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The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)
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BotM Discussion - FANTASY > The Poppy War / Overall discussion / ***SPOILERS***

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Hayley | 468 comments I finished this book a couple of days ago and I really enjoyed it. It was refreshing to read something in a completely different setting from what I normally read and I really loved the main character Rin and how the story was told (with the exception of one tiny part) exclusively from her point of view. I just really felt for her and everything she had to go through.

I did feel like part 1 went on for a little too long though and was a bit 'been there seen that', young orphan goes to a training academy, gets bullied for being different and then overcomes said bullies. Apart from the bit with the pig, that made me laugh! I loved parts 2 and 3 though which felt completely different to part 1 in tone. I always enjoy a good war story in books, even if this was really brutal and horrific in parts.

I'll definitely be reading any sequels. I have a feeling a couple of characters aren't as dead as Rin thinks they are.


message 2: by Lel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1996 comments I felt the same about the first part of the book. I thought it was just going to be another YA coming of age book that was almost a mirror copy of others. How wrong I was!
I thought there was amazing depth of world and characters without the lecture feel that Grace of Kings had. I would say that the graphic descriptions of the ransacking of Golyn Niis did turn my stomach a bit, and I think i've got quite a high gore tolerance.
I also don't think all the characters that have died are necessarily dead and gone.
Not sure I agree with Rin's choice at the end of the book....


message 3: by Audrey, Queen of the Potato People (new) - rated it 3 stars

Audrey (niceyackerman) | 3048 comments Mod
The pig training made me think of Holes whenever it was mentioned.

I did like it overall, though it was more violent than I like for fiction, and Rin’s characterization seemed weak in the second half. I have a suspicion Nezha may show up again, though I hate the “not really dead after all!” trope.


Justine (Milkz)  (milkz) | 3 comments Hi there, first time I've been able to read a book in the group.

I enjoyed the book overall. It was an addicting read and I will definitely be picking up the sequel. My favorite part is the beginning half in the acadaemy. There's a ton of references to The Art of War which I thought was cool and I am all for martial arts tournaments.

However, I think the ending was rushed. I don't buy Rin's reasoning because she needed more time to build up her hatred. She felt like just a spectator for most of the second half. I could maybe get behind Atlan committing genocide because of all his anger, but it felt like Rin was angry more for what happened to Atlan and not their people.

I don't think Nezha is dead, too!


Peter | 28 comments I also ended up liking it for the most part. The setting and world building were probably my favourite aspects though since Rin started to get on my nerves as the story wore on. Whining and sulking, especially from the protagonist, always rubs me the wrong way and is the reason I tend to avoid YA books.

One part that struck me as a bit inconsistent though was how the idea of magic was so quickly dismissed initially, but then we got a whole squad of magic users that everyone just apparently dismissed as using illusions and tricks. I don't know, just felt jarring how abruptly we went from one end of the spectrum to the other.

And I agree with everyone's predictions so far: a lot of characters are going to come back from the dead in the subsequent books. Not sure I'll be picking them up to find out though.


Efrat | 90 comments Started as a typical YA story, but ended with mass merder. Disturbing...


message 7: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 2 stars

Roger | 2031 comments Mod
Efrat wrote: "Started as a typical YA story, but ended with mass merder. Disturbing..."

Yeah, I wasn't a fan of that ending and I could have lived without the disturbing things done in the town after it was taken. Definitely not my kind of story/author, I read to feel good not to be disturbed by what happens to innocent bystanders...


message 8: by Elle (last edited Aug 27, 2018 06:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Elle (elleay) | 49 comments Roger wrote: "Efrat wrote: "Started as a typical YA story, but ended with mass merder. Disturbing..."

Yeah, I wasn't a fan of that ending and I could have lived without the disturbing things done in the town after it was taken. Definitely not my kind of story/author, I read to feel good not to be disturbed by what happens to innocent bystanders... "


I understand being disturbed by what happened in the town. Kuang has an article on her website, on the necessity of brutality: why i went there, where she explains her decision. I'm not endorsing it, but thought her perspective interesting. Her bio page also states, "I immigrated to the US from Guangzhou, China in 2000. I have a BA in International History from Georgetown, where my research focused on Chinese military strategy, collective trauma, and war memorials."

Even though I thought the book well written and, for the most part, engaging, I do not believe I will continue reading this series.


message 9: by Wayland, Ernest Scribbler (new)

Wayland Smith | 3049 comments Mod
Another one I'm not going to get. I put myself on the wait list at the library, and during the month, moved from 27 to 22. I guess it's a slow read?


message 10: by Audrey, Queen of the Potato People (new) - rated it 3 stars

Audrey (niceyackerman) | 3048 comments Mod
They must not have many copies. It felt pretty fast to me.


Falynn - the TyGrammarSaurus Rex | 519 comments I liked it but I didn't love it - I think it's been overhyped a bit.

The setting is fascinating and I love the world-building, but most of the characters didn't feel "fixed" to me. Especially Rin - she would be described as thinking / feeling one thing and then 2 pages later she's completely changed her mind for no discernible reason. Or at least that's how it felt to me.

And the characters made some really, really, outstandingly bad decisions at times...

I think the author has serious promise, but this book never really gelled for me.


message 12: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan | 158 comments I really enjoyed this.

Even though I was sucked in right away, the potential for a love triangle and other YA tropes had me worried it would turn out to be more of a YA book (nothing against them--YA just isn't my thing usually). While the novel did straddle the line, I while I wasn't Rin's biggest fan (she was a fine character--I just don't like this type of protagonist that much), I absolutely loved the book overall and really devoured it.

