The Poppy War follows the story of a young girl Rin, who is a war orphan. She grew up with a very abusive foster family who used her for free labour in their shop and also as a drug mule. Wanting to be free from that life Rin decides to study for the Keju an Empire wide test that if she passes could see her out of her home town and off to the capital to the revered Sinegard the most elite military academy in Rikan.
The world is super expansive and well developed and is one of the things I loved about this book the most. You are really able to get lost in this world and delve into the histories surrounding the Empire and how it came to be. I think R.F. Kuang really took her time developing the back story and the origin of Rikan and that is something I always appreciate from an author.
Rin is basically the reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars. I love me a strong female protagonists and seeing her arc over the course of the storyline was definitely inspiring, but some of the decisions she made kind of grated me. She was definitely right when she said that the Gods have no sway over her, she made all of the decisions that led her to that ultimate conclusion and most of those decisions didn’t sit well with me. When she chose to side with Altan over Master Jiang that’s really when I knew I wasn’t feeling her anymore. She wouldn’t heed the advice of those who have had years and even decades more experience than her. Even though she only found out she was a Speer a few months ago she already knew everything and could handle the Phoenix god just because she’s Rin. That arrogance and overconfidence was a bit of an overkill for me.
The first half of the book when Rin was in Sinegard I absolutely loved! Magical/military style school settings I just love to read and this was no different. Seeing Rin struggle to fit in, being at the bottom of her class and then clawing her way to the top was wonderful to read. All of the characters were distinct and interesting and the feud with Nezha was so entertaining! The second half however, kind of dragged a little. The siege was just a little boring for me personally; it was just a lot of Altan locked away in his office and Rin wandering around or on guard duty. I like a lot of action and intrigue and this was just waiting around for the action to happen.
The overall premise I found highly original and engaging and the magic system was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Definitely enjoyed the majority of my reading experience however, I’m a little bummed I wasn’t as in love with the story as much everyone else seems to be.
⭐️3/5 stars Really enjoyed, didn’t love!