The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang
Publication: May 1st, 2018
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.
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The Poppy War is not something I recommend to everyone. It acquires a certain taste and I am still on the fence on reading book two. No that is not fair. I will read it just probably not when it comes out. I wouldn’t even recommend this to people who love Fantasy and Historical Fiction because this book is WORDY. Towards the end, I truly had to skim read because it was too much. The book felt like a lifetime to get through and a chore to read at times. This is not to say it was bad you just have to really like your fantasy/historical fiction to be more descriptive than action to enjoy this. The book didn’t have enough balance for me or pacing. I really felt like I read about Rin’s whole entire damn life. When we did get action it was good but nothing ever felt like the stakes were high enough or like her power was going to come out. I did enjoy it but I don’t think it was as great as I was hoping or how great people made it out to be.
The author certainly knows how to weave a great story with a lot of depth and growth throughout the plot and characters. The biggest issue is making the reader feel like they are reading a history book and not a fiction fantasy book. I also did enjoy how the characters were written. The story was in Rin’s point of view but I still felt the depth in the others and every voice felt different. I enjoyed how the author wrote the interactions between everyone. I just wish we got to see Rin stand up for herself much more in certain situations. Also, because of the content, I really enjoyed that we didn’t have to deal with a romance. I think the author said Rin was asexual or aromantic (I am not sure which) so, if that is true then there is some representation of that in the book. But, it is not clarified so, I am not sure. We just see her get flustered and call guys beautiful sometimes.
Well, f*** the heavenly order of things. If getting married to a gross old man was her preordained role on this earth, then Rin was determined to rewrite it.
“…But if anyone can survive here, it’s you. Don’t forget what you did to get here.” He straightened up. “And don’t ever come back to the south. You’re better than that.”
Success required sacrifice. Sacrifice meant pain. Pain meant success.
But the misery she felt now was a good misery. This misery she reveled in, because she had chosen it for herself.
“…War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.”
I have become something wonderful, she thought. I have become something terrible. Was she now a goddess or monster? Perhaps neither. Perhaps both.
“You’re going to paint the world in Atlan’s blood, aren’t you?” “I’m going to find and kill everyone responsible,” said Rin. “You cannot stop me.” Chaghan laughed a dry, cutting laugh. “Oh, I’m not going to stop you.”
She was no victim of destiny. She was the last Speerly, commander of the Cike, and a shaman who called the gods to do her bidding. And she would call the gods to do such terrible things.