The Dragon Republic

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Member Reviews

This book had an interesting premise. Unfortunately, in my opinion it was problematic and just not for me at this time.
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I adored the first book The Poppy War and this book did not disappoint at all, in fact I think it was even better than the first.  It was great t be back with Rin after all that happened in the first book I was so excited to see what was going to happen next for our heroine. This is an action packed book from the start, it is always interesting even at the heavier times in the book it never loses its magic, so well written. This is such an amazing book, I cannot recommend this enough, if you’ve read the poppy war you need to read this book.   If you haven’t read The Poppy War, why not, go read it now so you can enjoy the Dragon Republic straight after !

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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I got on board the hype train for R. F. Kuang's The Poppy War when it came out last year and I banged that drum so hard and so loud because here was a protagonist who seriously wasn't afraid of making some really grim choices and having to live with them - no magical redemption at play. But the criticism levelled at the book was also fair: it can be quite slow, the school sections definitely won't appeal to everyone, and that the grim violence was 'a bit much' (which I think was the point). The Dragon Republic, I'm pleased to say, is so much better, so much more intense and much tighter in its plotting and execution.

Rin, following the searing events at the end of the first book, is hopeless and hopelessly addicted to opium. She spends her days in a haze of drugs and guilt, consumed by her actions and the blood staining her hands. After all, Rin is so very, very good at war and as a weapon, what other use could she have but to kill? However, the events of the Empire won't just pass her by and soon she is caught up in yet another conflict. Manipulated by the Dragon Warlord and desperate to atone for her sins (while still hating herself at every turn), Rin is pitted against her enemy, the Empress Su Daji. But as the book progresses, so much more of the world is unveiled: the nature of the shamans, the history of the Empire and its relationship with both Mugen and the Hesperians, the truth of the Trifecta and more. But more importantly, Rin faces the choices she has made, the horrors she has unleashed and the impact she has had on the world. After The Dragon Republic's searing ending, which left me reeling and full emotions and hollowed out, all at the same time, nothing will ever really be the same for Rin.

There is, once more, an inversion of tropes. Kuang does it again, just as masterfully as the first time. But where the first book spent a lot of its first half at Sinegard, playing to that idea of the school, the very Harry Potter-esque approach, this second book takes Rin on the road. Through this, we see more of the Empire, but we're also much more involved in the politics, and Kuang is adept at making us (dis)trust as much as Rin does (and sometimes more). The decisions that she takes now are layered with guilt and betrayal, poised between the need for redemption and the absolute truth of what she has done, what she is and what is expected of her. Rin doesn't really shed her villain cloak (and if you're familiar with the story of Mao, whom Rin parallels, you know where this is heading) and Kuang never really pushes for you to exonerate her characters; yes, they are weapons, yes their use is really in war, but underneath that persona is a human being and Rin's needs (for love, for validation, for help with her addiction) drive her every choice. The ending, the (view spoiler), all of them served to make me feel more empathy towards Rin while still fearing what she is poised to become.

Kuang once more tackles some deep and dark themes: human experimentation, the insidiousness of colonialism, the idea of 'benevolent rulers' who come to a country where they outright believe the population to be below them, the struggle between the old ways and the new, the idea of democracy (where, as Rin notes, stupid, mean people would get just as much of a say in the ruling of a country as the educated aristocratic elites). On the one hand, progress will come to the Empire, one way or another. But on the other, who should be the driver of that progress? The people of the Empire, from those like Nezha and Kitay and Venka, to those like Auntie Fang and Kesegi? The rulers, the aristocrats, the Dragon Warlords? Or indeed the Hesperians, foreigners who don't respect the traditions of the Nikara, who want to change and shape the country according to their beliefs and views, with complete disregard for what came before? There is no easy answer here and this is the entire point of The Dragon Republic: there are no real good guys and bad guys (a bit of a trite answer, it's true), because humans are much more complicated than they first appear and their desires and wants are entangled with their emotions and experiences; Rin chooses to be a weapon when no other choice is available to her, but had she not experienced the horrors of the Third Poppy War (like Nezha), would her decision have been different at all?

