REVIEW: The Dragon Republic – R. F. Kuang (ARC)

41118857Title: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2)
Author: R. F. Kuang
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.

This review took me forever to write, because I couldn’t quite put into words the perfection of this book. There is no second book syndrome here, and no need to worry that it won’t live up to the hype: The Dragon Republic shines just as bright – if not more – than The Poppy War. Once again, R. F. Kuang has written a masterful fantasy story. 

Grimdark fantasies can be difficult to get through, but R. F. Kuang does an excellent job blending the darker aspects of the novel with lighter elements and some humorous dialogue. There’s a lot more political maneuvering happening in this book, as well as the consequences of actions taken in The Poppy War begin to make an appearance.

I think I enjoyed The Dragon Republic immensely more than The Poppy War for one major reason: the characters. New characters are introduced in this book that are essential to the story, such as The Dragon Warlord (Nezha’s father). I really enjoyed the complexity of his character and found myself easily understanding Rin’s reasoning for supporting him. Along with new faces, a couple of my favorite characters return from The Poppy War: Kitay and Nezha (!!!). The three of them are together for a good chunk of the book, it was amazing to watch Rin’s relationships with each of them deepen and grow. They really take center stage in this book, which I think is why I loved the book so much. Also, I don’t want to get too spoilery, but R. F. Kuang really gave me the fuel for my ship and my shipper heart was so thankful. ❤️

“Fire and water looked so lovely together. It was a pity they destroyed each other by nature.”

My original review was much different than this, because R. F. Kuang pulls a plot twist out of nowhere and nearly destroyed my will to live. The entire book is action-packed and fast-paced, but the tension really builds during the last few chapters with an ending that is going to sucker punch you in the face. Holy shit. I have no idea what to expect in the next book, but it is riding at the top of my list for most anticipated releases for next year. I’m going to spend my wait obsessively thinking about Rin/Nezha and crying into the void.

The Dragon Republic gave me a serious book hangover. Similar to The Poppy War, this stellar sequel is full of non-stop action, amazing morally-complex characters, political intrigue, and worldbuilding unlike any other. The world is not ready for this book.



REVIEW: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

35068705Title: The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1)
Author: R. F. Kuang
Rating: ★★★★½

“War was not a game, where one fought for honor and admiration, where masters would keep her from sustaining any real harm. War was a nightmare.”

We’re not even halfway through the year and yet again I am blown away by another debut. What a time to be alive. The Poppy War is a grimdark fantasy featuring a fierce heroine, addictive writing, and plenty of action. There are so many amazing elements about it that make it a totally engrossing read. This book is considered grimdark, and therefore I feel I need to mention that it contains graphic violence, graphic rape, mutilation, torture, mass murder, drug abuse, and many other things of that nature.

“Fear was impossible to eradicate. But so was the will to survive.”

R. F. Kuang’s writing was incredible: it was simple and yet completely addicting. The pacing was absolutely wonderful. The book is split into three parts, each growing darker as the story goes on. I was also very impressed by her ability to blend fantasy elements with history. The Poppy War is inspired by parts of Chinese history, such as the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Nanking Massacre, and it was very easy to see the allusions to those events throughout the book. In addition, there are many other components of the novel that make this such a gripping read: gods and goddesses, military school, shamanism, war strategy, and lots of fighting and action. 

“I have become something wonderful, she thought. I have become something terrible. Was she now a goddess or monster? Perhaps neither. Perhaps both.”

One of my favorites things about The Poppy War was the protagonist, Rin. She was such a well-developed heroine and her growth as a character was amazing to follow. I loved her intensity, her determination, her faults, her strengths. I also enjoyed her interactions with many of the side characters. In particular, I loved the easy friendship she forms with Kitay, the complicated relationship between her and Altan, and the rivals-to-friends (to hopefully lovers? Please??) relationship that develops with Nezha. 

Just a small note. It takes a lot to rattle me, especially while reading. That being said, Chapter 21 was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to read. I had to pause a couple times before continuing, and at one point I even felt a little light-headed. Heed the content warnings, my friends. That was not easy chapter to read.

The Poppy War is an spectacular grimdark fantasy by debut author R. F. Kuang. The vivid storytelling, world-building, wonderful characters, and compelling plot all come together to create a riveting story. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series and I’m so excited to meet R. F. Kuang at BookCon!