The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang [SPOILER REVIEW]
When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
Disclaimers: There are so many spoilers ahead of you, like SO MANY, but you already know that because you read the title. What you don’t know, however, is that we’ll be taking on one of the most joyous aspects of The Poppy War and that’s swearing, so LET’S GO.
So, were thinking the other day, how do we get to rave liking demonic fangirls about books we love without spoiling the entire thing for would be readers AND THE ANSWER WAS SIMPLE.
WE’LL JUST DO TWO REVIEWS.
So, hello and welcome to the spoiler review of The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang where smart girls give zero fucks and obstacles better get out of their way before they get moved.
Aren’t you excited!?
You are. We can tell.
The Poppy War is a book about a girl called Rin who, in order to get out of a future marriage development practiced dubious studying methods and got into the most prestigious school in the Empire. Yo, Sinegard, what’s up?
Rin’s answer cookie. It’s evident from the beginning of the novel, but she’s also, sometimes, a dim cookie and she made the kind of decisions on occasion that had us ready to throw her off a cliff. A major example of one of her bad decisions being somewhere around halfway through the book where she called down a god after being warned not to and then suffered the consequences.
Consequences being dead people and dead people and even more dead people…
God, we love fantasy.
The Poppy War is basically two books fit into one and it benefits so much from the sheer amount of world building and action that happened because of it. It would have been a major mistake to split it in two. There’s just no moment where you feel something end sufficiently to cut the story up.
It’s obvious that the author and editors and everyone else were doing their jobs.
What wasn’t obvious, however was ALL THE BLOODY DECEPTIONS.
Su Daji isn’t a good woman. She’s a bad one. Jiang isn’t just an adorable eccentric teacher who gives us heart eyes. He’s a man who comes from legend and wooh! He should put that on his dating profile. Legendary lover. Hollah
In the vein of the deceptions there are characters who our opinion has done a one eighty on.
Nezha, who started out a classist little bitch is the boy who we ship Rin hard with. Now, he may or may not be dead and Rin may or may not be a newly minted genocidal teenager by the end of the book, but the chemistry between them is lit. We could practically feel sparks flying off our phone screen.
Our opinion of Altan also changed drastically. He started off so cool. We were like, yes, this is the guy who Rin should be friends with, but then he became an asshole and we really didn’t like him. We thought, go play in traffic Altan. Get hit by a truck Altan. Altan? Altan!? Why are you still alive?
*cue evil laughter*
On a side note, Altan and his lieutenant totally had a thing going on behind the scenes and we’d like it to be confirmed in canon, thanks
Despite all the wonderfully dark thing that happen in The Poppy War, there are dark things that aren’t remotely wonderful and honestly, they made our insides twist, but they worked for the story. War isn’t grand and epic, it’s gritty and awful and Kuang does a good job of reminding us of that.
In conclusion, this has been the easiest review we’ve ever written and we’ll be doing more spoiler reviews like this in the future. Focusing back on this book, however, you need to read it because it’s great and because we’re going to throw it at your head until you give in and dive in and die with happiness as you reach the end. Okay? Okay.
Thanks for reading, make sure to sound off in the comments!