I ended 2020 with a crazy bang after I completed The Poppy War series.
It took sweat, blood, and tears…
Since I gobbled these books down in practically two weeks, A) I didn’t have time to write a comprehensive review for each one. B) I’m so emotionally burned out I don’t even have the words to describe these books.
I wrote a brief summary for each of these books and included obviously my views and thoughts about them! I wanted you guys to have a one stop for the whole series, and don’t worry any spoilers mentioned I will make a note of that before hand so rest assured you can read my review of all 3 books even if you hadn’t read them yet.
Disclaimer: By ordering the book via my Blackwell’s affiliate program, I receive a small commission at no extra cost from you.
An important note I would like to point out is how to approach this book. This isn’t like other high fantasies like Throne of Glass or Six of Crows. This is Game of Thrones but with true historical context. I found the series way more impactful after I read some of the real life events and the cultural mythology behind them. Tiffany @ Read by Tiffany has written this amazing post : “Everything You Need to Know Before You Read The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang” and that’s basically where I learnt a lot of info.
By now you might have heard again and again how dark this book is from other readers and bloggers, but it is not an exaggeration. For me it was even harder because I knew that so many tragedies that Kuang has written about or took inspiration from actually happened.
So approach this book with more historical context, do not treat this as a fantasy adventure to be enjoyed, and do not compare this book with other YA popular fantasies like ACOTAR, TOG, SOC, The Folk of Air, and other similar styles of fantasy.
Book 1 | The Poppy War
Fang Runin “Rin” is a war orphan living in dire conditions working under her foster family in smuggling opium to put food on the table. Though no one says it, opium is the aftermath of war and crisis facilitated by Nikara’s long standing enemy: The Federation of Mugen.
When Rin’s parents forces her hand into an arranged marriage, she rebels and crafts her own path by excelling at the rigorous Kenju examination and making her way onto Sinegard academy.
There she discovers her supernatural abilities to summon gods and otherworldly beings, and with The Federation on the shores of the Nikara Empire Rin may just be the key to ending this longstanding war once and for all. But the question is: at what cost?
This has to be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written because I can’t explain fully what this book does to you. This is one of those books that you’ll read and have altered your way of thinking completely. It’s a book that forces you to think and entertain other ideas which is an incredible feat for a YA book.
This book is all about high stakes where you have no idea who’s going to be left standing, it’s like reading Percy Jackson all over again with Rick torturing us with cliff hangers, character deaths and agony.
All of the events in the book were inspired by real life happenings that just make your heart falter.
The only thing I would fault here is that the main character Rin can get too impulsive and reckless, and that brings me major anxiety especially with fantasy novels. It’s like I’m already worried about the plot of the story I do not need to worry about you too lol.
Book 2 | The Dragon Republic
In book 2, Rin is haunted by the atrocities she committed and has witnessed in order to save a crumbling empire.
Yin Vaisra, The Dragon Warlord, has glorious plans to reconstruct the crumbling empire into a democratic and civil republic.
Rin desperately trying to right her wrongs, sees the vision in Vaisra’s dream republic and agrees to fight in his war towards Nikara’s salvation and freedom. But politics as Rin soon finds out is a bloody and cunning business…
This second book effectively destroyed me. So many things happen, and you’re left with a more scarring perspective on the vile effects of warfare.
I can’t speak for the accuracy about mental health representation but as a reader the way Kuang has demonstrated PTSD, grief, depression, and the rage that follows those who have been in war to me was the most believable representation in historical fantasy yet. It is absolutely incredible how she continues to wield all of these emotions and allows us readers to envision clearly what is going on in the characters’ minds.
I was definitely invested more in this book than the first one, mainly because the first book left off in a major cliff hanger!
A lot of character development also happened in this but not from Rin in my opinion. She’s still impulsive and reckless, and dare I say it sometimes downright bratty.
Book 3 | The Burning God
THE FINALE. Rin has been betrayed, allies became enemies, enemies became pawns, and more enemies crowded the shores of Nikara as the blue eyed blonde haired Hesperians invaded Nikara provinces and cities.
Returning to her Southern roots, she is determined to take back Nikara by leading the common masses who see her as a goddess and are willing to go through hell if it means getting their vengeance on the Nikara authority who has left them for dead and on the Hesperians who thought them as worthless as dirt.
Meanwhile in the back of her mind, The Phoenix God is alluring Rin into insanity as he tries to paint the world in fire and blood. Will she be strong enough to resist it?
Holy cow, I made it. I’m still reeling but I freaking made it. This was an incredibly captivating read! By now Kitay, a side character who cemented himself forever in my heart has become my absolute favorite. In the last two books, Kuang depicts even more of a brutal and merciless picture of war, colonization, and religious discrimination. So things get reallyyyyy dark.
What scares me is that Kuang proved her point that war changes people; by the third book I found myself slightly desensitized by the gore and blood because she has written and depicted them so many times it isn’t as shocking.
To me the ending was magnificent, eye bawling, heart stopping, and PERFECT.
The reason why this lost that half star is because there are events were I thought were a bit rushed and others were prolonged. But that did not deter me from the book at all.
Okay this space is for my spoiler included ranting (warning may include unpopular opinions):
- I never fully liked Rin, yes I sympathize and feel so bad for the horrors she has been through but ultimately I don’t agree with her reasoning and at times she can be extremely selfish and self centered. If it weren’t for a captivating story and writing, this book could have dropped way down in rating.
- You have no idea how annoyed I got with Altan, the guy is dead and she is STILL gushing over him after two books…I…
- Kitay deserves the whole world and I’ll be honest he’s too good for anybody including Rin.
- Ya’ll might kill me for this one, but I like Nezha (FYI this is after book 2). Every time he appeared in chapters I’m always waiting to see what he says or does because the dynamic he has with Rin is terrific, and he demands a presence wether you like him or not. Not going to lie I was secretly rooting for him 🙈 👀
- I had great satisfaction every time any character called out the other character’s BS, especially Rin.
Okay this is already a long enough post so I might do another one with all of the historical symbolism and events that I found so cool! (I’m a history buff ya’ll so this is heaven to me 😂)
I hope you guys loved this post, I really wanted to do something that was encompassing so you guys could get the full scoop! Tell me have you read The Poppy War or are you planning to read it?