The Poppy War by RF Kuang

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

The Poppy War was making rounds on Twitter recently and that prompted me to check it out. And let me tell you, this book deserves all the hype that it received online! So what did I think about it? Read on to find out.

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The Poppy War Book Cover. Girl with a bow and arrow in black and white

About The Book

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. 

My Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Details

Author: RF Kuang
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Of Publication: 18th October 2018
No. of pages: 544
Format: Ebook
Source: Self-bought

The Poppy War. How do I even begin to describe what this book has done to me? I finished reading the book sometime last week but my mind was not in a fit state to write this review. Like I said above, The Poppy War was doing rounds on Book Twitter recently which made me want to read this one so badly. I don’t really jump onto the “trending books” because most of them don’t interest me that much but this one? I feel like kicking myself of not reading this book earlier.

The Poppy War tells us the story of Rin, a war-orphan from Rooster Province who manages to top the Keju and secure a place at Nikara’s most prestigious and elite military academy. While the prospect of leaving Rooster Province excites her, she quickly realizes that it is not as easy as it seemed and that her life is only going to get tougher from here on. Facing ridicule from classmates and teachers alike, Rin fights her way to the top of her class and in the process, she finds out more about herself than she ever knew. After the Federation attacks Nikara, everything changes for Rin and her classmates as they are thrust headfirst into war.

Book Review: The Poppy War by RF Kuang

I completely enjoyed reading The Poppy War. This book wasn’t what I expected it to be at all! It is a brilliant debut by R.F. Kuang and I cannot wait to read more of her work in the future. There is never a dull moment and the plot is fast-paced. The book holds your attention and leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

Trigger Warning

The Poppy War is tense! As it is basically a War story there are several elements that can be unsettling for some. The book does contain graphic descriptions of war and the crimes that come along with war. There are several bits of extremely detailed violence that can trigger some readers. I would not recommend this for young readers and for those who cannot stomach the violence. While I am not easily affected by what I read, I had to put this book down for a while.

The Poppy War is a story of choice. While we may think of things being predestined in life, everything boils down to the choices that we make and the aftereffects of our choices. Throughout the book, Rin consciously or unconsciously made choices that changed the course of her life in the book.

Final Thoughts

This book was a roller-coaster ride of emotions. While there were a few parts that were a bit predictable to me and a few that fell flat, I loved this story! There are so many things that I want to say about The Poppy War but I cannot put them to words. I was 90% through when I realized that the story goes on into the second book “The Dragon Republic” which I hope to get soon. And the ending? The ending of this book killed me!? You do not expect that coming your way and I loved the surprise (even though it hurt me).

About The Author

R F Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator, and the Astounding Award-winning and Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy. Her work has won the Crawford Award and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Literature at Yale.

Loved my review and want to read this book? You can find it for purchase on Amazon (Ebook) and Amazon (Paperback)*

Have you read The Poppy War? If you have let me know what did you think about this book in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang”

  1. The Poppy War is one book I am determined to tick off of my list, but I feel like I have to be in the right frame of mind to take in the intensity of such a story. I’m really excited to read it though and I love that it explores the consequences of choice. Brilliant review. 😀

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