THE BURNING GOD BY R.F. KUANG BOOK REVIEW // A.K.A MY LOVE LETTER TO THIS SERIES

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang

Release date: November 17, 2020

Amazon | Book Depository | IndieboundBarnes & Noble | Goodreads

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grow, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? 

Trigger/content warnings: cannibalism, graphic violence, gore, dead bodies, mutilation, drug use, colorism, colonization, war crimes, famine, mentions of rape

Hullo, bookdragons!

I….don’t even know where to start.

*a moment of silence for my recuperating brain*

Okay here we go. Anybody interested in taking a trip down memory lane? If yes, that’s great! If no, I’m sorry sweetie but I’m still going for it 😌💖

In 2018, The Poppy War was already making a name for itself. A lot of people were raving about this masterpiece of a debut written by an Asian author and I immediately knew I had to read it. It started with a gut feeling that eventually turned into a sense of certainty. I was sure that this book was going to be a new favorite and you know what? I WASN’T WRONG. Here I am years later, still absolute trash for this series and will forever be sad that we’re only getting three books instead of thirty.

Look. I’M IN AGONY THAT THIS SERIES HAS COME TO AN END (says me who would probably reread it countless of times in one lifetime). It’s not every day that you get to discover a series that will completely turn your life upside down. It will probably take me some time to discover another series that will thoroughly destroy my life as much as this one.

I’m very lucky that I got sent an ARC of The Burning God by Harper Voyager and Rebecca Kuang! How did I react when I got the email? Just visualize a fish out of water and insert some screaming sfx and that’s basically me. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT I GOT TO SUFFER EARLIER THAN USUAL? Yep. It’s still surreal.

Thank you so much to Kate @yourtitakate, Aentee @readatmidnight and Nandini @novelsandnebulas for buddy reading this book with me! It was an honor to suffer with yall 😌

If you want to check out my other TPW content throughout the years (i basically mention TPW in every post but you get the point), here you go:

🔥 The Poppy War book review

🔥 The Dragon Republic book review

🔥 Talking about The Dragon Republic with R.F. Kuang

🔥 My latest conversation with R.F. Kuang for The Burning God tour

This introduction has been long (and emotional) enough. Let’s get to my review!

• It made me feel a hundred different emotions all at once

I was already a mess the first time I opened the ARC and looked at the title page. I’m not kidding when I say that my heart was jumping like crazy when I was just reading the dedication. THE FEELINGS THAT I HAD WHILE READING THIS BOOK ARE NO JOKE.

If you think The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic were brutal, The Burning God is definitely coming for your throats. I couldn’t calm down while reading because the stakes were so high. I was gritting my teeth and hoping against all hope that my favorite characters won’t drop dead on the next page. Aside from the feeling of fear and anticipation, I also had this underlying sadness because my favorite series is finally coming to a close. I wanted to slow down my reading progress because I wanted to savor the experience but I couldn’t stop myself from flipping the pages. It was THAT good.

I also have 200+ highlights because almost every quote is damn precious and my notes are just incoherent keyboard smash aside from the occasional “YES RIN GO FOR IT BABY”, “kitay my precious 😭” and “nezha you idiot”. If you get to read the book, you’ll know that these reactions are accurate.

Have a glimpse at Rin’s thoughts in The Burning God:

Hate was a funny thing. It gnawed at her insides like poison. It made every muscle in her body tense, made her veins boil so hot she thought her head might split in half, and yet it fueled everything she did. Hate was its own kind of fire and if you had nothing else, it kept you warm.

I have so many highlights so here’s another one:

I’m not Sinegardian elite. I’m that savage, mud-skinned Speerly bitch that wiped a country off the map. And sometimes when I get a little too angry, I snap.

• The warfare details are impeccable

This has always been one of R.F. Kuang’s strongest suits and she didn’t disappoint in The Burning God. Knowing that this series is based on actual history, reading all the gruesome parts was jarring. The careful way in which Rebecca portrays an Empire ravaged by war is commendable. There is a rawness to the brutalities and hardships depicted in this book that will make you feel a mix of emotions. I felt anguish for all the citizens of the Empire who suffered for a war they didn’t ask for. I felt sympathy for Rin even as I questioned her actions. I was concerned for Nezha even though I wanted to punch him in the face. In the face of everything happening in this book, I found myself asking a lot of questions: How far will this go? Are all the sacrifices worth it? When everything is over, is there going to be a true victor?

