- Hardcover: 530 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager (1 May 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062662562
- ISBN-13: 978-0062662569
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.7 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 703 g
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Poppy War Hardcover – 1 May 2018
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"A thrilling, action-packed fantasy of gods and mythology...The ambitious heroine's rise from poverty to ruthless military commander makes for a gripping read, and I eagerly await the next installment."--Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
"In The Poppy War, RF Kuang draws on history and myth to tell a relentlessly unforgiving story of war, vengeance, power and madness, with larger-than-life characters that evoke sympathy and rouse terror. Brace yourself."--Fonda Lee, award-winning author of The Green Bone Saga
"Debut novelist Kuang creates an ambitious fantasy reimagining of Asian history populated by martial artists, philosopher-generals, and gods [...] This is a strong and dramatic launch to Kuang's career."--Publishers Weekly
"The narrative is an impactful, impressive symphony of words that grant life to this incredible morality tale. Setting the stage for an epic fantasy is an understandably enormous undertaking, but Kuang does an exceptional job of world and character building."--RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars, Top Pick!)
"A young woman's determination and drive to succeed and excel at any cost runs into the horrors of war, conflict and ancient, suppressed forces in R. F. Kuang's excellent debut novel, The Poppy War."--The Skiffy and Fanty Show
This Summer's Hottest New Books For Every Type of Reader--Popsugar
"An original and engrossing tale of the coming of age of a talented young soldier amid the horrors of invasion and genocide."--Anna Stephens, author of Godblind
"A powerful, emotional journey, compellingly written."--Adrian Tchaikovsky, award-winning author of The Children of Time
"[THE POPPY WAR] feels entirely immersive and rich in a way that kind of sucks you in [...] It's a treasure trove."--Utopia State of Mind
From the Back Cover
She is a peasant.
She is a student.
She is a soldier.
She is a goddess.
When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to study 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 always thought they’d be able to marry Rin off to further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was now 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 the Nikara Empire—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Rin is targeted from the outset by rival classmates because of her color, poverty, and gender. Driven to desperation, she 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 her powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For even though the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied the Nikara Empire for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people in the Empire would rather forget their painful history, 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 who has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her her humanity.
And it may already be too late.
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At the heart of The Poppy War is Fang ‘Rin’ Runin, an ambitious Nikaran war orphan raised by a pair of opium smugglers. To escape a life of robbed of agency and an arranged marriage, Rin plotted and blackmailed her way into sitting the Imperial Keju examination, subsequently gaining access to Sinegard – Nikara’s leading military and combat academy. In Sinegard, Rin contends with students from privilege backgrounds and instructors who underestimate her worth. What I love about Rin is her drive and ambition, the way she refuses to let anyone else take control of her life’s narrative. In a fantasy genre filled with Chosen Ones with preordained destiny, Rin stands out by using sheer grit and determination to dictate her own fate.
Aside from Rin, there is a host of intriguing characters populating The Poppy War. I love the ‘easter eggs’ hidden for readers familiar with Chinese folklore and classic texts, such as Su Daji and Jiang Ziya, or Nezha and the members of Cike – these figures are simultaneously familiar and recognisable yet stand on their own merits as complex and unique characters. As the book documents a period of several years, we are privy to the development of several characters throughout their Sinegard schooling and beyond. There are characters I wanted to punch at the beginning of the book, only for them to become one of my favourites by the end (although I would still like to punch them). While I may not always agree with the decisions of certain characters, I could sympathise with them as their choices are always grounded in realistic and complex motivations.
The book is inspired by modern Chinese history, particularly touching on the Second Sino-Japanese war and the Nanjing Massacre. Its use of fantastical and fictional elements to directly commentate on the wounds left by war and the ghost of memories is nothing short of brilliant. The Poppy War exemplifies why SFF as a genre excel at starting difficult conversations about the issues in our world. The dialogue that The Poppy War begins is uncomfortable but necessary, and its execution was raw and honest – I can see this as a book that would haunt its readers and be discussed for years to come.
There is a lot of darkness within this book, and several difficult and triggering scenes which mirror horrific events in real life. These scenes are harrowing to read, and I felt physically ill at one point – so I highly recommend that all readers take care before diving into the novel. I thought the unflinching inclusion of these brutalities in the story was necessary, and would highly recommend you read the author’s own take on it.
Here’s a list of content warnings: self-harm and suicide, violent rape including the rape of minors, sexual assault, murder, genocide, massacres, torture, mutilation, brutalisation, drug abuse and addiction, emotional abuse, physical abuse, relationship abuse, human experimentation.
If you’ve seen my activity across social media in the past weeks, it’s no secret that The Poppy War is one of my favourite books of 2018. However, there are a couple of things I would love to see explored in future books. Firstly, the ableism in one scene – where someone comments that a character would be better off dead than disabled. Secondly, while there are many women within positions of power within the novel, aside from Rin, they all play a minor role to the men in the current narrative. I believe the antagonist set up for the subsequent novels will change that, but I would love to see more women in prominent roles for the rest of the series.
I am still left reeling by this book, the fate of its characters, the scope of its world. The Poppy War 2 is already my most anticipated novel of 2019, and I can’t wait for the day I get to pick it up and have my heart destroyed once more.
One more thing - I recognised so many details from the Nanjing Massacre. If you're sensitive to brutality or unfamiliar, wiki that and get a general flavour before you start reading part 2, so you're prepped. This book is absolutely worth reading with or without that. Damn!
CONTENT WARNING: Yes I should note, this book does come with a content warning as it covers Warfare and the author does not at all sugarcoat it from battle to Prisoner of War (PoW) treatment to torture. It is quite graphic, however I feel the author did a great job in writing these parts as once again, she kept it real despite the world we are reading. Although parts were not easy to read, I realise they would not have been easy to write, but these parts were written so well nonetheless. I had numerous emotional reactions throughout the book: gasping, laughing, cringing, anger - there’s even a part that was a bit of a tearjerker..
I loved this book so much, I loved the characters.. this is not a book I will forget in a hurry!!!
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