544 pages Published May 1st 2018 by Harper Voyager
There are other books, and then there’s this book, set aside on a shelf surrounded by an ethereal glow that could be just a trick of the light, but is probably because this book has been blessed by every god and goddess in existence because of its sheer perfection.
What is the book about, you ask?
On the surface, floating like some weird seaweed is the story about a girl who high hopes for her future. She takes an impossible test to get admitted into a prestigious academy, trains her arse off and finds herself in the middle of a war that is not as clear cut as what it seems.
What it’s really about.
“The difference between great and the mediocre is that the great are willing to take the risk.”
The determination on a war orphan to see herself in a better future than married to a man three times her age, to test the limits of her body, to find out who she is inside and out. It’s about a girl who makes her own choices based on what she feels is right for herself. It’s about a war that needs her. It’s about revenge and loyalty.
This book surprised the living cheesus out of me. I waited a long time to read it, keeping up on reviews and recs. But because of my extra massive TBR for 2018, I never got around to it. Then the Christmas gift cards rolled in, and I finally ordered it. Once it arrived, I brushed off what I’d started and opened it up. Usually, I breeze through books that are amazing, but I wanted to take my time with this book. Every word was precious. I don’t know if I will read a book like it until the sequel releases. I HAD TO SAVOR IT!
I cannot gloss over the brutality of the book even though several top reviews have already discussed it, but here it is for those reading a review for The Poppy War for the first time. The plot and its characters had a realness that made my bones clack against one another. It doesn’t skimp over the effects of war. If you’re not into blood and depictions of the dead, dying or rape (off the page), then this book will jar you. I was prepared for it, due to the reviews, but it still took me off guard. While Rin battled with the consequences of war and the choices she had to make, the darker the plot got, and the tenser I felt. This books was not like any other book I’d ever read. It took my expectations and shred them into the wind.
What stuck out was the world-building of this story. There was so much of it, but it did not feel like info dumping and did not bog down the story. It rode along naturally like a convertible on the PCH. deep sigh The way Kuang melded real-life horrors into this fantasy plot made it all the more horrifying. I found myself looking up the battles she was inspired by and sat there with a slack jaw, wondering how they could do such a thing. Then I remembered that we’re humans and we suck and periods like that in China and other countries were real. Those horrors happened. The least we can do is learn about it and make an effort never to let it happen again.
All in all, this book took me for a wild ride and kept me there from beginning, middle, to end. When it did end, I hit my pillow like a teenager having a temper tantrum because mommy disconnected my Fortnite account. Kuang made a solid character in Rin and depicted her struggles, sorrow, and created a vast, well-written arc that I’d never seen before. Every aspect was unforgettable. There was not one blah face in the crowd. There are so many adjectives I could use to continue describing this book, but I will leave it at that. This review (I hope) speaks for itself.
Warnings: drug use, rape (off page), depictions of death, and self-harm.