The Poppy War: A Novel

The Poppy War: A Novel

by R. F. Kuang


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“I have no doubt this will end up being the best fantasy debut of the year [...] I have absolutely no doubt that [Kuang’s] name will be up there with the likes of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.” — Booknest

A Library Journal, Paste Magazine, Vulture, BookBub, and ENTROPY Best Books of 2018 pick!

Washington Post "5 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel of 2018" pick!

A Bustle "30 Best Fiction Books of 2018" pick!

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062662583
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Series: Poppy War , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 65,149
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

R.F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history. She has a BA from Georgetown University and is currently a graduate student in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship. The Poppy War is her debut novel.

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The Poppy War 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book started out very interesting with good characters, a story line that keeps you interested. The author keeps you rooting for the main character who is the under dog. The main character slowly gains a power that you keep waiting for her to unleash. And you keep waiting, and waiting and waiting. The story gets mired down in a brutal war with many atrocities. The author seemed to throw in as many as they could until you want to thrash the herione of the story. The author makes you angry with the main character. When vengeance finally comes, its totally anti climatic. Its nothing you had in your mind while reading. It was rather boring. Its too bad because the author does have a way of describing things so you actually kind of visualize the places and characters in your mind. Which may be part of the reason you may feel so robbed at the end. What the author gave you glimpses of just kind of blow away. Its too bad because it was a good story and kept me reading even though on some psrts were so drawn out I skipped. There is a kind of ending , but the author was so busy setting the stage for a sequal that it was only a semi ending. Should have been a delicious cliff hanger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the character development, history and philosophical debates. All the war atrocities were over the top and did not need the details. That did not enhance the story and I almost quit reading the book.
Anonymous 3 days ago
TheLoon 4 months ago
In order to enjoy this book you would need to be a big fan of magic, or in this particular case, "the spirit world". For me, the story in wrecked by the nearly unlimited power found in this magic. Secondly, the modern habit of repeating every thought two and three times in order to make the story longer is also too much in evidence. Finally, the author makes statements about strategic matters that just do not make any sense at all. For example, why does the fate of this particular city mean the war will be lost given the size of the country? And how does the capital fall without anyone knowing about it until after the event? Sorry, I just did not think that the author knew anything about military strategy at all. Otherwise, a standard fantasy novel destined to run on forever with a Chinese history twist.
BookCub 8 months ago
Originally posted on This book is amazing It's the best book I've read all year. It just grabs every part of you and has you completely captivated. This book made me think. It made me laugh. It made me cry. These kinds of books are rare and should be treasured. Rin is a fascinating character with a complicated arc and she is so . . . Great. The world building is just above and beyond and I want to memorize this book because of it. The author clearly poured her heart and soul into this book and I am eager to read what she has planned next.
Anonymous 11 months ago
A terrific start to what is surely going to be a great trilogy. Kuang is a superb worldbuilder, and I was immediately caught up in the fascinating and intricate politics and history of her novel. It started off very strong, especially those chapters Rin spent in the military academy, but became a little less tightly plotted towards the end. The weakest part of this novel were the character arcs--some of which were inconsistent in the case of Rin, or underdeveloped in the case of most everyone else. Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together in the next two books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very rich, detail world with an interesting story but sometimes drags in pacing. CW for detailed description of brutal gang rape/sexual slavery (I felt it was handled appropriately, ie. as a sickening, horrifying act, but will likely be VERY triggering for survivors). This is limited to one section of one chapter late in the book and I think can be seen coming well enough that readers who need to can skip over it (the description is not vital to the plot). I'm fascinated by the world the author has created, where a few individuals are able to channel the power of the gods, often in the service of their Empire, which both needs and fears them. It's an extremely thoughtful and intricate depiction of war, both its motivations and its horrors, that makes the reader think. The protagonist, Rin, is a complex character with a number of influences pulling on her throughout the story, trying to convince her to choose between a path of power and vengeance or a path of enlightenment. The only issue I had with the book was the pacing was rather slow. There were several points where it felt like we were on the precipice of action, only to have the characters step back and ruminate for another couple of chapters. This is part of Rin's struggle as she tries to decide who she wants to be in this fight, but it sometimes felt a little too drawn out for my personal tastes. Overall, I think this is a very good read and would recommend it. I look forward to seeing what else the author has is store for Rin and her world.
