Book Reviews

Book Review: The Poppy War

Title: The Poppy War

Author: R.F. Kuang

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: May 1st 2018

Genre: Adult Fantasy


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 realised 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 colour, 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.


Ableism, Abuse (emotional and physical), Addiction, Animal death/cruelty, Assault, Blood, Bullying, Decapitation, Drugs, Fatphobia (unchallenged), Genocide, Gore ,Human experimentation, Infertility, Massacres, Misogyny,Mutilation,Murder (including children),Racism,Rape (past, recollected),Self-harm,Torture,Violence (including against children),War

Source: Book Trigger Warnings


Rating: 5 out of 5.

I think my favourite part of this book was Rin. I loved her snarky personality and hilarious inner monologues or general thoughts. Her dedication to pass the Keju and then the dedication to not only survive but to come out on top at Sinegard. I really loved the morally grey/ anti-hero aspect of Rin that began showing in the second half of the book. I loved seeing her react to different situations and react in ways that while I don’t agree with had me rooting for her ( for the most part) because you know her end goal, but there were also instances where even though the end Goa is something you want to happen there is no way you can see yourself wanting her to succeed in one of the minor tasks because it so . . . . bad ( Wow, I feel like an English Scholar)

The fantasy world building was amazing and from what I have come to know was based on true events really has me wanting to find out more. I recommend reading this post by Read By Tiffany about the historical events and figures that are parallel to those in this series.

I really enjoyed reading about the classes that Rin attended and was quite intrigued by some of the topics that Rin had to study and discuss. Speaking of classes, The Lore Professor was another character that I took a liking to. I’m not exactly sure what it is about his character that I liked but it’s probably how ridiculous he was when we were first introduced.

I’m really glad that R.F Kuang didn’t not shy away from the darker element of the story. It was also impressive how she managed to have Rin be a morally grey character and fully showcase the gruesome elements without it coming of as romanticising the events or picking a side. Yes we follow Rin who is on one side of the war and the other side are obviously the antagonists, but their are characters who point out that both sides are inflicting harm and hurting innocent people.

That’s All I Got, Romy

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