The Burning God
- Author: R.F. Kuang
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: November 26, 2020
- Publisher: Harper Voyager
- Series: The Poppy War #3
CONTENT WARNING: gore, war, rape, torture, violence, starvation, cannibalism
After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much — the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges — and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grow, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?
I was fortunate enough to buddy read this book with the hilarious and insightful Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog (you can find her review here) and I have never had such a great time discussing a book!
I’ve honestly been trying to organize my thoughts into something more coherent than OH MY GOD YOU NEED TO READ THIS MASTERPIECE, and honestly, the best way to sum up my thoughts during and after reading the book is a direct line from the book:
“Darling, fucking what?”
It actually turned out to be my favorite line, and have been using it whenever I get the opportunity.
But seriously, this book was absolutely incredible, and the best possible ending to the series. While The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic focused a little more on battle scenes and heavy amounts of action, this book was a little different. So many books just end after the major battles finish. But this one focuses on what happens after the war ends and the world needs to be rebuilt.
“But Rin dreaded liberation. Combing through a half-destroyed village to find survivors only meant yet another survey of the extent of Federation cruelty. She’d rather face the battlefield again that confront that suffering.”
I know I’ve discussed the characters in each of my previous reviews. Nearly every single one is morally gray, with the exception of Kitay. A few characters showed up that I was really excited to see. And one of my favorite aspects of the book was seeing Rin’s emotional journey. Initially, she learned how to accept parts of herself that she always struggled with:
“Rin had spent so long hating how she felt when she burned, hating her fire and her god. Not anymore. She could admit to herself now that she liked it. She liked letting her basest instincts take over. She reveled in it.”
Obviously, Rin is not the most balanced character in the series. While her bond with Kitay has helped her to rein in her anger, it still comes out sometimes. And when I saw this, I got chills seeing Rin finally be comfortable owning her power, her personal history, and her heritage:
“‘I’m not Sinegardian elite. I’m that savage, mud-skinned Speerly bitch that wiped a country off the map. And sometimes when I get a little too angry, I snap.’”
There’s a LOT of traveling in the story. There’s actually more traveling than battle, but it really shows us how even within one country, Nikan is not a monolith. The provinces are so different — the geography, the crops, the characteristics of the people themselves, and what each area is known for are incredibly diverse.
And while there wasn’t as much focus on battle, this book was just as fast-paced as the rest. I was emotionally invested in the characters, but I found myself less likely to cry over events. Perhaps this was because of the brutal nature of the story, or because things happened so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to really process each situation as it arose, but I felt like it still conveyed the way life is during and after a war. Plus, the ending was absolutely perfect.
Speaking of realism, this book managed an incredibly difficult task. As a fantasy book based on historical fact, it felt as though this could really happen. Even with the shamanism and gods, and all the other elements of fantasy that ran through the story, it still managed to feel so realistic. I haven’t come across many books that do this, but Kuang did an excellent job with this one.
As I’ve said with each of the other books in this series, they’re harsh and brutal books with a lot of content warnings, but if you can handle all of that, they’re definitely worth reading. These are a series that I’ll be rereading more than once.
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: 27
Categories: Book Review