Book Review, Books!, NetGalley, Signal Boost

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Hey all, Dani here.

Who stayed up way past her bedtime to read a really great book? If you guessed me then you would absolutely be correct. Okay, so I technically stayed up really late on Sunday night to start reading this one. I told myself that I was only going to read for about a half-hour and then go to bed. Damian actually stuck to that, reading a volume of manga and then he curled up next to me and fell asleep. So I told myself just one more chapter. But then I finished that chapter and said, well, one more will be fine. And then I just kept reading. I finally forced myself to finish at almost the halfway point because despite not feeling tired, I knew that I needed to go to bed and get some sleep before work. And then I stayed up late again on Wednesday so I could read the last 80 pages of this book.

Does that give away how much I enjoyed this book? Not quite. Well, let’s just jump into the review so I can talk more about this great book.

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Summary

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.

My Thoughts

Rating: 5 stars

So…I’m mad for not listening to the great reviews and the hype last year because I waited this long to read a book that really impressed me. This book was popping up on pretty much every fantasy list of amazing upcoming releases and books that you need to read and so much more. And it sounded interesting but the hardcover also had a pretty hefty price tag. I held off on buying it, but then B&N had a sale and The Poppy War was one of the books on the 50% off list, which meant that I couldn’t tell myself no anymore. I picked it up, and then it sat on my shelf for the past few months.

The sequel will be released in August, but thanks to me just obsessively hitting the request button on NetGalley, I have an early e-galley which I plan to read very soon. That basically settled the debate in my mind about when I was finally going to pick this book up. If I wanted to get an early or on-time review up for The Dragon Republic then I knew I needed to get started on this series. I guess this brings us around to me reiterating that I’m mad at myself for not reading this book earlier.

The worldbuilding, the politics, the character development and interactions…I was so hooked by this story. I stayed up late two different nights to keep reading this when I knew that I actually needed to be going to bed. Totally worth it. I was drawn into Rin’s life and her hopes and dreams very quickly. We see her focus and work hard and fight for a better future for herself.

There is a lot of action in this one, and there’s also violence and a little bit of gore. Oh, and there’s a scene where Rin gets her first period and then makes a decision that alters the rest of her life. I totally understood her decision and respected her choice considering the life path she chose for herself. Okay fine, I’m going to just go ahead and spit it out. I don’t consider this a SPOILER but if you don’t want anything revealed then skip the next paragraph, okay? You’ve been warned.

Rin makes the decision to take a concoction that will completely destroy her uterus, making it so she won’t have periods anymore, and she definitely won’t be able to have children. She doesn’t see herself wanting to be a mother, and she doesn’t really like the pain and mess from even just a day or two of being on her period. So she deals with the pain of killing her reproductive organs because she just wants to be a soldier and not deal with the “weakness” of having a monthly period. It’s completely her choice, and actually the others in the nurse’s office/medical treatment center of the elite military academy don’t look down on her or blame her for choosing to eliminate the chance of being a mother down the line. In fact, it seems as if they just respect her decision, and then they hand over the medicine/poison that will do the deed.

All right, END OF SPOILER section. But seriously, I loved the time spent at the school setting, and I loved the politics of these countries, and the hints of religion, and the diverse characters, and the fascinating magic system (helped by the use of drugs). It drew me in so easily, and I wanted to keep reading. If I hadn’t forced myself to put the book down on Sunday night at almost 11pm, I probably would have continued until I finished, which likely would have been around 2am. For the record, my alarm clock goes off at 4:15am, so that would have made for an awful Monday at work. But that’s just how invested I was in the book. I wanted to keep going.

And now it’s going to be a struggle to hold off on the sequel until next month…but then again, I have a rather intimidating stack of books still remaining on my May TBR, so perhaps I’ll be all right.

Where to Buy

You can pick up your own copy of this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore.

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20 thoughts on “Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang”

      1. My phone decided to post my reply when I still had more to say, lol. Anyway, I’ve really been reading a lot lately, and it makes it really easy to read 500+ page books in a couple days. But I realize that not every reader reads like I do, and that’s totally fine. What matters is whether or not we enjoy a read, not how long it takes us to finish.

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    1. Thank you! Most of the time I’m this enthusiastic about all the books I review but the words don’t gush out like they did for this one. I guess that’s why people keep telling me that I need to start a BookTube.

      Good luck, and I hope you enjoy The Poppy War.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great review! I still need to pick this one up.. But I definitely will! All the reviews for this one have been fantastic!
    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always get worried when I see so much positive hype about a book release, and I think that’s what kept me from reading this one for so long. I’m glad that it lived up to the hype, and now I’m trying to hold off until next month to read my e-galley of the sequel.

      I hope if you pick it up that you enjoy it as well.

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