Unbelievably for a middle novel, The Dragon Republic didn't really feel like it flagged for me: there is so much to unpack, there are so many character interactions to savour (not just between Rin and others, but between all the secondary characters) and the actions scenes are some of the best that I've read in fantasy, the perfect balance between breath-taking and nail-biting. The other thing to note here is how unsafe everyone is: Kuang isn't afraid of breaking your heart and killing your favourites, but their deaths are never done for shock value. They feel organic, they feel shocking (because they are) and they feel, in a strange sense, earned. The grief that flows off Rin I could feel in my heart and my word did Kuang relish that. Because although I have never seen the horrors of war like her (let alone perpetrate most of them), I have known loss and I have known betrayal, as well as the morass of human emotion and relationships.

I know a lot of people struggled with The Poppy War, but if you can make it through the school sections, the rest of the series delivers with gusto and aplomb. This sequel left me reeling and I absolutely cannot wait for the conclusion to the trilogy and for Kuang to absolutely tear my heart into tiny little pieces and set them aflame.
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Step one: ignore my rating (for reasons which will become clear).

Step two: read the book anyway.

The only reason I couldn’t get into this book so much is because of my mood. I loved The Poppy War, so no one is more disappointed than I am about this turn of events. But I’ve been slogging through this book for two months, and for whatever reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to care. The curse of the mood reader really hit this one.

And because I was in the wrong mood, things which I might have been better able to stand if I wanted to read it, got on my nerves and made me even less keen to read it. But also, these were things that I had clocked in book 1 as weaknesses, but they were okay then, because there were things happening and I didn’t have time to dwell on them.

Here, there’s less plot. It’s a 600+ page book, and there’s less plot. So, god if I don’t have time to think on what I don’t like. But, before I get into that, let me just say: if you like the characters and the writing and don’t mind as much exposition as this book has, and that’s enough to sustain you for 600 pages, you will like this book.

One of the weaknesses I found with The Poppy War was the lack of character development. Yes, Kuang writes a very good steady descent into madness (Altan) or a good snapping point (Rin), but when it comes to other character developments, it’s lacking. Just think of how Nezha’s character arc went. He left Sinegard, still pretty much an antagonist to Rin, but the next time they see each other, he’s magically gone through all the requisite transformation to become a sort of friend. None of it’s on the page, we just have to trust it’s happened.

And, like I said, the amount of action in book 1 meant that I could overlook that. There was so much going on that it almost didn’t matter. I could find myself just going along with the story. But in this case, a good chunk of the book is just exposition. Pages upon pages of military strategy, and not a whole lot of carrying out that strategy. I genuinely feel like maybe a third of the book could have been cut down at the very least with less of that.

As such, the pacing felt very off. All that strategising and then the actual war, everything the book seems to have been building up to, ends within about 40 or 50 pages. It had been a slow trog up to this point, and then suddenly it’s all happening. An entire war, over in a single battle.

And then of course there’s a plot twist and I had to feel some kind of desire to know why.
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I received a free ebook version of this from Netgalley. Thankyou to both Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this! My review is still honest.

This was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, and while it took me quite a while to finish and absorb, it was absolutely worth the wait! It was just as good as The Poppy War, with some excellent character development not only in Rin, but in our supporting characters. 
This author is not afraid to take risks in her writing, and as much as they might break a reader's heart and make us panic when things aren't how we expect them to be, it always works. She knows her story and her craft, and I can only applaud her skill! I loved where the plot went in this, I think it went well in terms of introducing new enemies and new allies, and how the lines between the two blur. It set up for book 3 incredibly well too-I need it in my hands now!
This is a book of war and gruesome, horrible things happening, so if you don't want to read about that, this is not the series for you! But if you love a dark, fantasy read that is well paced, well written and very, very exciting, look no further.
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“Fire and water looked so lovely together. It was a pity they destroyed each other by nature.”

This is the second instalment in The Poppy War series.

Before stepping into this book, I reread the first series instalment and it definitely impacted my enjoyment of this book. The events here correlate to those the first book closes with. Only a handful of weeks have passed but the action begins almost directly. It was really helpful to be caught up with the who's who and the what's what of the world as the political focus and density of plot, that slowly evolved over the course of The Poppy War, was initially prevalent here.

Where as much of the first book took place over the course of a few years of Rin's life, the timescale was far shorter here. With war ravaging the kingdom, this was the primary focus. Battle scenes, battle schematics, and battle strategies abound. Kuang's writing never let the pacing of the book get bogged down with this but, with the enemy so far away, a lot of this felt far lower in stakes and, therefore, tension. This remained still highly enjoyable, but I did not often feel my heart racing in quite the same way as it previously did.

