Book Review: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

Book Review: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-02T213205.960
The Poppy War #1
Release Date: May 1st 2018
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Pages: 544
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought this in my local Waterstones
Rating: 5/5 stars


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.


book cover (41)Pretty much everyone I know has read and loved The Poppy War. I must admit to being a bit nervous going in, I wasn’t entirely sure it would live up to the expectations I had set with so many people giving it five star reviews. I’m so happy to say that I absolutely adored this book, it is without a doubt one of my favourite reads of the year and I can’t wait to read more from R. F. Kuang.

The story follows Rin, a young war orphan who passes the Keju, a test given to every child in the Empire to determine if they should be admitted to the prestigious military schools. The country might be at peace whilst Rin is learning tactics and war, but unease is brewing with old enemies across the sea. Rin also discovers she can yield a shamanic power, but will it help save her people – or destroy them?

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. It’s quite a hefty book but I raced through this, finishing it in only a couple of days. I completely fell in love with the characters, they were so well fleshed out and there was plenty of character development. There were so many characters that I loved, Rin was fantastic and I loved Kitay and Nehza so much. I’m already scared to find out what will happen to them in the next instalment.

I recently went to see R. F. Kuang talk in my local Waterstones and it was fascinating to hear her explain how the story draws real life parallels with Chinese history. It really brought a whole new dimension to the story, and is definitely something I want to know more about.

The Poppy War is a grimdark tale and is therefore full of dark and gory scenes. It contains quite a high number of trigger warnings too so that is definitely something to consider before reading. All in all I found this book fast paced with a tense, exciting plot and a brilliant cast of characters. I’ve already picked up a copy of The Dragon Republic because I’m dying to know what happens next!
5 stars

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