Book Review: The Dragon Republic (the poppy war #2) by RF Kuang // spoiler free

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Release Date: 2019
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult

• this is a spoiler free review of The Dragon Republic, however there are spoilers of The Poppy War. Please don’t read this review if you haven’t read the first book

And she couldn’t lose her chance at revenge. Revenge was the only thing she had.

The third Poppy War is over, the Mugenese are defeated. Betrayed by the Empress they fought and killed for, Rin and the Cike cannot return to Nikan. With Altan gone, it’s up to Rin to lead them.

Grief stricken and guilt ridden, vengeance is all Rin has. Opium is the only thing keeping the constant calling of the Phoenix inside of her in control.

When the Dragon Warlord offers her a place in his army to take over the Empire and lead it to a new age of a democratic republic —Rin takes up his offer for revenge and finds herself caught in the middle of political games, as Warlords grapple for power at the expense of the common people and outside forces circle like wolves, waiting for the Nikara to destroy themselves.

And for the first time since any of the Warlords can remember, the specter of the Federation has disappeared. Fear used to be a unifying force. Now the cracks in the foundation grow day by day.

It’s taken me a long time to gather my thoughts and write a (somewhat) coherent review of this book. I’m in complete awe of Rebecca Kuang and this spectacular series she’s created.

For the last few days this book has taken over my life. When I wasn’t reading late into the night, I was constantly thinking about it or discussing it with my friends.

I was hoping The Dragon Republic would floor me exactly the way The Poppy War did. Astonishingly, it did more than that. Reading this book was nothing short of exhilarating.

From page one it did not let up. I was in a constant state of anxiety waiting for the next twist and turn. Every new reveal, betrayal and manipulation gave me whiplash. I was left gasping, more astounded than before.

Kuang did not pull any punches. The action was head-spinning and the violence (which often left me feeling nauseous) was rendered in such an authentic and appropriate way to each scene.

Knowing that Kuang draws from real sources of Chinese history makes the brutality reflected in the pages hit you harder than ever.

“The world is chaotic and war is fundamentally unpredictable and at the end of the day you don’t know who will be the last man standing. You don’t know anything going into a battle. You only know the stakes.”

The author painted a beautiful picture as she expanded the world building and history of Nikan. She delivered the politics and military strategy in a fresh and riveting way that had me on tenterhooks, desperate to know more. I especially loved reading the naval battle scenes which were so very vivid.

In between this harsh landscape Kuang gives us funny and tender moments that I hoarded with a protective ferocity akin to a dragon hoarding gold.

The cast of characters consisted of new and old faces — each distinct and with apparent flaws.

The trauma and psychological side effects suffered by all was shown so well. The old cast from book one has changed so much after everything they’ve endured, each coping (or not coping) in their own way.

The anger was a shield. The anger helped her to keep from remembering what she’d done. […] She was afraid that if she stopped being angry, she might crack apart.

At the beginning of the book Rin is in an extremely dark place. She’s struggling to deal with grief and guilt while trying to escape Altan’s ghost and losing the battle against her opium addiction. The only thing she has to hold onto is her rage and her need for revenge. This left her vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation. Even though our girl makes some terrible decisions I still want the best for her and I remain hopeful.

I especially loved Kitay in this one. The sweet cinnamon roll of a boy he was in book one is no more. He has been hardened by war and haunted by Golyn Niis. Now he is filled with a quiet fury which he pours into everything he dedicates himself to. He is such a good friend to Rin, and I will not recover if some terrible happens to him in the next book.

The ending was an unexpected stab in the heart. I could not believe what I was reading. I read it several times in fact just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. A chant of “no no no” did not stop me from careening head first into the twist so cleverly layed out.

After, I lay in the dark, speechless and dazed. Unable to form a coherent thought, my mind churning and a stampede of emotions running through my whole body.

If I look back now to everything that happened in this single book, it was A LOT— but it was all so well executed and put together.

I am counting the hours till I can read the final book. I have no doubt that Kuang is going to deliver a sizzling conclusion to this already mind blowing series.

CONTENT WARNINGS: violence, murder, genocide, rape, self harm, mutilation, human experimentation


Thoughts on the audiobook:
Emily Woo Zeller has once again done a fantastic job. She has such a great range of voices that she does for each character and I really enjoyed her pacing as it made it easy for me to follow. I usually struggle to pay attention to fantasy in audiobook format but that was not the case here.
It’s also really awesome to know the proper pronunciation of character names!

Have you read this book? Do you have a favourite character? I’d love to know!


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