The concluding third shifted focus back to Rin's personal struggles and the reader was provided with an insight into just how far her character had come, since the confused and angry girl from the Rooster Province that The Poppy War opened with. For better or for worse, Rin is now a very different figure. I still empathise with her just as much, and appreciated that Kuang gave her an emotional arc throughout this book. Rin is far softer, in places, but far more brutal in others. She is well-rounded but never perfect and stays a consistently authentic figure due to this.

I have no idea where Kuang and Rin will take the reader in book three, but I know I am 100% along for the ride regardless!
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The Dragon Republic is set when Rin has become a very powerful shamen, who channels the Phoenix god, who wants everything to burn.  She's addicted to opium, and feels like she has no control over her powers, or the whispers of the god.  

They are at war, and Rin's powers have proven themselves useful to the cause.  But Rin is now joining the Dragon Warlord, and wants to turn the Empire into a Republic, and kill the Empress who betrayed her country.

These are fantasy books, with characters addicted to drugs, who are trying to find their way through horrific acts, to find some kind of life. They are quite long books, each over 500 pages long, but they are telling a good story, and one that I want to know the end of!

The Poppy War was published on 1st May 2019,  and is available to buy on Amazon  and on Waterstones.  I've found a link to where you can search for local bookshops, including independent!

The Dragon Republic was published on 8th August 2019,  and is available to buy on Amazon  and on Waterstones.  I've found a link to where you can search for local bookshops, including independent!

You can follow R.F Kuang on Twitter, or through her website.

If you're interested in fantasy books with the same feel, then here's some others I've reviewed:

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques  🌟🌟🌟🌟

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I was given this book for free in return for an unbiased review, so my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (the publishers) for this book.

Check out my GoodReads profile to see more reviews!
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. 

I was very excited to read this as I loved the first installment of this saga. And I wasn't disappointed. This book is mainly about war, what happens when you fight for too long and when you don't necessarily think about what you're fighting for. In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, Rin and the rest of Nikan have to try and pick themselves up and resume life, albeit after getting revenge on the Empress for her actions. Allying with another Warlord to gain democracy seems like a good idea but not all is as it seems...

I realy enjoyed this. Kuang is a great writer and her characters jump off the page. Rin is not necessarily likeable but always understandable. The twists and turns of the plot are also very exciting. I can't wait for the third (and presumably last!) book!
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Were back with rin and the gang. We've won the third poppy war, but Rin is determined to kill the empress who she thinks started it all. She makes an alliance with the dragon lord and they go to war.. again!
It was great to get back into this world, the writing is amazing and the complexity of the characters,   how they deal with the life of war, is amazingly thought out.
I liked this book, I did think it dragged a bit in the middle but over all a good second book.
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"Your bond will shatter. You will destroy one another. One will die, one will rule, and one will sleep for eternity"

* * * 
3 / 5

I listened to The Poppy War last year and it was fantastic. The narration was superb, the storyline was gripping, the characters complex and divisive. I loved Rin and I hated her. I wanted to keep her safe and I wanted to chuck her off a cliff. I recommended The Poppy War left right and centre. As a sequel, The Dragon Republic was disappointing.

"The Empress had sold them to the Federation for a silver and a song, and none of them could rest until the rivers ran red with Daji's blood"

It was a bit painful even to type that. Disappointing. Make no mistake, in and of itself it was a perfectly fine book. Some flaws sure, but nothing to cry about. But compared to The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic was lacking. First off, Rin. I didn’t like her at all. In the first book, she had some redeemable qualities; I admired her ambition, her tenacity, and I sympathised with her childhood and her ambitions. Heck, I even understood her worship of Alton. Her final actions at the end of the first book were horrifying and it made such an emotional impact precisely because Rin was at least somewhat likeable.

Rin in The Dragon Republic is not even remotely likable. She is whingy and self-centred and self-absorbed, and her loyalties change faster than I can snap my fingers. If I read the name Alton one more time I’m going to punch something. And yeah, I get it, you aren’t supposed to like Rin; she’s a mass-murderer for god’s sake. But there are antagonists and then there are whiny little children. (For an example of a great character that I didn’t always like or agree with, see The Traitor Baru Cormorant).

