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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

The Poppy War

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

"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."


The Poppy War is the first installment is R.F. Kuang's fantasy series of the same name.

So, here's the thing, I really enjoyed this book, but there is a but coming. Kuang has written an amazing story with an interesting magic system that includes repercussions. The aspect of addiction in terms of actual drugs is not something I would have thought would work but it does. I would give this book 5 stars if it wasn't for two things: Rin and Altan.

I get it, the characters aren't supposed to be perfect and they screw up sometimes, but boy is it frustrating when they do. Rin just jumps right into something without thinking about it so when something goes wrong you just sit there and think, well what were you expecting?

Altan, on the other hand, I liked in the beginning up until we meet him again in the Cike and he goes downhill from there. Both of them are in way over their heads and no matter how many times someone tells them not to do something, do they listen, of course, they don't.

I heard someone say that this was more like a villain origin story and that sure puts things in perspective. I think it is interesting how Kuang decided to show how power influences and corrupts, and the main characters can not avoid it. Rin makes extremely questionable decisions and becomes someone more on the chaotic side of the morality scale which is interesting but still hard to read.

I also both liked and dislikes how the author makes a point to depict the brutality of war. I had a hard time also trying to understand Rin and her extreme actions. Despite all this though, this was sensational.

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