The Poppy War Book Review

“‘I have become something wonderful, she thought. I have become something terrible. Was she now a goddess or monster? Perhaps neither. Perhaps both.'” – R.F Kuang

Welcome to my first book review! (I hope I did it well T_T). This post, we’re going to diving in deep into these two books that I read during the month of September. 

So first of all, wow. 

And I mean wow. Nothing could have prepared me for this book. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be THAT good. 
The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic is a historical fantasy book based on the Second Sino Japanese Book and is under the Adult Fantasy Fiction category of books. The content in these two books are very explicit and are not for everyone. 

first, let’s start with the book that started it all.

it’s basically like a rave. everyone’s either getting high, or killing each other. I’ve only started my book twitter and youtube channel about two months ago and the only book that I’ve seen that’s been surfacing time and time again has been The Poppy War. Either everyone was reading it, or just got finished reading it and were absolutely destroyed. 

So obviously, I had to read it because pain is fun, right? 

Not right. After I finished The Poppy War I was stressed, I was in pain, I was sleep-deprived, I was… dead.  Let’s begin the review.

“Well, fuck the heavenly order of things. If getting married to a gross old man was her preordained role on this earth, then Rin was determined to rewrite it.” 

Wow. I just read a tweet that said, “One day y’all will learn the difference between Adult and YA novels. I hope that day is soon…” The day has come and my eyes are now open.

I finally read The Poppy War after seeing everyone talk about it on booktwitter and booktube and wow. I was not prepared for that at all. (Also a historical adult fantasy novel based in China written by a Chinese author as well? My past Asian Studies Prof is shaking right now). 

The main character we follow is Fang Runin or Rin, for short. She is a war orphan and is a shopkeeper that lives with her abusive foster family who runs an opium business on the low. When Rin gets given the message that she is going to get married off to an unknown man, she finds her way to escape by taking the Keju, a country-wide, twelve-hour test to find the most talented pupils to study at the military academy that is the Sinegard. She goes against all odds and gets the top score, surprising everyone including herself. At the Sinegard, Rin finds herself with wealthy and privileged sons of warlords and other students who are known by their rank or skin color. Rin, who is not only dark-skinned but also poor, is determined to stay at this school. She meets Jiang Ziya, a mentor that everyone else doesn’t take seriously because of his odd ways, and finds out that he is a powerful shaman, and through his teachings, Rin comes to possess the same talent for shamanism and connecting with the gods’ everyone thought were long gone.

In The Poppy War, we see that the gods are not like those naked statues in historical museums. The gods do not sing happy show tunes like in Hercules, the gods do not make witty or sarcastic jokes- the gods are gods. And when they get called down, all hell breaks loose. 

There is no way for me to even fully collect my thoughts and pour out all of my feelings for the Poppy War because it was just that good. The events in this book take place in a three year time period and the world-building and ability to digest the fantasy side does not feel rushed or forced at all. It’s amazing how Kuang managed to put so much action, character development, and still manages to give us a bit of a history lesson in this book. The humor feels natural and real and doesn’t completely draw away the post-traumatic feeling of war and agony that is constantly present in this book. You feel all of the emotions that characters are going through, you feel the pain and loss that comes with war, you feel everything that happens in The Poppy War. You could not put this book down without wanting more. 

I was able to finally recognize the difference between Young Adult Fantasy and Adult Fantasy. Before I read The Poppy War, I did not realize how different the two genres could be and was completely shook when I finished both The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic. Both books deal with topics that history has decided to completely erase from the public eye such as the Second Sino Japanese War and comfort woman. [Both books are heavy when it comes to sexual assault, genocide, substance abuse, emotional abuse, etc, so be sure to check the trigger warnings before picking it up] 

While reading these two books you feel the frustration that Rin feels, the anguish and madness she has developed because of war, and the fire god that lives inside of her. You simply could not put down this book without wanting to find out what happens next. I’m so glad I picked up this book after seeing it being talked about on booktwitter for so long and I finally understand why everyone was in complete shambles after finishing. I can conclude that after finishing both The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic in the span of one month, I will be passing away when The Burning God comes out in November. 

5/5 stars. One of the best books that I have read in 2020. – Jan

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