Book Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I’m a huge fan of fantasy and I’ve become quite the fan of Asian-inspired fantasy recently. Jade City and Jade War are great examples of this and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang is probably the other big mainstream title that people think of in this genre. It’s received a lot of hype and deservedly so, I think.

The Poppy War by RF Kuang book review

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The Poppy War, as I said before, is an Asian-inspired fantasy novel that features multiple continents, new cultures, mystical powers and the good old-fashioned sword-fights that we love in a fantasy book. It tells the tale of the underdog overcoming her peers and going on to change the world forever.

Plot – 4.5/5

Rin, a nobody from a small town aces the “Keju” and then goes on to an academy called Sinegard that people from her background rarely get into. During her time in Sinegard, she makes friends and enemies, she faces trials and tribulations, but more importantly, she learns that her abilities are far more important to the world than she ever thought possible. The plot spans different cultures and countries as it covers a great war that takes place. 

The concept for this book absolutely grabbed me from the get-go and held on to me until the very end. There were possibly some moments in the middle where the hold was loosened but this is inevitable in a book that spans over 500 pages. Either way, I found so much about this book utterly fascinating. 

However, I’d still argue there was more potential to be had here and also that it felt a little disjointed – I got inklings that the author may well have been making it up as they went along. Or Kuang had a beginning and an end but wasn’t sure how to fill in the middle to connect the two. Not that this overly hampered the storyline.

Characters – 4.5/5

I enjoyed Rin as a character. She doesn’t let anything stand in her way and along the way isn’t afraid to stand up to anyone – even when in some circumstances the person she’s standing up to isn’t the right person at all. Rin soon realises she’s far more important than she knew and she takes this on like so many others would: with fear, confusion and rejection. However she develops a better understanding throughout the tale, both of her powers and herself, and this is a great arc to follow.

Rin is the main character in the book but there are some great supporting characters too. The usual tropes are covered here: the nerdy and quiet but loyal friend, the enemy/love interest, the catty enemy who no one likes and more. It’s a great cast, some of whom you love for their personalities and others who you love for what they bring to the story.

Poppy War summary – 5/5

On my Goodreads, I gave The Poppy War a four of our five stars around eight months ago. However, after consideration, I remember very much enjoying this book a lot more than this. The magic system is fascinating, the characters were memorable and the plot was also memorable. These are some of the key elements to making a five-out-of-five star book for me and The Poppy War had them all.

I’m a sucker for Asian-Inspired anything. I love a lot of the culture and I’m loving the surge of Asian-inspired fantasy novels such as this and the Green Bone Saga. I’d recommend this if you enjoy fantasy, enjoy Asian culture, or are simply looking for something that’s utterly enjoyable to read.

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