Book Review

The Poppy War Review

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)



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 Review

Content/Trigger Warnings: Drug Abuse [not talking about those used for certain Shamanic reasons], Self-harm, racism, genocide, detailed violent war crimes including torture, rape, and murder, detailed violence in general and a lot of death, and animal deaths and cruelty.

How do you even review a book like The Poppy War? I’ve been sitting here so long my coffee has gone cold and I’m still just trying to form sentences.

This book was amazing, brutal, brilliant, and for the love of all in the universe, so incredibly tense after a certain point.

Kuang uses everything at her disposal to give us a book that accurately depicts the cruelty of war and what happens when neither side recognizes the other as human, when the enemy is always a monster. She uses the facts of a brutal part of history and weaves it into this world she’s created that is more real than our own at times.

Rin is this incredibly in depth MC who I felt a fierce loyalty to from the start even though I wanted to shake her at times. But even better was that our MC had this AMAZING supporting cast of characters. Her professors, her mentor, her friends, classmates, all of them were multi-layered and fleshed out.

Kitay was my favorite, but I’m deeply, deeply afraid to have a favorite in these books. I can tell Kuang means to leave a trail of broken hearts and collect all our tears in a jar to use for further inspiration in her other writing ventures.

My notes were so reactive that I couldn’t really use them to write this review, literally looking at them now and it’s stuff like ‘Rin punched that kid, it was *chef’s kiss*’ and ‘classist piece of shit’ and my favorite ‘Rin is gonna cause so much havoc, I can just feel it.’

Honestly, I have not read a fantasy book this immersive or powerful in quite a while. This renewed my passion for the genre.

The interaction between Rin and Altan was so different and amazing compared to the equally amazing interactions between Rin and Nezha or Rin and Jiang, and everything is so nuanced!

I AM GUSHING, I AM A FANGIRL, I PLEDGE MY ALLEGIANCE TO KUANG…even if she makes me sob and unable to function.

That’s another thing, this book gave me a MAJOR book hangover, be prepared. It is heavy, it is deep, and it hits you like a full blown punch to the gut every page, but especially that ending.

The death of a certain character had me flipping my shit, I thought I was going to die of shock and the steps that Rin takes towards the end of the book had me shuddering in fear for her.

Kitay needs to stay around for book two, even though, I’m so sure I’m going to regret saying that.

Do you want a book that will ruin you? Add this one to your list. I loved it, and I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. It’s a prime of example of how if we just ignore the popularity of say a certain author, who still has’t’ finished his books, and focus on diversifying our shelves to include more than the ‘staples’ of white Western fantasy, we can find some incredible reads that are more worthy of our time.

5/5 Cups of coffee, off to my TPW therapy lol.

By TheCaffeinatedReader

A Caffeinated Reader and Musician, destined to write lacklustre book reviews with the over-ample amount of free time.

5 replies on “The Poppy War Review”

I’ll admit, I was really, really into your review, and then I saw the list of trigger warnings and went, “wow, that is… a lot.” A lot of the other reviews for TPW (that I’ve read, anyway) don’t really give a reason for all the trigger warnings beyond “there’s a war” but your review actually makes it lot clearer — neither side sees the other as human and deserving of compassion/mercy, and therefore war crimes are abundant. I’m still rather apprehensive about reading this book, but I feel like I now better understand what I’m getting into.

Liked by 1 person

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