|| Book Review || The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang ||
Genre: High Fantasy, War, Historical
Age category: Young Adult, Adult
Release Date: May 1st 2018
Version Read: Paperback
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.
I have been looking forward to reading this series for quite a while and now that I have finally started I am struggling to put my thoughts into words that can even compute how amazing this book is.
It doesn’t happen often but sometimes you just KNOW that a book is going to end up on your all time favourites shelf before you’ve even read it?
You try to set yourself up for the book not being everything you hope but then you read it and it is just EVERYTHING.
That is what The Poppy War is. From the very first pages I could tell it was going to be a fantastic read. We start off with a poor orphan who wants to make something more of her life.
She is oppressed and hated because of the colour of her skin and is expected to be thankful for her lot in life when her adoptive family plan to marry her off to some old man.
Rin works her arse off for years to study for the Keju which is a seriously tough exam to get into the best military academy there is.
No one believes that Rin can achieve this and when she does she is still hated and surrounded by more privileged students who tell her that she doesn’t belong there.
The military academy of Sinegard is fantastic, the masters Rin studies under are amazing and the other students are brilliant too. There is just so much going on but the main story during the academy chapters is Rin continuing to work her butt off to be the best soldier she can be so that she isn’t sent away in disgrace after the first term!
She ends up studying with Master Jiang who is a hilarious eccentric drug user who spends half his time high and the rest of the time talking in riddles. You can tell he’s a powerful guy though and he is just awesome. Under Master Jiang’s tutelage Run starts to discover that there is a lot more to her than she ever thought possible.
The writing style flows really well and is so easy to follow. I absolutely love fantasy but sometimes it feels like books are very same-y and so when a book like this comes along that gives you something totally different and special all you want to do is gush about how good it is to everyone!
This is a very dark fantasy, full of blood and violence. At times it is grim and you find your guts absolutely twisting as you read but you can’t stop yourself from reading on.
The scenes are set and written so well that you can feel, taste, smell and see everything that is going on but without feeling like you are just getting pages and pages of description.
The pace is really fast and the war itself is absolutely horrific and brutal but there is no “violence for the sake of violence”. It all serves a purpose and is all a huge part of the development of the characters (which is also fantastic).
Rin is a very complex character and I go through phases of liking her and not liking her. I am just getting into the second book now and at the moment I am in a “not liking her” phase. Even when you don’t like her though you love to read about her, what she’s going through and what she will do next.
I found the whole thing entirely unpredictable. This book has no qualms about killing off or severely injuring characters that you love! (it reminded me of Game of Thrones in that aspect, no one is safe!)
This book is full of modern Chinese history that is absolutely fascinating.
There are gods, monsters, shamans, magic, drugs and so much more that I could just go on and on.
The book is full of horror, atrocities are committed at almost every turn of the page and nothing is sugar coated.
Despite that you will meet some incredibly quirky and fun characters along the way but be careful who you get attached to!
I cannot remember the last time I was so thoroughly absorbed by a story. It was tense, it had my heart pounding and I did not want to stop. I am currently reading the second book in the series and then the 3rd will come right after that. There is no way that I can stop until this is over and I am certain that by the end I will be broken but it will be worth it.