Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F. Kuang
Age Group: Adult
Series: Untitled Series, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I found this book through a recommendation on Instagram and several magazines that I follow, and I ordered it from my library, given that almost every review on it was glowing. It sat in my stack for a while, and then I realized that it went back to the library today, so as soon as I was finished reading Bookishly After Ever, I pushed it to the top of my stack. It’s been three days, and I’m honestly still not quite sure how to put my feelings into words. Magical, violent, gory and darkly funny, The Poppy War has become one of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Talk about a smashing debut!
The Poppy War opens with Runin Fang, a poor village girl from Tikany, a tiny town where she works as the unfortunate ward of her foster parents, The Fangs, who just happen to be opium smugglers. Wanting out of a forced marriage to a rich old man in her village, Rin plots for escape, and it comes in the form of the Keju, the Empire-wide aptitude test to find the most talent youths for the country’s most prestigious military academy. But once there, she discovers that everyone looks down on her for her low lineage, gender, and dark skin, and even more surprising, that she holds a promising talent for an art that is nearly lost: shamanism. Exploring the depths of her newfound power with an instructor addled by his own demons and psychoactive drugs, she realizes that she is able to, quite literally, summon the gods—gods she thought was nearly nonexistent, or dead. And mastering the power inside her could mean so much more than surviving school at the academy…
This book was absolutely amazing, and a total surprise. First, I’m a total sucker for fantasy. It makes it even better that this fantasy was so diverse; I loved it! The writing was beautiful, sparse and gorgeous and punchy, and I loved the pacing; it felt like this book was going to grab me by the throat and not let go. The worldbuilding was built off of actual Chinese history, and that was so cool; I’m definitely going to be researching that period when I am able. The magic and gods of this book were something that really appealed to me also. I mean, ancient gods and all kinds of magic systems? I am all kinds of here for it! The characters, though, and the world they lived in were my favorite parts of The Poppy War, especially Rin. I loved the way that she refused to let her circumstances cage her into a situation that she never wanted, and the way that she tore to the top of her class in her village and her academy of Sinegard. Jiang, Altan, Nehza, Venka, and The Empress were also great characters; I was breathless as I read this book. It showed the very real horrors of war and violence, and I was absolutely blown away. I loved the way that the point of view bounced from all the different characters, providing perspective on a deeper scale, but it always returned to Rin. And that ending! Oh my goodness, R.F. Kuang, where have you been all my life? The Poppy War was not by any means an easy book to get through, but I loved the journey that it took me on, and I can’t wait for more! The bottom line: A gorgeous, bloody series debut that was beautiful and glorious in the darkest kind of way, I loved The Poppy War! Next on deck: Sadie by Courtney Summers!