The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang is an adult fiction novel, that may actually be the first in a series.
Rin, a war orphan, was determined to leave her rotten life behind. Everyone was shocked when she aced the Keju, a test given by the Empire to find the most talented youth to train at the Academies. And Rin beat them all, gaining a spot at the most prestigious of schools. But getting a spot and finding a place are two very different things.
Being a peasant girl, without a lineage, from the South, ostracizes Rin from her peers. While Rin works toward the highest marks, in order to prove herself, she discovers a rare aptitude for the mystical arts. With the help of an inane, opium addled teacher, Rin will attempt to learn the extent of her powers.
With war at their doorsteps, Rin and her fellow classmates have no time to lose. War isn’t coming, it’s here and it will change them all.
Holy trigger warnings people. This book deals with a lot of dark themes–war, prejudices, drugs, physical and mental abuse, mental health, sexism, rape, torture, addiction–I could literally go on. If I entered into this series with all that in mind, I might not have been quite as disturbed by the book. But so much of it was just awful, in the cringe worthy sense. And extremely vivid. I usually have no problem with dark, awfulness but there were several times where I was like annnnd let’s get past this.
That being said, the writing and world building was amazing. This world of gods and war and opium fueled enlightenment was so well done, that it almost felt familiar. Not really knowing anything about the book, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. And what started out as an orphan tale, quickly morphed into something totally different.
This book is about war and all it’s gruesome parts. That is one thing you can’t deny about The Poppy War, it is intense. The author knows how to put tension into his writing and the reader feels it every step of the way. I think this may actually be why some of the more graphic violence seems so brutal, because the tension imparted in the scene is just that high.
When I finished this book, I immediately gave it three stars because of how brutal it was. But reflecting back on it, I have to bump it up at least a half a star if not a whole star because the author does achieve what they set out to do.
That’s all for now!