Dystopian novels are always interesting because of it’s chaotic and overall sad tone. The author is showcasing us what horrible choices can lead to and paints us a vivid picture. The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang is one of those novels.
Rin is an orphan who is going to be wed off if she doesn’t ace her test and enter the prestigious Sinegard Academy. This sets off her trajectory and leads to her becoming a soldier for the Nikara Empire and the dark secrets of the country. Rin learns about her past and must decide what path to follow; peace or destruction?
The Poppy War is described as a grimdark fantasy, which means the tone, style, or setting is dark, dystopian, violent or amoral. As someone who enjoyed the book, I have to warn you this book is not for the faint of heart. Kuang has based some of the events in the book on real events and they are horrific. Grimdark is the perfect way to describe it and I wish I knew that beforehand because it was not easy reading some parts.
There is a lot of great stuff in the book and I enjoyed it. There are shamans who can interact with gods and there are gods that can walk on the earth. Magic is alive but it isn’t public knowledge. The history of Nikara is complex and has a lot of secrets hidden. There is a lot to grasp in this novel and it will keep you entertained.
After reading this book, I felt like I was on a wild, fun journey. I couldn’t put the book down. Still, I had a complex of emotions and have to say grimdark fantasy is not for me. I won’t be reading the next novel in the series because the book’s direction is one that I felt dissatisfied with at the end of the book. If you can stomach dark themes and love fantasy, I recommend this book then. Otherwise, avoid it.