It has been months since I finished reading this book and yet I’m still mulling over these questions. You just need to read it to find out the answers to your questions as well.

It also needs to be said that the war strategies in this book are very clever, as well as the political machinations which gave me a lot of frustrations. I’m not gonna lie; after reading this book, I wanted to kick a colonizer or two in the face. Screw Hesperians. Colonizers don’t deserve rights in my book.

There are truly a lot of things going on in The Burning God. This story has a lot of layers and I can barely scratch the surface in this review.

You’re in the running for the throne, and you’ve got a god on your side. You want full command of that army? This country? You take it.

• The fight scenes will leave you breathless

I don’t curse (fine I slip sometimes but I try not to) but I was this close to uttering a string of rapid-fire Bisaya curses while reading because the fight scenes are THAT intense. I couldn’t help but squeak, squeal, scream on Twitter, and scream some more at my poor friends when I got to the fight scenes. I’m not saying anything more in fear of spoilers but take note that the fight scenes will make your soul ascend to the heavens while the Pheonix cackles inside your head. Fun things only of course.

Then the screaming started, and the ecstasy set in. Rin had spent so long hating how she felt when she burned, hating her fire and her god. Not anymore. She could admit to herself now that she liked it. She liked letting her basest instincts take over. She reveled in it.

• It’s not perfect

As much as I loved this book, I have to admit that it wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of scenes that seemed rushed to me. A lot of important moments were also not that fleshed out. There were also character interactions and appearances that I wished were longer and more meaningful. I also kind of didn’t like the ending. I expected it to be something similar but it wasn’t done in a way that was satisfying to me.

• You will never be ready for it

Despite my remarks above, I STILL LOVE THIS BOOK TO DEATH. I still rated this book five stars because I’m a sentimental hoe and most authors can only dream of pulling off the things that R.F. Kuang pulled off in this book (or this series for that matter). I couldn’t rate it less than five stars for its flaws when a lot of scenes were worth their weight in gold. Even though the ending was not for me, the book in its entirety still amazed me and destroyed me in the best possible way. It’s also a good character study of Rin and how her emotions affect her actions, and in retrospect, the Empire.

Pain arced through the knotted scar in her lower back. Memories stabbed her mind like daggers. A touch, a whisper, a kiss. She clenched her jaw tight to keep from trembling.

I’ve been saying this ever since I read it and I’ll say it again: YOU WILL NEVER BE READY FOR THIS BOOK. If you think that you already steeled your heart enough to make you ready for it, you’re very very wrong. You’ll never be prepared for what’s coming to you. The least I can do is to stress this to you because that’s the only way I can help. I doubt my words can ease your pain when you finish reading The Burning God but at least you now have a bit of an idea of what to expect before getting into this monstrous book.

GOOD LUCK, BOOKDRAGONS. You’ve got a painful journey ahead.

Well I guess that’s it! I WENT THROUGH MY HIGHLIGHTS TO CHOOSE THE QUOTES FOR THIS REVIEW AND I DEMAND REPARATIONS. The wounds haven’t even scabbed and yet they have opened anew.

As I mentioned before, there are still a lot of layers in this book that I haven’t been able to discuss in this review but this is what my three brain cells came up with I’m so sorry

The summary of this review is this: THIS IS A VERY PAINFUL BOOK AND IT WILL DESTROY YOU COMPLETELY. GOOD LUCK.

I’ve been rambling a lot in this review because typing out the last words here just seems to be a grave note of finality. My words cannot ever encompass how this series means to me and I’m just so emotional writing this review. GODS I’M CRYING RIGHT NOW AHSJSJJS.

I’m going to wrap this up now before I flood the world with my tears. Thank you miss Kuang for writing this series. Thank you to the friends I have made while screaming nonstop about this series. This series may have ended already but I’m still hoping to reread the books a hundred times more with you. If you have stumbled upon this review and haven’t read The Poppy War yet, PLEASE PICK IT UP ASAP. Make sure to check the trigger warnings before you do. The reviews I linked above have them. Also, if you want to know more about the history this series was based on, you can read Tiffany’s latest post. It’s a very comprehensive and informative guide that will surely help you on your TPW journey.

It was a wonderful journey with my murderbabies. I will yearn for this series for as long as I live.

The Burning God is an epic conclusion to a masterful story that other series can only ever dream of topping. This book will give you a plethora of emotions that will make your reading experience unforgettable. Guard your heart. You have been warned.

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