Book Review: The Poppy War

Book Review:  The Poppy War

Avery Ngo, Web and Section Editor, Staff Writer

Rating: 5 Stars 

With her simple yet beautiful prose, R.F. Kuang weaves together a stunningly imaginative world marked with political intrigue, a magical boarding school nostalgically familiar, and a complicated antiheroine, who is intense, bold, intelligent, confident, and absolutely willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang undeniably ranks as my top fantasy book of 2019. 

The Poppy War had a quality about it that few fantasy books today enjoy- a strong female heroine who thrives not only by her natural talent, but her sheer will to dominate. 

“Great danger is always associated with great power. The difference between the great and the mediocre is that the great are willing to take the risk.”

– Rin from The Poppy War

Rin, the main character, was adopted into an impoverished, abusive family who utilized her as little more than a slave. She knew the only way for her to become free from the grips of poverty was to pass her country’s civil examination test. In doing so, she would be accepted into a prestigious military academy- a feat that only the wealthy with their privilege could achieve. 

But, Rin, whose fiery determination knows no limit, finds a way to blackmail a teacher into helping her. Her willpower is both inspirational and a little bit frightening. 

“I don’t love you. And I can kill anything.”

– Rin from The Poppy War

The book also features a competitive boarding school, brimming with enigmatic educators, ruthless rivals, and a hint of magic. This portion of the novel was deeply enjoyable as Rin’s struggle and eventual triumph to overcome her background as an uneducated country orphan showed immense character growth. 

I wholeheartedly enjoyed The Poppy War and excitedly recommend it for those who enjoy fantasy and a complex main character.

Trigger Warnings: Self-harm, suicide, rape, murder, substance abuse, abuse, and genocide. If any of these topics make you feel uncomfortable in any way, please refrain from reading The Poppy War. Feel free to contact me for any additional information on what is discussed in this book.