Sarah___________ More than 1 year ago
Its a good read, though I felt it was a little drawn out
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyable read. Intriguing characters and excellent moral debates.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting premise and could have been much better without the very detailed brutality.
pooled_ink More than 1 year ago
pooled ink Reviews: This book was so much more than I expected in every possible way. More dark, more bloody, more elegant, more savage, more fantastical, more philosophical, more fun, more horrible, more…more everything. The moment I cracked open the book I was captivated. From that first page I already knew I was committed to seeing Rin’s story through to the end. And I’m quite serious when I say it was a tough story to witness. Not because it was dull, on the contrary this book is well-written with a strong undercurrent that will keep you racing through its plot, but because with every hundred pages it’s as if you’ve descended to a new level of Hell as it gets more and more brutal as the situation of Nikara becomes increasingly dire and Rin finds herself in the thick of it. This book charges forwards filled with the deepest horrors of war (it is inspired by the 1937 Rape of Nanjing) and makes no promise that the sun will rise in the morning. And because of the way the story did unfold I would caution readers before diving into this book. It does not shy away from true horrors of war in the slightest (drugs, trauma, slaughter, torture, rape, etc. unfold in a way that’s so fitting and almost natural that it will make you sick that humans could be capable of such things, and not just in story but in real life). This book does not pull its punches but at the same time I never got the sense that it was gratuitous or sensationalized. It was included because it’s the nightmarish reality of what we wish to ignore but those victims deserve the honor of not being pushed aside, written over, or ignored simply because it’s too uncomfortable to accept. You meet many characters throughout but Rin's is the only consistent perspective and even with her one wonders how long a flame can burn before it suffocates. From where Rin began to where she stands on the final page her choices and her world expands with violence like the mushroom cloud of a bomb and as the reader you can only watch wide-eyed and speechless. I don’t quite know what to say. I was enthralled by it, horrified by it, and I want to read more. I want to know what happens next. My soul demands justice, victory, reconciliation, something besides the endless cycle of blood for blood. Be cautious of the graphic violence but if you can stomach it then definitely pick this book up and give it a read. A Chinese-inspired military fantasy, THE POPPY WAR will utterly captivate you, holding your attention through each victorious and vicious display. Grounded in the darkest ghosts of human history and embellished with the spirit of fantasy, this novel is an accomplishment of art and word like a war dance burning bright on the shelves.
Scarls17 More than 1 year ago
This book is EPIC. And brutal. It's also wildly entertaining.
TheLiteraryPhoenix More than 1 year ago
This book absolutely gutted me. There are loads of really great elements about it - who doesn't love a good boarding school story? - but I can't get past the aspect of war. R. F. Kuang writes it saw raw and real and I am disgusted but I am supposed to be. This book sort of makes me want to claw out my eyes, for the grotesque horrors I have imagined, thanks to the precision of her writing. When I think about Kitay's story, or Venka's, it makes me sick. I'm just going to throw the trigger warnings out front, and this is just off the top of my head - self-harm, drug use, genocide, rape, war, everything? Just. Wow. Do note as I'm saying all this, I gave the book five stars. I would have given it ten stars. The violence and unspeakable acts build a world in the midst of war, and it's perfectly accurate for that situation. We don't want it to be accurate. We want it to be ... tidier. But war makes monsters of men (and women). This story is incredibly powerful. I loved that good and evil were not black and white. I loved that the characters kept making terrible, irrational decisions. I loved the magic and the consequences of it. The setting, the writing... honestly, I couldn't put this one down. I devoured it in every spare moments, up until I needed to break away because I felt like I couldn't breathe. Then I would pick it back up again. It's an incredible book, but it's not for the faint of heart, so please don't go into this one expecting a cheery fantasy adventure with an Asian protagonist. It's so much more than that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book struck me hard. A dark fantasy that I desperately needed. It's been months since I read the book and it still left haunted by this beautiful book. I can't wait to read the next installment.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting characters and a intriguing new world to explore.