The Poppy War – 5 Star Review

“Was she now a goddess? Or a monster? Perhaps neither. Perhaps both.”

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
photo credit: @anerdybookbirdy on Instagram

My husband is a growing reader, and he and I try to find books of mutual interest to read together on our car trips. He’s the one that suggested The Poppy War and I’m incredibly thankful that he did! After reading the blurb of the story, I was curious but not hooked. I don’t think I would’ve pursued this book if it wasn’t a read-along with him, and wow I am so glad we did! 

A clever blend of Chinese historical fiction and fantasy, this book was divided into three distinct parts. The first of which, we are introduced to our main character. Rin is a war orphan, being raised by Poppy dealers in the poor Rooster Province. In this world, all kids are permitted to take the Empire-wide test proving high intelligence, and ideally scoring a coveted spot in a university. A hope that Rin latches onto. This could be as a means to escape an undesired marriage and the bleak life she is currently entrenched in.

The setting of the second part of the book takes place at a military school. I know school settings happen A LOT in fantasy, but I completely ship them every time. Schools are such a great way for the reader to learn about the world along with the main characters, and are a breeding ground for nemeses, sidekicks, and love arcs. This was definitely my favorite setting of the book!  Followed by the final section which focuses on a war.

I loved the historical aspects the author built within this story. It is dubbed fantasy (and for solid reasons), but the fantasy elements do not come into play until deep within the story. The reader must understand the real-world problems, the politics, and the history well in order to fully grasp the fantasy pieces that come into play. I was so impressed that this was a debut novel, and the author’s collegiate resume of Chinese History degrees definitely paid off! But fantasy lovers don’t worry, those elements come in hot and full fierce! Intricate world building, gut wrenching writing, and twists and turns that I couldn’t foresee. I found the connections and information to the Poppy plant very enlightening and loved how the book morphed from historical fiction to high fantasy. This has been one of my favorites reads this year, and I’m jumping right into the sequel. Five full stars! 

Sidenote: I mostly listened to the audiobook production of this novel instead of reading it in print. I recommend this format for pronunciation reasons, but I also enjoyed the narrator a lot as well. 

Reviewed by Coco

Thank you to anerdybookbirdy on instagram for the photo! You can visit her IG account by clicking here

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