NOTE: Take care when deciding to pick this book up because trigger warnings include rape, graphic violence, mutilation, drug abuse, torture, forced human experimentation, genocide, racism, and more so I definitely recommend researching a bit more before you decide tor read it. You can find a more comprehensive list here. The 21st chapter is agreed by many to be the most triggering chapter, and I myself just read Read at Midnight‘s summary instead. Now, onto the review! I also have a Bookstagram post with an aesthetic for The Poppy War that you can check out on my Bookstagram account, @bajwasiraj !
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang exceeded every expectation I had. There was so much hype around it online that I had to check it out, and it was absolutely amazing. This novel is one of the most thought-provoking, important stories I’ve ever experienced. The discussion and presentation of topics of genocide, war, revenge, and power left real impacts on me. R.F. Kuang gave real, raw conversations through an engaging story. She gave the reader the views of those who massacre others and those who have been massacred. Reading about justifications for mass killings was horrifying, but it was important. I’ve always found myself racking my brain for answers for how people in the past and the present are able to disregard human lives so easily, and while there is no comforting or right answer, I feel like Kuang gave some significant insight that made me no less disgusted, but rather appreciative of this story for isolating an ideological issue. I feel like I genuinely finished this book with something new, as well as an actual urge to research more, since The Poppy War is influenced by real events.
The protagonist Rin is one of the most interesting main characters I’ve ever followed. Mocked for her dark skin, accent, and low social status as an orphan, Rin starts from the bottom. She’s constantly in search of power, but also what she thinks is justice, which leads her to making some very questionable decisions. Still, I found myself continually rooting for her because she has been through so much.
This book has one of the most unique magic systems I’ve ever ecnountered. The system is very much related to spirituality and getting high, which I haven’t seen a lot. The way the magic worked was continuously intriguing as we learned more and more about the costs of using it.
I will say that some of part 2 was kind of slow. This makes sense since the book went through a great turning point, though. Nonetheless, the book was never boring. I always wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen and what decisions the characters would make to learn more about this world and its history.
I will say that part one of the book spent its time developing certain relationships, but part two didn’t really pay those off as much as I would’ve liked. Instead, we meet a whole new cast of characters and are expected to connect with them. This didn’t really work for me, and I hope the next two books in the series flesh out some of the characters that need more attention. I also want more of the characters that were fleshed out in part one that I adored but didn’t get enough of.
I have never been affected by a book in this way. It’s a fantasy story, yet I feel a duty to educate myself on the real life events that it is inspired by. Besides the few gripes I had, this book is one of my favorites of all time that I can’t wait to revisit. I love the characters, the setting, the plot, and everything else about this book. It is simply an unbelievably important novel that everyone who can read should.