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

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 south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers 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 a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those 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 militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

How did I get the book? Bought it.

Genre: Fantasy

Review: Where to begin, I bought this not really knowing much about the author or the writing style and having been somewhat dissapointed recently by forays into new titles and series I was a little hesitant.

Rin is a little on the enigmatic side, there is little known about her at the start and it rings of a typical origin story, a young orphaned girl and her desperation to avoid arranged marriage to a much older man and a need to escape from her cruel family – working hard to study to gain entry to the most prestigious school in the land in order to better herself.

It then takes a sharp u-turn and turn’s into a school setting which reminds me heavily of Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister or Trudy Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy – the youth thrown into a violent and petty hierachal social structure where it takes wits, violence and sometimes life-changing choices. The problem here is this is where I start to dislike Rin and as a product the world.

There is a wealth of lore to be developed here and I can see me genuinelly enjoying this series – the pantheon, the powers, the conduits and the Poppy War are all interesting and join together well, the problem being that it can see a bit too content heavy at times, Rin is power-hungry to a level which is almost incomprehensible, there is a lot to balance this, but the steps she takes to come into her own are so layered and immense, that the novel feels like it moves too quickly at times and at others not enough information is there.

There is a lot to visualise, an interesting set of characters and a wonderful world, I just hope that it continues to grow and that as a result, the grand scheme falls into place.

Well done, I cannot wait to read more!

Review by: @Angelhearte

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