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

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

Court Intrigue Fantasy Books

My Review

My Rating: 4/5

The Poppy War Book Review – Spoiler Free

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang took me by surprise! I started the first couple of chapters thinking I’d read only a couple a day but ended up reading 40% in the first day. Two days later and I finished it.

Rin is our main character and from the beginning you have to love her. She’s living with the Fangs and is looking for a way out. Her drive is relentless and it’s amazing to follow her.

Throughout the book, she learns and grows a huge amount, and her drive only increases.

The world in The Poppy War took a while to be realised. Like with sci-fi books from the 80s, the plot seems to be the focus of the book. The difference, however, is that all of the characters are well realised and developed.

The setting was different to the standard medieval-Europe-but-fantasy, and it was so refreshing! Even the little things like food lore and names were different, and they really made the story come to life.

This is certainly a grimdark fantasy novel. The first part of the book is pretty standard: there are some dark themes but nothing difficult to read.

Parts 2 and 3 had some much gritter scenes, and a couple of horrific ones, so if you don’t want to see any graphic violence in your fantasy, I wouldn’t read this!

Overall, The Poppy War is a very strong beginning to a fantasy trilogy. The main character and the cast of characters are fantastically realised. The world is a breath of fresh air in the genre, and the magic system is intriguing, but perhaps not totally original.

If you like grimdark, then pick up this book!

The Poppy War Book Review


I was taken completely by surprise by Rin’s arc in this book! She began as the typical peasant/farmgirl sort of character, but soon grew powerful (both in mind and physically).

The ending however, with her wiping out an entire country, was something I was convinced all the way through that she would never do, that she would find another way out of the situation, but when it happened I had to take a moment.

I like characters to be neither good nor bad – but Rin’s final act could be seen as evil. I’m excited to see where her character arc will go in the next book. Perhaps she will have a redemption arc?

Right now, I think she is going to die in the third book – that’s my theory, anyway.

The graphic descriptions of the city that was destroyed were horrific! I had bile in my throat when they were searching for survivors, but it was even worse when they found the rape victim.

It really changed the tone of the book and I felt like I was reading a different book than I had started. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did pull me out of the book a little bit.

Finally, I just want to talk about the time jumps. In two paragraphs (approximately) we skipped two years of study. I can see why that happened as it meant Rin had completed her training (mostly) and we could get onto the war itself.

This did, however, cause the story to change completely, yet again. This also reminded me of classic sci-fi, but I think it works with this book as it happens a lot.

I really enjoyed this first book and I’m looking forward to reading the second before the third comes out later this year.

Read the Book Review for The Dragon Republic HERE

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Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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