The Poppy War series by R. F. Kuang is an epic trilogy that follows the journey of Rin, a young girl from the Rooster Province, who rises to become a powerful and feared warrior. Set in a world inspired by 20th-century China, the series explores themes of war, politics, power, and morality with a deep and complex plot that will keep readers hooked from start to finish.
The first book in the series, The Poppy War, introduces readers to Rin, a poor orphan who lives with her abusive foster parents. Rin is a brilliant student and has dreams of escaping her life of poverty by passing the Keju, a rigorous exam that grants admission to the prestigious Sinegard Military Academy. When she miraculously passes the exam, Rin discovers that life at Sinegard is not what she expected, as she faces discrimination and bullying from her fellow students. However, Rin's fortunes change when she discovers a forbidden power that could help her become the greatest warrior in the land.
The second book, The Dragon Republic, continues Rin's story as she becomes a powerful leader of the rebel forces fighting against the Mugen Federation. As she struggles to come to terms with the atrocities she has committed in the name of war, Rin must navigate complex political alliances and decide where her loyalties lie. The book also delves deeper into the lore and mythology of the series, revealing more about the gods and their powers, as well as the history of the world.
The final book, The Burning God, brings Rin's story to a dramatic conclusion as she faces her greatest challenge yet: the wrath of the gods. With the fate of her country hanging in the balance, Rin must confront her own demons and make the ultimate sacrifice to save her people.
One of the standout features of the Poppy War series is its deep and complex characters, who are not simply heroes or villains but are instead multifaceted individuals with their own motivations and flaws. Rin, in particular, is a complex and morally ambiguous character who undergoes a tremendous amount of growth and development over the course of the series. Readers will be invested in her journey and root for her, even as she makes difficult and sometimes questionable choices.
The series also has a strong focus on the impacts of war on individuals and society and the toll that violence and trauma can take on both soldiers and civilians. Kuang does not shy away from portraying the brutal realities of war, including violence, death, and sexual assault. While these scenes can be difficult to read, they serve to emphasise the harsh realities of war and the need for compassion and understanding.
Overall, The Poppy War series is a must-read for fans of epic fantasy and historical fiction. Its deep and complex characters, intricate worldbuilding, and exploration of complex themes make it a standout series in the genre. R. F. Kuang has crafted an unforgettable story that will leave readers breathless and emotionally invested from beginning to end.
Titles In This Set:
- The Poppy War
- The Dragon Republic
- The Burning God
Description from the publisher:
The Poppy War
When Rin aced the Keju – the test to find the most talented students in the Empire – 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 had hoped to get rich by marrying her off; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free from a life of servitude. 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. Fighting the prejudice of rival classmates, Rin discovers that 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 psychoactive substances and a seemingly insane teacher, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive – and that mastering these 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 Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most people calmly go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away…
The Dragon Republic
Rin is on the run …
Haunted by the terrible choices she had to make to save her people, Rin's only reason for living is to take revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold her homeland to its enemies.
Forced to ally with the powerful Dragon Warlord in his plan to unseat the Empress, Rin throws herself into the struggle using the fearsome power bestowed on her by the vengeful god Phoenix.
After all, making war is all she knows how to do …
The Burning God
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much – the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges – and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners.
As her power and influence grow, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?
About the Author:
Rebecca F. Kuang, better known as R.F. Kuang, is an American author of Chinese descent known for her epic fantasy trilogy, The Poppy War series. Kuang was born in Guangzhou, China, and grew up in the United States, where she developed a passion for history and literature. She graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in International History and went on to complete her Master's degree in Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge.
Kuang's writing career began with her debut novel, The Poppy War, which was published in 2018 and quickly gained critical acclaim for its vivid world-building, complex characters, and exploration of themes such as war, power, and morality. The book was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel and won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel.
Aside from her work as a writer, Kuang is also a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Yale University, where she is researching the history of 20th-century Chinese military strategy. She is also a translator of Chinese speculative fiction and has worked on several translations of popular Chinese sci-fi novels.