Review: The Poppy War

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F Kuang
Publication Date: May 1st 2018
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Rating: ★★★


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.

This book is a whirlwind of emotions that left me feeling all types of ways. I read this book back in May and I still think about it sometimes. Don’t be alarmed by the fact that I gave it three stars. Three stars for me still means that I enjoyed it. I think this book was a great primer into adult fantasy for me and I can’t wait to continue exploring the genre.

Before I start my review, I do want to say that this book has a lot of trigger and content warnings.

Self-harm – Suicide – Violent rape – Sexual assault – Murder – Massacres – Brutalization – Mutilation – Torture – Substance abuse – Abuse – Emotional abuse – Physical abuse – Relationship abuse – Human experimentation – Chemical warfare – Genocide

This is a very dark book and if that is something you can’t read about then maybe don’t pick up this book.


The main character Rin is such an interesting character with so many different facets to her. In the beginning of the book, you’re immediately drawn to Rin and empathize with her reasons for wanting to get out of the life that she started with. As the book continues on, you follow Rin’s journey in finding her place in the world. She makes some questionable choices and those choices lead her down paths you may not have seen coming. Rin goes from a girl who doesn’t have any power or control to someone the world fears and wants to take advantage of. Rin is an impressive character who you’ll either grow to love or you’ll be questioning her every choice.

The other characters in this book are also amazing and the relationships that form between them and Rin are some of my favorite. There are some characters that I love more than others but I think they all played an important part in molding Rin to be the person that she is by the end of the book. The side characters though also have their own characterization that makes you fall in love with them.


When I found out that Kuang wrote this book when she was 19 I was so shocked. It’s such a well written book with so many nuances and thought put into it especially in the historical aspect. I really love Kuang’s writing and want to just live in it.

There are many events throughout the course of this book that made me feel some type of way. You start to fall in love with the characters and everything that happens to them feels like such a punch to the gut. The side characters are some of my favorite I’ve ever read and I just love them all so much.

Overall Thoughts

I’m actually rereading TPW right now in preparation for The Burning God and I’m pretty sure my rating is going to go up. It’ll probably change from three stars to four. That has a lot to do with the sequel The Dragon Republic which I absolutely adored. I’m going to leave my three star rating on this review because that’s what I rated the book the first time I read through it. I most likely won’t do another review post after I finish my reread.

Upon rereading I think since I did a little research into the historical events that inspired TPW, I gained a better understanding of the book after researching the history behind it. I definitely recommend looking into those events before reading so you can gain a different perspective of the book and series.

This series definitely has become something I hold dearly to my heart and I’ve been going around recommending it to everyone. If you’re looking for a diverse book that deals with a lot of historical background I really recommend giving this series a try.

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