"Cities needed water to survive, just like bodies needed blood. So if they wanted to seize the Empire, they needed only to sail through its arteries"

The pace is plodding. This is a hefty book. Rin flits from being addicted to opium and unable to operate, to roving with the Cike, and then fighting for someone else. Her loyalties chop and change as she constantly changes her mind about what it is right to do. She flops between horrified by what she has done and supremely blasé about it; it’s weird. The book manages to perfectly portray what it feels like to be totally unsure what the right thing to do is. There are multiple factions in the conflict that governs The Dragon Republic, and Rin doesn’t know how to do anything but war, but some part of her hates not knowing what is right. I loved the conflict but hated how the result of it was that Rin’s aims and goals kept changing, making me as the reader unsure where the book was going, what story it was trying to tell.

"To call the gods is to gamble with madness"

I definitely feel conflicted about The Dragon Republic. On the one hand, it wasn’t as good as The Poppy War and Rin was very annoying. On the other, it has beautiful writing, deep personal and moral conflict, and it kept managing to surprise me. Approach this book with caution!

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of The Dragon Republic.
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The Dragon Republic is the sequel to R.F. Kuang’s much-acclaimed The Poppy War. The latter was one of our top ten novels of 2018, and so anticipation for the sequel has been rather high, to say the least. 

Happily, I can report that it’s been worth the wait. The Dragon Republic  is a fierce, searing and powerful story, filled with politics, brutal, bloody conflict, and complicated characters, many of whom are trying their hardest to kill each other. It’s also a story which isn’t afraid to explore the larger issues behind the curtain: colonialism, the morality of assassination, the difficulty of ascertaining what price is worth paying, if a goal is worth achieving. That extra layer of complexity is the crocodile in the reeds of each thrown knife, each smart-mouthed aside, each key player struggling with their doubts.

Don’t get me wrong, the story works on its own terms. If you want to watch Rin kick everyone’s arse (including her own), trying to set the world to rights – there’s something here for you. But there’s always things bubbling under the surface or, returning to the crocodile metaphor, waiting until you’re distracted to bite your metaphorical leg off.

At its heart, this is a personal story – Rin’s story. Rin is in something of a bad way as the story opens. 
She’s managed to get everything she wanted – won a war, punished those who broke her people. But the cost has been very high, and she’s done some (to put it mildly) extremely questionable things to get to where she is now. Rin is struggling with the consequences of what she’s done – to herself, and to everyone around her. While the latter is highlighted in interactions, the wider cost noted, it’s the inner struggle I’d like to highlight. The depression, the conflict, the spiral of shame, the poor decision-making. It’s an excruciating, razor-sharp portrayal of someone on the edge of an emotional precipice. Rin teeters, each decision or lack of decision a choice putting her nearer or further from the edge. It’s tough to read, and that’s a credit to the emotional honesty of the narrative, which isn’t afraid to shine lights in dark corners.  It’s grim, that emotional landscape, a mire which both we and Rin may have trouble escaping – but it’s one which has a raw intensity, and a truth about it. Rin’s struggle with herself is heady stuff, if not entirely pleasant.

While she’s working out what to do with herself, as someone perhaps best described as a living weapon (and there’s something of the child-soldier here, too), the world has to work out what to do with itself. The Empire that ended the Poppy War may not survive its conclusion. I won’t go into details here, for the sake of spoilers. But I will say this: you’ll see parts of the Empire with fresh eyes. 

The question of how to guide it, and how, is one that is hotly debated, to put it mildly. There are calm words here, and individuals struggling to implement what may be seen as different visions for a country which may not have a place for any of them. But it does, again, ask interesting questions. Do we accept ruthless methods in the service of laudable goals? Do we accept friendship in the guise of treachery, or treachery in the guise of friendship? In the battle of ideas, in the struggle to identify and have the power to choose the path for a nation – who decides which path is stepped down first? And what compromises will they take too get there?

