I have always loved reading for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was always excited to visit the school library or the nearest bookstore. Recently I was looking for something else to read —a story or book outside my comfort zone, comics or graphic novels. My brother recommended a book that interested him; now, growing up, my brother was not much of a reader. So if a book got his attention, it must have been excellent. The book he recommended was "The Poppy Wars," written by R.F. Kuang. After giving it a read, I knew this was a book I wanted to review. In my opinion, it has the correct elements for a great story. Let us see what some drawbacks and some positives are in "The Poppy Wars."
"The Poppy Wars" was released back in 2018. It starts a trilogy known as "The Poppy Wars Series" and includes "The Dragon Republic" and "The Burning God." This book was the debut for Kuang, who studies modern Chinese history and has a bachelor's in arts from Georgetown University. I want to mention this book is not, and I repeat, NOT for children. The drawbacks are the darker tones of the book. Not everyone is comfortable reading specific themes, and I want to warn potential readers. The book series was inspired by things that happened in China during the second world war. Specific events include the battle of Shanghai in 1937 and the Nanjing massacre. Actual events that don't get discussed when talking about WWII. These events are dark and horrifying, but I believe they are necessary to speak about with history. The book also contains foul language, depictions of drug use, and a few other less than wholesome moments. I'm not kidding when I say this book is not for children!
I hear some of you wonder, "why would you read such a book about these horrible things?" Well, the dark elements were balanced by the light and mystical elements. The story follows Rin, a war orphan whose life is flat-out miserable. She is allowed to better herself and soon discovers there is a more mystical yet terrifying world that ties into her history and the untold truth about the empire she serves. She is someone to whom I feel readers can relate in one way or another. She wants to better herself and throws caution to the wind. The book does not reward her for that behavior and shows the consequences. It's a nice slow burn that gets you interested in Rin's journey long before the horrible stuff happens.
That is what got me hooked on the book is the slow build-up. The story takes time, letting you get to know Rin and her world. The characters each have their motivations and interest. I enjoyed reading all of it, even if some parts were dark. I loved how the story played out. I went out as soon as possible and bought the other trilogy books.
I will wrap up here for fear of possible spoilers and droning on. "The Poppy Wars" is a slow burn that does an outstanding balance of dark and mystic. If you are up for something different, I say try it. I give "The Poppy Wars" a five out of five coconuts.
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