The Poppy War The Poppy War
Book 1 - The Poppy War

The Poppy War

A Novel

    • 4.3 • 948 Ratings
    • $15.99
    • $15.99

Publisher Description

“I have no doubt this will end up being the best fantasy debut of the year [...] I have absolutely no doubt that [Kuang’s] name will be up there with the likes of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.” -- Booknest

A Library Journal, Paste Magazine, Vulture, BookBub, and ENTROPY Best Books pick!

Washington Post "5 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel" pick!

A Bustle "30 Best Fiction Books" pick!

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

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.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy
May 1
Harper Voyager

Customer Reviews

mikemjohnson86 ,

Darkness and Lore

The lore was probably my favorite aspect of the story—I'm simple-minded that way. Watching Rin undergo her training, witnessing her growth, and learning to harness her gifts was captivating. She's the classic underprivileged character who thrives in a privileged society. She's not the best in her class, but—well, you get the idea, and so did author R.F. Kuang.

Rin's character arc was straightforward, yet her development felt refreshing. It's not often that we see a protagonist driven by greed and a thirst for power. There was a wonderfully in-depth exploration of the world of the gods, the Pantheon, and what the gods want, or in this case, what they don't want. Of course, Rin needed this power to help win a war.

Kuang was unflinching in her depiction of the consequences of war and how conquerors view the conquered:

"...if your opponent was not human, if your opponent was a cockroach, what did it matter how many of them you killed? What was the difference between crushing an ant and setting an anthill on fire?" [The Poppy War, R. F. Kuang]

The only issues I had were that I would have liked to have seen more of Rin's life outside school. We're told that Rin was raised by some cruel people, but unfortunately, we only get a glimpse of this, and it's mostly forgettable. The same happens with her younger brother—she reflects on him, but the emotional connection isn't fully developed. The side characters needed more depth; they came across as two-dimensional, which didn't engage us in their fates.

I loved the passage of time in this story. We don't always need our hands held through lengthy training montages, so that was a plus. There were some very dark, morbid events, some revealed by a former classmate of Rin's. These revelations motivated Rin more than anything else and the impact was plausible, considering she was the only woman to express what she had endured. Kuang provided a "boots on the ground" feel with a character who was fantastical. On a side note, 'The Poppy War' made me wonder... what if Naruto existed in the world of X-Men? I think this is a strong opening novel for a series.

Dmoneyzilla223388 ,

Fantastic book

I absolutely adore this book and series especially in the realistic portrayal of violence and evil that mirrors real events in China before and during world war 2. There’s no sugarcoating the way the characters are negatively effected and how badly the suffer in the midst of this terrible war.

narakku ,

Fire Bending with mad Gods

Exactly what the title says. Run becomes altruistic at will push to win the war by any means necessary

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