the strange sense of beauty which Jungsun is able to create.