The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang

You can read this review in portuguese here.

The Poppy War is a ruthless book. It is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is my first favorite book of 2021.

War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.

We follow the journey of Fang Runin, better known as Rin, a young girl who in trying to escape a future of an arranged marriage, applies to take an exam, The Keju, a test that will allow her to study in one of the most prestigious academies of the Nikara Nation. When Rin not only passes the test but aces it everyone is surprised, including herself. This is only the beggining of the journey for this spectacular protagonist in this military fantasy inspired by 20th century chinese history.

Because if she coud just erase her past, then she could write herself into whoever she wanted to be in the present.

I don’t even know where to star talking about this book. For months now I’ve been wanting to read The Poppy War and I knew it had to be one of the first books I read in 2021. This book is the first in the trilogy and it genuinely had me shocked with how fast paced it is and how many things happen in a single book. For example at just 30% of the story the amount of time and things that happen would be enough for many first-book-in-a-series, but there were still another 70% ahead! I literally didn’t know what to expect next and we were not even halfway through it. Years go by in the book and so many things change and never once you want to take your eyes off the page.

Rin is an incredible protagonist. I am in awe of her, I already love her so much. She starts strong even when she is just a little fourteen year old training for an excruciating exam and she grows and changes and she has such a fierce personality and seriously I don’t even know how to express it but I just know she became one of my favorite characters already. She reminds me a lot of Mia from Nevernight, in fact the first part of the book reminded me a lot of Nevernight and I thought it was really nice.

Rin had given up the luxury of fear a long, long time ago. She had wanted to give up so many times. It would have been easier. It would have been painless. But throughout everything, the one thing she had held on to was her anger, and she knew one truth: She would not die like this. She would not die without vengeance.

This is a cruel book. This is a book about war. There are some heavy subjects discussed in this book and it is inspired by the Second Sino-Japanese War, more specifically The Nanjing Massacre also known as The Rape of Nanjing, so beware that there will be dark things and a lot of violence. So there are trigger warnings for any war related theme with graphic descriptions.

The book also mixes up the drug elements inspired by the Opium Wars with Avatar The Last Airbender, I’m using this example because it’s the best I can think of, but in truth it’s a mixture of gods and the spiritual realm and shamanism and mad entombed gods and the neverending quest for power. In truth trying to sum up The Poppy War is pratically impossible and also a disservice to this book, after all it does feel like I’ve read at least three books in one, all perfectly balanced and constructed, with a preciseness and a minucious craft that left me speechless.

It feels like The Poppy War is the book I’ve been waiting for a long time, maybe even years. This book was exactly what I wanted, the type of book that just makes you feel so engrossed in it you can’t think about anything else. This was a very busy week for my but I craved the two hours a day I had sorted out to read this like I craved air. This was a reading experience like no other. I cannot even fathom what will happen next in this story but I am so ready for it.

You can purchase this book via my affiliate link and I’ll receive a small comission, click here for the english edition.

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