Author: R.F. Kuang
Series: The Poppy War, #1
Published: May 1, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
My Mini Review:
War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.”
I decided to read this book after reading some of the raving reviews. I didn’t even read the synopsis and just dove right in. I was definitely not expecting such a monumental book, not only is it 644 pages, but the story develops across many years of Rin’s life. When we begin the story Rin is fourteen years old, and by the end she is nineteen. The character development was amazing to say the least. One of my favorite side characters was Kitay, who becomes one of Rin’s best friends. I adored the way he just had to say what was on his mind at all times, and I appreciated his honesty.
Children ceased to be children when you put a sword in their hands.”
I think I should warn you all, since no one ever warned me, that this book is very graphic. It contains explicit descriptions of rape, killing, and it does not discriminate between women or children. I listened to the audio book, and at times I had to stop because it made me very uncomfortable. I do believe the author’s point in doing this was to enrage the reader, just like these heinous acts enraged Rin into taking action. But as a reader, I only ended up feeling powerless and frustrated. I do recommend this book if you can stomach graphic violence, and I believe Kuang has created an amazing work of art depicting the realities of war and the effect it can have on a nation and its people.
Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. However, if you click on my link and end up buying the book Amazon will pay me a small fee. Thank you for supporting a small blog like mine 🙂