Jiang and Nezha were definitely my favourites, and I'm excited to see what's happened to both of them. I was also really interested as to whether anyone else had picked up on Chaghan and Altan being lovers? It seemed like the author was dropping a few hints, and I wished there was a bit more confirmation as it would have added some more depth to Altan.

I was very pleased that Kuang didn't sugarcoat the violence of war--it would have been a disservice to the topic if she had. Though I was so sad about Irjah and Venka, and I think atrocities liked the ones described ought to evoke those kinds of negative emotions, and I applaud Kuang for not pulling punches.

I will definitely read the next one--hopefully there's not too long a wait!


Shawnie | 2065 comments My library copy finally came through a couple days ago, so I'm trying to power through it before the 31st. It's not taking a huge effort on my part, thank goodness. I'm really enjoying it so far.

@Elle, thank you for the info on the author. I worked in Guangzhou and Beijing some years ago and look forward to learning more about the author.


Maximum Beans (maximumbeans) | 515 comments Wayland wrote: "Another one I'm not going to get. I put myself on the wait list at the library, and during the month, moved from 27 to 22. I guess it's a slow read?"

I was lucky enough to be able to get it from the RNIB online audiobook library and listened to in on my phone over a day or three. It was alright I thought, but felt like different books in places.


message 15: by Hope (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hope | 62 comments Just finished it. I liked it, but I did feel like part 1 was more of "Wikipedia plot summary of Rin at school" than an actual story of her time at school. When classmates died or friends rejected her, I had zero cares to give because I never really "saw" them as characters.

I expected way more "grimdark" then I got, to be honest. I expected The Rape of Nanking retelling to be awful and told "on the ground" but all they saw was the aftermath. There are lots of worse violence in A Song of Ice and Fire. Same with the genocide at the end- it was done at a distance so I didn't care.

Overall it was interesting, and Rin reminded me strongly of Nona in Red Sister. Maybe I'll read the sequels. I'm wondering if this is going to end as a tragedy and if Rin is going to be the cruel new Empress on the throne by the end, consumed by her anger like Anakin Skywalker.


message 16: by Audrey, Queen of the Potato People (new) - rated it 3 stars

Audrey (niceyackerman) | 3048 comments Mod
Yeah, I definitely got a Red Sister vibe from it.


message 17: by Dawn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dawn | 1150 comments This was almost like reading two separate books. I enjoyed the the first part of the book where Rin attended the academy. There were lots of great characters with interesting hints about their history and motivations. Then I got to the second half of the book which was really frustrating as it became apparent that very little of this history and motivation was actually going to be explored and the book devolved into a dark and brutal portrayal of genocide and war atrocities that went on a little too long and in too much detail to be anything other than disturbing.


Shawnie | 2065 comments I'm seeing the above comments in play now. The whole atmosphere has changed and I'm losing interest.


message 19: by Sandy (last edited Sep 02, 2018 09:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sandy | 1665 comments Trying to catchup on all my comments after reading to hit the month end and crazy busy weekend.

I found this book interesting and agree my favorite character was Jaing. His character has some point to it, and justification and I thought that entombing himself after saving his apprentice was just what he would have done.

I could understand Altan's hatred and need of revenge because of the years of abuse to which he was subjected. Could have been a bit more foreshadowing on that bit.

Rin also was subject to much abuse as a child, and I felt the author could have made more of that with flashbacks. But all in all, I think Rin's mind changed so much because of how young she was. I think she had to be somewhere near 14. Right?

I think, because of the culture I live in, where the individual's rights are so important, verses a culture, it seemed, where life is for the emperor, I did have some trouble relating to some of the things that happened. The captain of the ship, the person who came to parley in the port city, all happy to commit suicide.

It was obvious to me that Rin was broken too - but her connection with the Speerly just didn't make sense. I thought Kitay was like her conscience and a good foil for Rin to bounce things off. Well done in part 1 not so much in part 2 or 3.

I also thought it interesting that there was very little in the way of sex in the book, except as a form of atrocity. I found that refreshing that the author didn't feel the need to add in those scenes.

I did find the book an easy read and worthy of the read and agree that some of the characters could have hidden talents and will come back in the next book.

I did not like how the book ended though. I thought the author was trying to put out some type of message but not really sure it was accomplished. I too, felt the tenor of the book changed tremendously between the first part and the last two. The last two parts had no character building when so much more could have been done. Rin's use of opium, after her childhood feelings rang false regardless of the reason.


Maximum Beans (maximumbeans) | 515 comments At last! I've been reading the thread since I finished the book, just waiting for somebody to make a Red Sister comparison! I couldn't agree more!


message 21: by Audrey, Queen of the Potato People (new) - rated it 3 stars

Audrey (niceyackerman) | 3048 comments Mod
I still don’t quite buy that Rin is a Speerly.

Rin is supposed to turn away from the path to hero and instead fall to darkness, but it does seem like some steps to that destination are missing.


message 22: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan | 158 comments Definitely reminiscent of Red Sister!


And yeah, Rin being a Speerly must be misdirection. I think she's something else.

Even though I very much enjoyed this one, I agree that it does have two very different tones from one part to the next. I enjoyed the school chapters more because there was more opportunity to flesh out character, but in the war chapters we were thrust in with a bunch of new people (for the most part) who I was less interested in (and Altan and Rin weren't my favourites, so they didn't do much for me). That said, I was turning pages like a madman at the end.


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