Celebrating AAPI Month: The Poppy War Book Review

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Celebrating AAPI Month: The Poppy War Book Review

by Toni Jackson

The vibe of this book goes from Cinderella, to Harry Potter, to Game of Thrones–but is still very original in its own way. Written by R.F. Kuang in 2018, The Poppy War is the first installment out of three in The Poppy War fantasy series. It follows Rin, a war orphan, as she goes from the most impoverished village in the Nikara Empire to passing an elite exam and attending the most prestigious military school of them all. She quickly realizes how out of place she is, and has setbacks with not just other students but also professors. You follow Rin as she goes from academy to fighting in the Third Poppy War before she's even graduated. 

The author based the plot/world on the Sino-Japanese War and the Song Dynasty, so there are definitely historical elements throughout. I normally don’t like Fantasy books, but the characters in this book are both compelling and complex. You root for Rin, the main character, but as the story progresses she does… questionable things. Something unique about this book is that there's no romance between the main character or any other characters. A lot of female driven books (especially in dystopian or fantasy) tend to have this as the default but the focus on Rin and her powers is something that makes the book that much more interesting.  

The book is around 550 pages, but each page is filled with drama and it’s not a drudge to get through. The first half set in the academy and the second half set in the war have two completely different feels to them, and it stays interesting throughout. An apt-comparison is A Darker Shade of Magic but with teenagers and less romance. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves books with war, magical powers, underdog stories, or to anyone that’s mildly interested in the premise. It’s worth the time!