The Dragon Republic
- Author: R.F. Kuang
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: August 8, 2019
- Publisher: Harper Voyager
- Series: The Poppy War #2
TRIGGER WARNING: addiction, infanticide, self-harm, gore, violence, torture, war, animal sacrifice, rape
The war is over.
The war has just begun.
Three times throughout its history, Nikan has fought for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars. Though the third battle has just ended, shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. Now she is on the run from her guilt, the opium addiction that holds her like a vise, and the murderous commands of the fiery Phoenix — the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power.
Though she does not want to live, she refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland to its enemies. Rin’s only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new republic.
But the Empress and the Dragon Warlord are not what they seem. The more Rin witnesses, the more she fears her love for Nikan will force her to use the Phoenix’s deadly power once more.
Because there is nothing Rin won’t sacrifice to save her country … and exact her vengeance.
I have a confession to make. As much as I loved The Poppy War (see review here) I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for over a month and I’ve really been dragging my feet on reading it. Why? I’m not really sure. Maybe part of me was worried that this book couldn’t possibly live up the incredibly high standards that I had set after reading book 1 (it did and then some). Maybe I just didn’t really want to let go of this world (I still don’t). But I also didn’t want to read it without being able to jump right into book 3. Eventually, my interlibrary loan came in and I had book 3 sitting on the shelf, and my excuses ran out. Ultimately, what forced me to read this was worrying that I would have to return the books before I got to read them. And I have NO REGRETS.
The story picks up shortly after The Poppy War left off. Rin is struggling, hardcore. Honestly, I can’t imagine how she couldn’t be, especially with everything she’s been through. But the fast pace of the story mirrors the fast pace the characters face — they don’t really have time to deal with difficult emotions. They have to keep moving, to keep momentum, and be able to keep their focus on what really matters … and unfortunately, that isn’t managing their emotions in a healthy way. So Rin is hiding behind a variety of unhealthy coping skills. Obviously opium is one of them, but her anger is what is keeping her functional at the moment:
“The anger was a shield. The anger helped her to keep from remembering what she’d done. Because as long as she was angry, then it was okay — she’d acted within reason. She was afraid that if she stopped being angry, she might crack apart.”
In true Cike form, they cracked me up. There were multiple instances that were pretty funny, but my favorite was this one:
“‘Great Tortoise. That’s a nice ship.’
‘What do you mean, that’s a nice ship?’
‘I mean, if that ship were a person, I would fuck that ship.’”
The characters are imperfect and incredibly flawed, just like real people, and they are so well-developed in the story that it feels like I know them personally. I really felt for Rin most deeply — she’s the main character, and she isn’t perfect by a long shot, but she’s been the underdog since page 1 of book 1, and I can never resist a good underdog. Sometimes Rin and the Cike seem so adult, and then they say or do something that reminds me how young they really are.
The magic system is well defined as well. Nikan is not so loosely based on 20th century China, and surrounding areas, but Kuang has also clearly put her own stamp on it. I’m not usually a huge fan of political/war fiction, but this book won my heart. It’s fast paced, full of action, and never boring. I never knew what to expect next, or who was plotting what. Because someone was always doing something sneaky. I just wasn’t sure who or what it was. The story was brutal, gory, and harsh, but battle and war isn’t a pretty story no matter which side you’re on. Just be prepared to jump right into the next book!
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 22
Categories: Book Review