The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Series: The Poppy War #1
Publisher: Harper Voyager
First published May 1st 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Adult
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon
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.
Wow. This was INCREDIBLE.
This book is set in an extremely dark world with Chinese history/culture in it. It’s brutal, cruel, “realistic” and hell aw-striking. Our main character came from nothing, building her life step-by-step to reach where she wanted to be, even tho everyone tried to push her down both mentally and physically. She defies everything by conquering a place for her in a military academy, but life doesn’t become easier, it’s actually about to get MUCH MORE complicated.
This book deals with shamans, gods, “magic”, war, drugs-opium, racism, oppression and a lot more. It’s incredibly packed full with greatness and it’s one of the most gripping fantasy books I’ve read. It’s impossible to put down and it just drags you in into all those people’s (often terrifying) lives and everything seems so realistic that is impossible not to feel emotional with it. It broke my hearts, it put me in the edge of my sit, it made me late for work, it literally stole my life while I was reading it. It’s incredibly vivid and I was all for it. *Also, when I say magic, in this case, is a completely different style than usual. It’s unique and terrifying and OH MY GOD I LOVED IT.
I freaking loved Rin. She is such an incredible person! She is fiery and determined and she will do anything to be better – to be the best. She is incredibly hard-working and she surprised me on every page. I love how much she grew during this book, and how attached that made me feel. She is one of the best character’s I’ve read about and I loved how everything she got was due to her hard-freaking-work. GOALS!
There are also tones of other amazing characters here that will either steal your heart or make you want to kill them… I loved Rin’s mentor, some classmates that even tho some I hated at first managed to steal my heart anyways. I really cared for many characters in this book, and I feel that they were immensely well constructed and developed. I just can’t wait to see more of them!
If you don’t like books that describe too many atrocities, prepare yourself, because this one sure does. When I said this was realistic, I wasn’t kidding, there’s A LOT of horrors in this book. Horrors still committed at this point in the world, and they are striking. It’s full of death, blood, and torture. It’s not, by all means, a light book, it’s hard and dark and yet full of amazing characters, friendships and a hint of romance, and I would whole-heartedly recommend it!
Have you read this yet? What do you think of it? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!