Book Review: The Poppy War



  • Author: R.F. Kuang
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Page Count: 544
  • Date Started: August 29
  • Date Finished: September 10
  • Spoilers? No, no spoilers ahead.

A Brief Description

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Goodreads || Amazon (US)


Chaos does not discriminate…

R.F. Kuang

My Review

This book was a ride. I was drawn in by the first 50 pages. This book is about Rin who gets in to Nikara’s most prestigious school, Sinegard. Here she trains to be a warrior, but it’s so much more than that. This book was dark, gritty and political aspects of a world at war. This also dealt with some hard hitting topics, such as addiction, the consequences of war and how relationships struggle to survive with both of these aspects in play.

Rin, and all the other characters in this book are incredibly, un-apologetically morally gray. Rin, a war orphan, was raised in a provincial town, adjusts to the culture of Sinegard, where the children or generals and war lords are accepted. She struggles with feeling inadequate and grows into her new life.

The ending was tragic and unexpected. I became incredibly attached to the characters (and there are A LOT of characters) I am very excited to pick up the next book in the series “The Dragon Republic.”

One thing I’m going to note is that this book is very heavy on the plot, politics and characters. In addition, this book does not shy away from gore (there’s a lot of gore). It also does not shy away from the hard hitting topics, such as abuse, addiction, war, violence etc. If you aren’t interested in reading a book that has a lot of these topics and themes throughout, I would skip this one.

Have you read this one? What did you think? If not, do you think you’ll be picking it up soon! Let me know in the comments. I hope everyone has a wonderful day, and as always, keep reading 🙂


~Cam

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