“Was that the price of power? For her mind to shatter?”
Two facts first:
1) Emily Woo Zeller is an extremely talented narrator! She immersed me in this story right from the beginning. She also has an incredible talent at speaking in different voices, all believable, all right.
2) I can’t believe this is the first work from this author! Nothing feels tentative, no common mistakes that you can find in first work. Everything is precise, detailed and perfectly executed.
The Poppy War is gripping, brutal, horrific, uncompromising and fascinating.
It deals with topics that are big triggers for me. Drugs and addiction is one of them. Usually I would have stopped reading but somehow RF Kuang made me understand why the characters just had to take drugs.
Yet as much as I am smitten with this story I fear reading the sequel! I can’t fathom how this will end with a HEA. I also fear reading/listening to some favorite characters becoming more and more addicted to drugs. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach this.
But what’s the Poppy War about?
The Poppy War is about a war orphan, Rin, trying to forge her destiny.
In a country where she had no power as women had only a value as bride or whore she did not want any of this. All along Rin will demonstrate an iron will.
Honestly she is one of the strongest heroines I’ve ever read about.
Pain became her friend because pain reminded her of her goal. “Pain was the answer”
RF Kuang spared her nothing. Absolutely nothing.
She had to earn every of her victories.
The first challenge was to ace the Keju.
She was a war orphan, slaving on an opium farm and forced to marry an older man. She did not want any of this so her only hope was to win the Keju to enter a military academy. But she’d never gotten the same education as other students from wealthy families. She’ll have to learn everything by herself cramming five years of studies into two. All while working for her “family”.
She’ll study at night. She won’t sleep. When she can’t stay awake any more she’ll burn herself with candles to just stay awake and study some more.
Can you imagine it?
And when she’ll succeed, she will be interrogated and threatened by officials who wanted her to confess on cheating.
Once at the academy, she will be ostracized and kept separated as she was a peasant. One of her teachers will even evict her from his class and she’ll have to learn by herself something very difficult to do so.
Most would have abandoned.
But not Rin.
She was fueled by revenge. By the desire to show everyone that she could do it. She hated injustice and privileged kids. SHE WANTED POWER!
I won’t give you all the details of the plot here but know that revenge, hate and power are central topics of this story.
With all the side effects of revenge. Because vengeance is a never ending circle.
“If there was one thing Rin had learned about her country’s history, it was that the only permanent thing about the Nikara Empire was war.”
I was fascinated by Rin’s journey. She will go through so many ordeals she had nearly no respite.
She’ll have one friend at the academy and many enemies.
Some enemies will turn allies under extreme circumstances in the book. I loved how RF Kuang made me despise them when Rin did and like them when Rin did too. This author swayed my mind and opinion like weed dance with the wind.
She did it for the characters that I hated then loved, for the drug problem that I usually would not could have read about but that she made me somehow “tolerate” and she did it again when the book turned to a pitch-black tone. Something so brutal, horrific and full of gore that I usually simply cannot read without vomiting.
This story will give you nightmares. It will send you in pits of despair when humankind shows its most monstrous face. It will give you power when someone who’s fate seemed sealed turned the tables and soared like a Phoenix feeding from pain and hate.
Recommend it? Absolutely but don’t go looking for romance and unicorns as you won’t find it.
Have you read it?
Thanks for reading!