Of course, the answer to more than one of those questions is answerable in carmine. In sharp knives in the dark. In betrayals and sudden reversals. It’s also answerable in magic, in walls of flame, and in the screaming torture and unutterable power which comes with making onself an avatar of the gods of a nation. The price, again, is high. But the battles are sweeping grand affairs whilst at the same time being unafraid of taking us into the fire and muck and blood. The stakes involved will get your blood pumping, but the vicious immediacy of the conflicts will keep your eyes on the page, determined to see what happens next, to see if the game is worth the cost.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that The Dragon Republic is a great sequel, and a fantastic book in its own right. If you followed Rin this far, you should pick it up, and see where her story takes her next. The journey Rin’s on will seize your attention like a knife in the ribs; this part of her story is furious, compelling, terrifying, fantastic stuff, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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I picked up The Poppy War a few weeks before The Dragon Republic came out. Mainly because the hype hadn’t really gone away, and I was curious to know what had inspired such mad devotion in most of the book bloggers that I knew.

And I’m so glad I did. This series is a gory, messy and fantastically written fever dream that makes the pages absolutely speed by. The characters feel like real people, with very pronounced flaws, but by the end, you love all of them regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.
These books aren’t an easy read. They’re about the brutality of war, and contain a LOT of trigger warnings- rape, drug abuse, self harm- but they just serve to underline what really happens when two nations go to war. Some of the scenes are extremely hard to read, but they drive the point home 
and raise the stakes for the characters. This is definitely not a YA series, that’s for sure.

Several crazy characters

However, we are introduced to an amazing bunch of characters. Rin, to start with: a war orphan from the battered southern Rooster Province, who aces the Keju, the test that lets successful nominees go and train in Sinegard, the capital. But things aren’t going to be as easy as that: war is brewing with the Mugenese across the sea, and the key to defeating them might be to unlock her shamanic powers.

Rin’s transformation over the course of two novels is absolutely amazing. Kuang makes sure that you’re in her head the whole way, and you can understand the decisions she makes, but her development from a child to a battle-hardened killer, to an opium-addicted wreck haunted by the things that she’s done in the name of her god, is amazing. I bow down to RF Kuang, the queen of character development: not just with Rin, but with Kitay, her friend, and Nezha, the son of the Dragon Warlord. All of them go through character growth, and the best thing is that the romance IS KEPT TO A MINIMUM. Instead, we get a story of war, friendship and bravery.

One crazy world

I would also like to add that RF Kuang has also managed to create one seriously inspired and crazy universe for her characters to inhabit. Heavily inspired by Chinese and Asian military history, the way she portrays military politics and strategy is so subtle and well-done that you kind of forget you’re reading words by an author rather than an experienced military strategist.

Plus, that magic system. Any world where gods representing different elements and beasts only have power if they channel it through shamans- thus rendering shamans mentally unstable- is fantastic. It certainly allows for some next-level head fuckery, especially when you meet the Speerlies: an almost-extinct race of people who channel the fire god, the Phoenix. It’s definitely not like anything I’ve read before, and makes Rin’s descent into madness (and Altan, her mentor, before her) both tragic and terrifying.

Crazy high stakes: one crazy series

I’m going to have to wrap up this complimentary rant, because otherwise it’s going to continue for another few pages. Suffice it to say, The Dragon War and The Dragon Republic are fantastically written, with super high stakes. Don’t expect your favourite characters to make it out alive (well, some of them will, but definitely not all) but  do expect amazing writing, people you’ll love and some nail-biting moments.
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Another incredibly well thought out and captivating book from R.F. Kuang. I got this one straight after I'd finished The Poppy War and just after I started reading I had to take a break, because the intensity of the war can get a little overwhelming. I read a couple of lighter fantasy books then got back into this, and I'm glad I did. It doesn't carry the same shock factor as the first book, but I like that and I think it suits the story. After the first book, just like Rin, you're resigned to the horrors of the war and feel the same sense of steely resolve that the characters do. You understand the same desperation, anger and sadness that they feel. You want Rin to have a better life despite her flaws, but you know that she was made to fight. What else could she do? I'm incredibly intrigued to see how this continues. These books are pieces of art, crafted meticulously yet still completely terrifying and entrancing. Honestly I don't know how the author does it.
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I was looking forward to this sequel and so pleased to receive a copy from the publishers via netgalley. I was definitely not disappointed. Excellent writing from a relative newcomer. There was no loss of cohesion from The Poppy War which can sometimes happen in a second book.The Dragon Republic carries on from the devastating events in The Poppy War unfortunately the situation facing Nikan is not resolved.
We find Rin is in a sorry state following the atrocity of what she did in an effort to halt the bloodshed and war. She now uses opium to silence the incessant voice of the Phoenix now a part of her that tries to control her and also to forget the consequences of what she did. Only a few of the Cike remain and she has become the leader by default. She can’t erase the horrific death of Altan which is seared in her memory nor dull the constant voice of the Phoenix. Rin herself admits she cannot function as a good leader. Who else is there ? Only the raging desire for revenge on the Empress who she feels betrayed them all by selling out to the enemy gives her the impetus to live on.
She finds herself in an uneasy alliance with the Dragon Warlord who plans to conquer The Empire and form a republic and unseat the Empress which suits Rin just fine. With much dismay and reservation Rin finds out herself and  the power of the Phoenix is part of the plan but first she has to be deprived of the opium she has been relying on and learn control. Easier said than done as not only are her senses dulled but also has her physical fitness and fighting skills.
This is not just your average fantasy novel it deals with war and its aftermath and has some parallels with wars in the past. However it is fantasy and as such worlds are built and very well done they are. We are introduced to the wider world and given wider knowledge of the people who inhabit them and their cultures and customs. The characters are well developed and expanded upon. The author does not gloss over the means and consequences of the pursuit of power and warfare or its results but it is not gratuitous.
 Happy to recommend this book and series and am looking forward the next.
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I am so annoyed with myself for not picking up this book sooner. 
This world and the fabulous writing mean that this is such an immersive story that sweeps me away every time i start reading.

