The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – Thoughts

“They trained her to win the war. She intended to end it….”

I’m trying hard to get over The Poppy War, and move on to my next book. I thought I might need to read something fluffy or light but I’m just not feeling it, after finishing this book.

Bookish Discussion:

Ever learned history from a fiction or fantasy book?

Thoughts on The Poppy War:

I just have to get it out there. I loved it. The first book of a trilogy was brilliant in the way the author uses actual historic events and places and creates a fantastic fantasy and action packed story. I also have to say, that this book is not for the faint hearted. It is going to break your heart.

Trigger Warnings: Avoid chapter 21 if you need. Violence, gore, rape, substance abuse, pain therapy, racism.

In The Poppy War, Rin (Fang Runin), a war orphan, struggles to escape her abusive foster parents and impending marriage by trying to get into the most prestigious military training school at Sinegard. Little does she know, that getting a place in Sinegard will just be the beginning of her struggles and in her quest for justice, power and revenge. War has broken out between the Muganese Federation Army and the Nikan republic and it will take everything Rin has, to win this war.

I think since the author wrote the first book when she was very young, I will not be commenting on the writing style. Instead, I want to talk about history. In most of the historic studies, including my own Asian-Indian history books, we never read about the second Sino-Japanese war that started in 1937 and ended in 1945, with the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We all read about the defeat of the Nazis and the bombing. But we hadn’t read or learned about what is termed as the Asian holocaust that resulted in millions of civilian lives lost as an outcome of the Sino-Japanese war. Both sides wrecked havoc on innocent civilians.

I have learned a lot now, as a direct result of researching the history on this war, based on the author’s reading recommendations and notes on which chapters were influenced by which part of the historic war. It’s just brilliant that I learned so much about a subject that I usually find boring, because one woman decided to write about it as a fantasy story. I simply cant stop gushing enough.

There are a lot of references to Chinese culture in the book as well. Descriptions of locations in the book such as Sinegard, Khurdalain, Golyn Niis, are based on real places in China such as Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing.

The politics in the book regarding the unrest between the Warlords of the different provinces is also based on actual historic facts.

I also admired the fact that the book touches upon class and race differences within China and how racism on the basis of skin colour is a global fight. No matter how talented you are, if you’re a minority, you’re bound to be discriminated against. I loved how Rin fights all the odds against her. Yes, many readers might think she seems to be a super girl, a morally grey one at that. But when you reach rock bottom, there’s only one way to go – and that’s up.

There were a lot of characters introduced in the first book, and I was able to connect with Kitay, Altan, Rin and Jiang the most. But I’m sure all the other characters like the Cike gang, Venka and Nezha are going to get more space in the next books in the series and I can’t wait to dive into The Dragon Republic next. In the first book, my two favourites were Jiang and Kitay. Jiang because I just loved the goofy, unreliable professor. And Kitay, because I recognised a lot of myself in him.

I hope a lot of readers pick up this book and appreciate what the author has tried to do with this trilogy. But if you decide not to, then what can I say..your loss 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – Thoughts

  1. Brilliant review Prachi.. and I completely agree.. This book really teaches us so much while also giving us a heartbreaking and powerful fantasy story. I would totally recommend taking a break before you start Dragon Republic. I think I waited more than a couple months because I just knew I couldn’t handle it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I agree. I also loved your detailed review on the GR page for the book Sahi. I’m still nurturing a book hangover from TPW and it’s been two days and I haven’t been able to pick up another book. Instead I’ve been stalking Rebecca Kuang on Instagram and trying to find all sorts of fan art and reading up on the actual history😏

      Liked by 1 person

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