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Publisher's Summary

A powerful epic fantasy novel with roots in the 20th-century history of China.

Opium runs through the heart of the Nikara Empire, a constant reminder of the war with the Federation of Mugen that brought it to the empire’s shores. A war that ended only thanks to three heroes - the Vipress, the Dragon Emperor and the Gatekeeper - known as the Trifecta. They were legendary figures, each bestowed with godlike powers, who united the warlords of the Empire against the Federation.

Decades have passed. The Trifecta is shattered; the Dragon Emperor is dead, the Gatekeeper is missing and the Vipress alone sits on the throne at Sinegard. Peace reigns, yet the poppy remains.

War orphan Fang Runin grew up with it. Her adopted family smuggles it throughout the Rooster province, making a living on the misfortune of those addicted to its smoke. But when Rin’s parents force her into an arranged marriage, Rin refuses to accept her fate and fights her way to the prestigious military academy at Sinegard.

There she will learn of drug-fuelled shamanic powers thought to be myth, powers which might defeat the Federation during its third invasion. But the cost of some power is too great to pay, even if it means winning a war that threatens to destroy an entire nation.

©2018 R. F. Kuang (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"A blistering, powerful epic of war and revenge that will captivate you to the bitter end." (Kameron Hurley, author of The Stars Are Legion)

"A thrilling, action-packed fantasy of gods and mythology...The ambitious heroine’s rise from poverty to ruthless military commander makes for a gripping read, and I eagerly await the next installment." (Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

 "In The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang draws on history and myth to tell a relentlessly unforgiving story of war, vengeance, power and madness, with larger-than-life characters that evoke sympathy and rouse terror. Brace yourself." (Fonda Lee, award-winning author of The Green Bone Saga)

What members say

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Something is Missing

The story began very well with much potential but the immaturity, selfishness and short-sightedness of the protagonist made the story at times rather weary. Her amazing memory and exposure to great teachers only shows that vast amount of knowledge and horrific life changing experience does not guarantee an ability to be far-sighted and wise. Towards the end, I was rooting for someone else.

I will have to hope that the second book will bring about a more mature and reflective heroine. Keeping fingers cross

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  • Evi
  • 06-05-18

Magnificent book!

My words. This was a magnificent read (audio). Fantastic storytelling and the layering of each character is superb. Definitely a YA fantasy book you need to read (listen).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Aentee
  • 06-07-18

Immersive and brilliant historical fantasy

I absolutely loved this book, I alternated between reading the Kindle copy and the audiobook for my first read and it was a great experience. This is a historical fantasy based on China's complex modern history, particularly the Second Sino-Japanese war and the lead up to the Cultural Revolution. R. F. Kuang majored in International History, with a focus on modern Chinese military history, and it really shows in this book.

The Poppy War reaches the perfect balance between inspiration from historical facts and reinventing a world all its own. If you love anti-heroes and morally ambiguous characters, you will find Rin utterly fascinating. The audio performance by Emily Woo Zeller is also brilliant, I am a long-time fan of her narration and I think her voice is very emotive.

The book does get very dark, especially towards the last third. A lot of the events shown actually parallel real-life horrors, which made it all the more confronting. Content warning for genocide, rapes, murder, torture, human experimentation, self-harm, and a lot of violence. The content never felt gratuitous, but do take note that the last third of book is quite graphic before you read or listen to it.