This book series has fast become one of my favourites and i cannot recommend it enough.
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Thank you to Netgalley, RF Kuang and Harper Voyager for my arc of The Dragon Republic in exchange for an honest review. 
Title: The Dragon Republic 
Author: RF Kuang
Format read: Ebook / Hardback
Publication Date: 8th August 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Page Count: 654 Pages
Genre: Fantasy
Star rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Trigger warnings: violence, addiction, rape, PTSD
This review may contain spoilers for the first book in this series: The Poppy War 
you can read my review of The Poppy War here:
Synopsis: Haunted by the atrocities she committed, enslaved to the Phoenix god she allowed into her mind and addicted to opium, Rin and what remains of the Cike are on the run, all Rin wants is to kill the empress, nothing else matters.
So when an opportunity arises to align herself with the Dragon Warlord, father of her old frenemy Nezha, Rin can't say no to the chance to kill the empress and free Nikan by making it a republic.
After all, if Rin is anything, it's a good soldier.

Although the violence and graphic detail in The Poppy War was never something that bothered me, I should point out it's very minimal in The Dragon Republic for those who might have felt put off reading the sequel.
The story focuses a lot more on the idea of colonisation, religious zealotry and xenophobia. We see a lot more of the mysterious Hesperians but also get to meet the 'Hinterlanders'. I thought it was exceptionally interesting the way Kuang explores the attitudes of the Hesperians towards the Nikan, but also how this reflects in the Nikan's view of the Hinterlanders. We also get to know a lot more about shamanism and the history of the Empress, Red Emperor and the Gatekeeper. I can't wait to find out more about them.

I honestly can't express how much I love this series. It doesn't shy away from the brutal honesty of war, and it's repercussions, it explores addiction, PTSD, betrayal, extortion and all the things mentioned before. And for such a huge book the writing style makes it an incredibly easy read. I can't wait for book 3!
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The mindset that any one person is fundamentally inferior to another is infuriating. The sheer arrogance of such a notion is one of the most abhorrent qualities a human can possess. Whether it’s due to a slightly different shade of skin pigmentation, or a preference of which obscure mythical book passage to follow, or which side of an imaginary line you were conceived on, wars have been started over it all by the small-minded and ignorant. Many of these horrific themes are present in R. F. Kuang’s The Dragon Republic, in which Rin’s humanity is called into question due to her ethnicity and religious beliefs. It is a powerful, yet depressingly familiar tale that is not to be missed.

“But I’ve seen how power works… It’s not about who you are, it’s about how they see you. And once you’re mud in this country, you’re always mud.”

