The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I requested a copy of this book off NetGalley because the cover was beautiful and the premise intriguing. The Poppy War is a story based on Chinese culture and draws inspiration from the Sino-Japanese war, and also deals with opium and drug use/abuse. This is the story of an orphan girl, the last survivors of a murdered race, of war and its horrors.

In short, The Poppy War is very well written. I can see it becoming very popular and doing quite well after release. It’s also dark, bloody, and not my type of book.

The Poppy War is broken up into 3 distinct parts. Part 1, my favourite part, mostly takes places in the military academy of Sinegard, the top school in the country. Rin, the main character, was unfairly challenged by social and racial prejudices. There’s some fantastic character development here, and I really loved this part of the book. It felt like a coming-of-age, magical school type of book. Then I hit part 2.

Parts 2 and 3 were much darker than the first part, and I did not enjoy them nearly as much. Not because they were poorly done or the story boring, but because it became much too dark for my tastes. This is where Kuang takes the characters from their secluded military academy and throws them headfirst into a war against people with no qualms about genocide.

The characters and the world at this point still interested me, and Kuang did a fantastic job of developing the characters as they went through the horrors of war. However, the descriptions here are incredibly graphic, and my enjoyment of the book began to wane. 

The Poppy War has fantastic potential. It’s well written, has interesting characters, a unique world, and a well thought out plot. It also includes self-harm, drug use/abuse, genocide, sexual abuse/assault, racism, human experimentation, violence, murder, and is very graphically dark.

The Poppy War releases on the 1st of May.

Audience

This book is probably best for people who like:

  • Grimdark fantasy
  • Military fantasy
  • Character focused fantasy
  • Asian inspired cultures/worlds

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