The Poppy War

, #1

Paperback, 527 pages

English language

Published Oct. 18, 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers Limited.

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4 stars (7 reviews)

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

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 …

2 editions

reviewed The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (The Poppy War, #1)

A dark, grim tale of violence, injustice, and the horror of revenge

3 stars

Content warning Spoilery review. Dark, striking, fantasy.

A book that improves after an inauspicious start

4 stars

I was worried that The Poppy War was going to be another "talented down-and-out gets into fancy magic school, is bullied by aristo, mentored by a flighty weirdo" type fantasy book, and it is that for the first half-ish. But then it opens up and we get a fun fantasy adventure.

I have some minor complaints that I'll detail in a spoiler-tagged comment, but overall this is a pretty good read.

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5 stars
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5 stars
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rated it

4 stars
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rated it

4 stars


  • Fiction, fantasy, epic
  • Fiction, fantasy, paranormal