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.
CW: self-harm, graphic violence, gore, animal cruelty, rape (off-page), drug addiction, lots of death, blood and murder
Me after reading this book:
YES IT WAS SO GOOD THAT I SCREAMED IN ASGARDIAN AFTER I READ THE ENDING. I JUST CAN’T COPE WITH THE GREATNESS OF THIS BOOK.
This was my only read in October (yes I read JUST ONE BOOK IN OCTOBER. The agony) but reading this was a great experience, albeit physically and emotionally draining. I was supposed to post this review last month but midterms and about 13554492 things to do for school stopped me from doing so. At least it’s here now!
Beware: lots of shrieking ahead
Here are my thoughts on The Poppy War:
• It is action-packed
I’ve heard lots of positive things about this book which made me want to read it so badly and when I did, I wasn’t disappointed.
The first half of the book was slow but it eventually evolved into a tale of blood and action which kept me from studying two of my quizzes. Reading is still a priority for me of course.
• FEELINGS FEELINGS FEELINGS
I felt about a million different emotions while reading this book: joy, anger, sadness, disgust, pity—I felt them all. This book also made me remember what it felt like to read until my eyes popped and the sun went up. There really is something special about a book that will keep you up all night.
• It’s both character- and plot-driven
The Poppy War gave importance on both the plot and the characters. The protagonist, Rin, started as a province girl wanting to study in the nation’s most prestigious school to escape an arranged marriage. Throughout the book, she evolved into a strong and fierce woman who vowed to reduce anyone who crosses her way into a pile of ashes. Literally.
(Interlude: I’m just confused by the cover because if I’m not mistaken, it shows a girl with a bow and arrow but Rin doesn’t use those as weapons. I can’t even remember if she used a bow and arrow in the book. Maybe she did once. Ughhh I’m just so confused)
I love Rin’s character arc and how she went from hero to antihero. However, Rin was not the only one who had a baffling character arc. MOST OF THE CHARACTERS IN THIS BOOK HAD ONE. I can say that R. F. Kuang is a queen in writing character developments. Hands down.
I can also say that this book is plot-driven because it revolves around a bloody war and how it came to be. The slow pacing of the book’s first half was because of the elaborate plotting of Kuang’s brilliant mind. It was mesmerizing to read while watching the whole plot unfold as the story progressed.
• It doesn’t sugarcoat war
THIS BOOK WAS SO BLOODY THAT SOME OF THE GORE SPILLED ON OUR LIVING ROOM FLOOR. This book is not for the faint-hearted (see: content warnings above). If you’re not comfortable with gore, you should consider setting this book aside because it’s really thick with violence. Just a fair warning.
• YES TO ANTIHEROES
If you love antiheroes (just like me), The Poppy War is you perfect match. I have even seen some book bloggers call this book a “villainess origin story” and now it’s your turn to find out why. This world doesn’t need more spoilers (and yes I’m such a big tease I can’t help it).
The Poppy War is a book rich with Asian myth and culture, temperamental gods, complex characters, and an addicting plot. This is perfect for lovers of fantasy and well-woven tales in general.
I can’t wait for 2019! R. F. Kuang just announced the sequel’s title (The Dragon Republic) and revealed the stunning cover a few weeks back. I NEED IT ASAP. THIS BOOK KILLED ME AND THE SEQUEL IS THE ONLY THING THAT CAN REVIVE MY TORTURED SOUL. I can’t recommend this book enough. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.
What are some of your favorite reads of 2018? Have you read the Poppy War? If not, is it in your TBR? (please tell me it is)