The Poppy War by R.F.Kuang is a book I first stumbled upon when meandering through the quiet bookshelves of Waterstones on a “just let’s have a look and not buy anything” book hunts. Whenever I go to bookstores, I like to try get a flavour of the book from the first few pages – it is how I found The Kingkiller Chronicles back in the day.
The opening to The Poppy War pulled me in instantly. Even when I had put the book back on the shelf to go through some other books, the beginning kept pulling me back in. Who was this lady, Rin, and what is her story?
If the first chapter was enough to purchase the book, then the writing style and historical basis of the story pulled me in. I’ve been trying to diversify my authors and types of fantasy I read – I wouldn’t normally read something that has such a strong militaristic theme but I didn’t find that overwhelming in The Poppy War. What I really enjoyed was the layering of the history within the story so for someone like me, who had no background to the historical events that the book uses as inspiration, it introduces the topic. After finishing the book, it leaves you with questions about the actual historical events, which I then spent my time disappearing down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.
The other part of the book I really enjoyed was the magic system, and how grounded it is in something other than “Greek Mythology”-esque system. It’s got the mystery of a high magic system, with gods and magical creatures, but it’s written in a way that makes it feel very real in the world. As much as I love the intricacies of a hard magic system, there is something powerful of other worlds and godly figures bestowing magical abilities.
I’ve yet to read the rest of the trilogy (they call to me from the TBR list), but I definitely am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy, and R.F.Kuang is certainly an author that I’d keep an eye out for in the bookstore.
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Alex.J.Cobalt is a fantasy writer from the UK. When she’s not working away at her fantasy novel series, she posts free flash fictions on her website, along with regular blogs about writing.