The Poppy War

Paperback, 527 pages

English language

Published Dec. 25, 2018 by Harper Voyager.

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4 stars (10 reviews)

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 …

10 editions

A dark, grim tale of violence, injustice, and the horror of revenge

3 stars

Content warning Spoilery review. Dark, striking, fantasy.

reviewed The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (The Poppy War, #1)

Simply brilliant!

5 stars

I saw lots of enthusiasm for The Poppy War from other book reviewers and bloggers over the past few years since its publication so put it on my wishlist, but I didn't make any further efforts towards reading this book until it was suggested for February's Readalong and I realised it is actually a perfect My WorldReads fit. I learned that The Poppy War series, while being an imaginative fantasy adventure tale, is also strongly reflective of China's twentieth century history. While I am not knowledgeable enough on that topic to spot all the references, I could recognise significant events such as the Opium Wars themselves of course and also the horrors of Nanking which is retold here in a city called Golyn Niis.

From the early chapters where young Rin is mercilessly driving herself to achieve and then succeed in an education to which many people feel she is …

reviewed The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (The Poppy War, #1)

Review of 'The Poppy War' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Goodness gracious, what a read. Let me start by saying that overall, I enjoyed this book. I thought it was a really strong entry into the trilogy as well as a very good story in and of itself. However what stood out to me the most was its very unique structure. Many aspects of this book were solidly YA. The characters were written very YA, the relationships were extremely YA, and the story beats (girl has to prove herself to get into school against all odds, girl has to prove herself at school against all odds, girl has to prove herself in battle against all odds, etc.) This was most prominent in the first third of the book, to the extent that I was convinced that the book had been mislabeled as 'Adult fantasy'. And it was these aspects of the book that were my least favorite. I felt that …

Review of 'The Poppy War' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This started out as asian and suddenly turned very western. There are a lot of concepts in this book that give tons of room for analyzing.

I think it's the first asian cultured book that tackles real swelling conflicts that made it big in the western world. The negative reviews stem in my opinion from missing knowledge about asian story telling and history.

It starts with people being baffled by Asian writing methods, which originated from a different folklore and developing into the Wuxia genre (which was dominant in the first part), it continued through the blatantly missing knowledge of the sino Japanese war and the Nanjing massacre. And basically ended with ignorance of today's diplomatic relationship between china and Japan. While at the same time using western christian eyes to decipher a story that is written with a chinese philosophy (i.e. Sunzi, interpretation of Rin's character)

This book seems …

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3 stars
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3 stars


  • Fiction, fantasy, epic
  • Fiction, fantasy, paranormal