Rating: 4 / 5
THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang was a (relatively) recent read for the Magic Mayhem Reads buddy read on Instagram. I had heard fantastic things about this book, but had also heard that it isn’t an entirely easy read, but when I spotted a copy at a LFL a couple months back, I picked it up. The buddy read finally pushed me to pick it up!
THE POPPY WAR is a military fantasy based on China’s history. Rin is a young woman who exceeded the expectations on those of her lower station and therefore has gained entrance into an elite military school where most students have been groomed practically since birth. Her darker skins and poor background mean that she’s looked down upon by her fellow students and even the teachers. Rin does find help in developing her innate gifts from one teacher, though one most consider insane. She must learn fast as her education is cut short by approaching war and the need to help save her people.
This book was everything I expected going in – both really good and at times really hard to read. It really felt more like two different books in some ways. The first half is a slow introduction to Rin, the school, her abilities, and everything she is put through. The second half of the book makes an abrupt shift as we go from a relatively peaceful school system to the middle of an outright war with all it’s terrible realities. I really appreciated getting the slightly slower intro because I felt it gave me a better handle on who Rin was and a bit more of an understanding of the world before things turned to quick fire action and violence.
This is one where I immediately added the series to my list to continue reading and I look forward to seeing where the story goes. It is a book that you’ll definitely want to check out the trigger warnings for as there are quite a few, but it is well worth adding to your TBR!