The Poppy War (2018)
Author – R. F. Kuang
Genre – Fantasy
Page Count – 464 pages
I recently read The Poppy War and I think its safe to say that it has quickly become one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. With a Nebula Awards nomination, The Poppy War has found a place in a lot of reader’s TBR but I believe that it deserves so much more because its simply a work of genius.
Its time to move on from Harry Potter and give our undivided attention to new series like these which are honestly more literary and aware.
The Poppy War follows Fang Runin, known as Rin as she makes her way from being foster child about to be married off to an old man, to a Lore student at the prestigious Sinegard Academy under the eccentric Master, Jiang and a soldier under the command of a Sinegard legend, Altan.
It would be unfair to write a summary of this book because it spans over a long time and Rin goes through a lot in the process. But if you have had The Poppy War on your unread shelf for a life and need a reason to pick it up NOW, here’s 6 of them.
1. Rin is not your regular YA heroine.
The Poppy War is not particularly young adult fantasy, but our MC, Rin is a teenager throughout the first book. Rin is not heartless or a trained assassin or adept at politics and strategy right off the bat.
She has humble beginnings, experiences discrimination for her background at Sinegard, makes a lot of mistakes at the academy and then in the Cike which makes her an extremely human and relatable character. She starts with practically no skills and makes her way forward from there.
2. Jiang is the teacher we all deserve.
Jiang Ziya, Rin’s Lore Master is known throughout the academy as a man so eccentric, he doesn’t need to be in the academy at all. After all, he teaches a subject like Lore which doesn’t have any value.
But when Rin becomes his only student, you realize that Jiang’s wisdom knows no bounds. Yes, he is crazy but he is also patient and wise and helps Rin put aside her biases to find her place in the Universe. Quite literally.
Fun Fact – Jiang Ziya was a real person.
3. Heroes make mistakes
This is probably one of the main themes of the book and it really resonated with me. Everybody makes mistakes and for people like Rin and Altan, who are young and inexperienced but have been given a lot of responsibility, decisions are not always the wisest.
Rin and Altan make mistakes even ones which have drastic consequences but that’s the reason they make for great characters.
4. The research is amazing.
To take the combat style and strategy from modern Chinese history and mixing it up with mythical stories and presenting it all in the form of a book must have been difficult.
But the author delivers!
I couldn’t help but feel a lot of awe at the descriptions and how flawlessly Rin’s progress and the world building were grown side by side.
5. Addiction can happen to anyone
Well, the book is named The Poppy War and opium plays an important role throughout the book especially in the lives of the Cike. But not all of it used as a method to channel powers from the gods.
Addiction comes in the book often and the characters know when they have crossed a line and its no more as simple as an aid.
6. War disrupts plans
Rin’s education at Sinegard ceases abruptly when the Third Poppy War erupts between the Federation Army and the Empire. There are casualties and children are not children anymore.
There are moments in the book when it becomes painful especially the parts about a city named Golyn Niis which becomes a target of the Federation Army’s brutality.
The Poppy War has become one of my favorite books of all time and I can not wait to dive into The Dragon Republic and The Burning God.
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