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Book Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I’d heard a ton of good things about this one.

Even if I hadn’t, the premise alone would’ve had this near the top of my TBR pile.


Yeah, the hype is real. Not only was this one of the most compelling books I read this year, but R.F. Kuang has made the short list of my top authors to follow.

The story follows Rin, an orphan in a fictionalized version China, one recovering from the Poppy Wars with the Federation. During the last war, the Empire was saved by interference from foreign powers. But knowing they can’t count on that again, the Empire has an elite school to train officers for the army. By pushing herself to her physical and mental limits, Rin tests into the school and suffers bullying and so forth.

Does this sound a little Harry Potter? A little YA?

It’s not. It’s dark and gritty and painfully real, pretty much from the get go, but as the story goes on, and war erupts, we face the horrors of it head-on.

Also, a cool take on shamanim (channeling gods, basically) which fits nicely into the world yet without overshadowing the martial arts.

The basic premise is influenced by 20th century Chinese history, though the setting feels older, without too much in the way of modern weapons.

I have only one complaint about the book, and that was a small number of anachronisms that kind of threw me. Now, I actually¬†believe some¬†people often mistake things for anachronisms that are not actually. Things that might be justified given a foreign language being translated. There are other reasons for using anachronisms, too, like accessibility or the emotion produced in modern readers. So it’s kind of a your-mileage-may-vary issue. To me, a few bits of dialogue seemed needlessly modern.

Despite any flaws, this books is amazing.

Seriously, don’t skip this one.

Check it out:


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