Megan's Reviews > The Poppy War

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
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bookshelves: blurbs-and-opinions, grownup-swords-and-lasers


This book starts off as Protector of the Small but for (definitely, please dear god, very grown up) grown ups. Rin tests into the most prestigious military academy in the country despite being a peasant. School is full of amazing teachers and magic lessons and martial arts, but also bullies and prejudice. Rin punches a dude on the first day of school for being an asshole. It's amazing. And then the neighboring empire declares war on this empire and the story just ratchets on up from there.

Dense but gorgeous, the war erupts off the page, vengeful and consuming, like the god that grants Rin her powers. The combat is brutal, the magic is mystical, the prose is lush, without being overly purple. The magic here is fascinating and fresh, as is the worldbuilding, rooted in Chinese history and mythology--the history in this book is rich and unsanitized. Terrible things happen. Like. Genocide-level terrible things. Torture, rape, murder, mutilation. (I was not prepared for Golyn Niis. If anyone wants trigger warnings for part 3, I'm sure that a list exists somewhere and I can do my best, but just realistically assume Everything.) And yet, while all this war horror was happening, I found myself continually drawn further into the story, and into the exploration of war and choices and mistakes and vengeance and dehumanization, the exploration of identity and inheritance and anger, the exploration of control. It was fascinating.

It helps that the characters are real and raw, and full of wanting. They are allowed to feel--anger, grief, all-consuming hatred--and fully inhabit their emotions in a way that most characters only touch upon. The choices made in this book are absolutely raw, over and over, these terrible people doing what they have to, these good people doing terrible things because they have to. Rin, obviously, is the star, and her mistakes burn and wrench and ache and it's amazing.

This book kind of made me want to throw up, but at the same time, there’s nothing I don’t like about this book. If you can handle the brutality (Game of Thrones has nothing on this, I s2g), then get reading because WOW. Just wow.
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Reading Progress

May 17, 2019 – Started Reading
May 19, 2019 – Shelved
May 21, 2019 – Shelved as: blurbs-and-opinions
May 21, 2019 – Finished Reading
October 31, 2019 – Shelved as: grownup-swords-and-lasers

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