“In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.
With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.
But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.”
Trigger warnings: Rape, self-harm, vivid descriptions of the dead (adults and children), drug use, vivid murder scenes, war scenes, PTSD, abortion, human experimentation, sad animal death, loss of a loved one. Just proceed with caution if you pick up this series. It’s pretty dark and brutal.
Wow, this book was one heck of a feat.
If I thought the first book was a lot to handle, this one really turns it up a few notches. It’s very action-packed and fast-paced, yet it’s not at the same time. It felt like it took me eons to finish, and that’s one of the reasons I gave it a lower rating than the first book. I’ll get into my other reasons later. Let’s get into my review.
I guess I’ll start with why I enjoyed this one, and why I’ll be finishing the series. I don’t know how I couldn’t finish this series considering how invested I am after reading 1,000+ pages of it already.
The writing is pretty much the same as the last book. The writing is well done and pretty easy to understand, as I said in my review for the first book in the series. There’s a lot of character development and world building to be had with this one. You may want to take notes if that’ll help you.
My favorite characters ended up being Kitay, Suni and Baji. I will tell you to not fall in love with any characters because Kuang doesn’t care about your feelings, apparently. She really ripped my heart out a few times throughout the novel. Now I see what everyone was talking about. I’ve read this one before and all of it went over my head. I’m happy I paid attention this time around.
It’s not about who you are, it’s about how they see you. And once you’re mud in this country, you’re always mud.
Rin really gave us the run-around with her development. I would be so proud of her one moment and so frustrated with her the next. I can’t believe how much she didn’t see what was happening within the Dragon Republic. Like, did she meet Vaisra? I could tell the moment she spoke to him that he would drag her through mud! Oh, it made me want to throw the book. I can’t tell if I’m going to like Rin by the end of the series. Only time and 640 pages will tell.
Okay, moving on to what really got under my skin with this one.
First off, “Tiger’s tits.”
THAT PHRASE GIVES ME SECONDHAND EMBARRASSMENT. STOP USING IT. I swear it was on every page. Every page. It’s not funny, and it never was. Can we all agree?
There are so many characters introduced in the book that my head was spinning. They were all connected / related / whatever else you can be with another person. I almost gave up. I couldn’t tell who was against who because it would change so quickly. It’s just many pages of back-and-forth between armies, warlords, Gods, etc. I just couldn’t get with it.
What had seemed like an easy victory was about to turn into a bloodbath.
And, for the grand finale that we all saw coming……..it was too long. Maybe I’m not used to long fantasy novels since I don’t read them. I’m also in for a rude awakening when I read The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson. Like I said, it felt like a lot happened yet nothing at all. I was wishing for it to be over with. I loved the beginning and the end of the book. Let’s just condense the middle and I’ll be a happy camper.
Overall, I think this had middle book syndrome. I think it’s preparing for one heck of a finale. Well, that’s all I can hope for. It may take a bit of a break before jumping into that one, though. I read the first two back-to-back. I will say that I could probably read this series a third time and learn something new each time. That’s another positive that comes from this series. If you can handle the brutality of it, then I say go pick up the first one!
Side note: When Rin is learning how to use the fire inside her, and she hurts Kitay, it reminds me of when Aang hurts Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender when he’s trying to fire bend.
Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, translator, and the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale. Website: rfkuang.com
If you enjoyed this, then give it a like and follow my blog and other social media. Be respectful and happy reading!