When we last left Rin, she was reeling from the consequences of her actions that ended the Third Poppy War. After learning that a person of power sold her country out, she has made it her mission to lead her Cike team into removing this figurehead and taking vengeance on those responsible for the millions of Nikaran deaths. The Dragon Republic begins three months after the Third Poppy War has ended, and Rin and her team of gifted Cike companions are running assassination missions for a pirate smuggler. As payment, Rin would receive enough ships and supplies to make a run at their target. The situation doesn’t play out like it should, and now Rin finds herself conscripted to a new ally with dreams of turning Nikara into a democratic republic. Not a true democratic republic, of course – the only vote that the people get to decide is whether to join their new governors or die. (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”) With allegiances constantly being tested and betrayals around every corner, Rin faces her greatest challenges yet in securing safety for herself and her people.

With much of the world-building and mythology already in place, The Dragon Republic wastes no time in providing a laser-focused story that lasts the entirety of the book. It’s tough not to compare this sequel to the original, but I will say that the uneven tonal shifts of the first book have been rectified. This is a grim world, and its effects on Rin are ever-present. Remorse for her actions is non-existent, and she relies on anger to drown out any wandering thoughts. Her identity is entirely wrapped up in being a soldier. She does not know what to do with her life if she didn’t have a war to fight, so she clings on to the nearest rebellious cause without knowing the full history behind it. Her war is personal, not political; she’s driven by her thirst for revenge instead of considering the greater needs of those around her. Rin’s journey is one of self-discovery and purpose, and it is fascinating to witness.

“In the heat of battle, human life could be reduced to the barest mechanics of existence—arms and legs, mobility and vulnerability, vital points to be identified, isolated, and destroyed.”

This is a story of self-worth and determination, of finding value in life when your strengths are stripped away. It shines a light on some of the worst aspects of humanity which are sadly still reflective of our current society. It is a story of tragedy and loss, of anger and hypocrisy, of perseverance and triumph. Kuang excels at wreaking emotional havoc while delivering a powerful meditation on war and survival. It is a compelling follow-up to a landmark debut, so make sure you visit The Dragon Republic.
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I have to say The Dragon Republic is a worthy, even better sequel to The Poppy War!
It follows the dramatic and quiet drastic end of The Poppy War and we see Rin on the run, having a opium addictions and handling life not so well. 
This book was even better written than the first and even though the focus was heavily on the military/ strategies it allowed for real human interactions in the book itself and a real bond between the characters and the reader.

About the characters: 
Rin: I loved seeing her deal with the concequences of her decision, having her hit rock bottom and see how she picks herself up and becomes more.
The Cike: Really liked their interactions and Baji, Suni  and Ramsa are just adorable.
Venka: Venka made this book for me! Her statements about society are so true and even though she has been through hell she will not let this define her!
Kitay: Didnt liked him in the begining of TDR but he changed that real quick. Also I admire his intellect.

Obviously there are way more characters but for spoiler reasons I will not share my thoughts.

All in all this was a masterpiece, that not only showed great strategic thinking, but also criticized the western society in a appropriate manner, because historically speaking they were absolut dicks and she did an amazing  job portraying that.
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Content warning: On page rape, addiction, also this is grimdark so if you’re bothered by that genre it is a good idea to avoid this- comment below if you have any specific content warnings you would like or message me on twitter (@judithcmoore). A polite reminder that this series is not and never has been YA!

Regular readers will be exceptionally proud of me (and probably a little surprised) when I tell you that this time I actually re-read the first book before jumping into the sequel.
I’m usually the kind of person who just reads sequels straight off and I do my best to remember what happened in the previous book. With this book though, I knew I was going to love it and I wanted to give it it’s due by reading it with the context of The Poppy War first.

I’m so glad I did, I expect I could have done my normal thing and it would have been fine but so much of this book is tied up in Rin processing and recovering from what happens to her towards the end of the first book and I think I’d have a lot less patience for her if it wasn’t clear how horrible that had been.

A lot of this book involves Rin being an addict and dealing with what is pretty clearly some form of PTSD – that’s to be expected if you read The Poppy War but I was surprised by how much of the book is taken up by that. While some might think it gets in the way of the action I personally felt it was a really important thing to do. So much takes place in this story it would be very easy for R. F. Kuang to just ignore the trauma these characters went through or to play it off and get on with the plot. The fact that she chooses to depict the recovery process (including the descent to rock bottom) was incredibly powerful and made me fall for Rin and the other characters even more than before. I’m not typically a Grimdark reader but something about how Kuang writes her characters utterly captivates me and I just want to read more.

This book managed to break my heart on more than one occasion. I don’t want to go into too much detail because it would veer into spoiler territory. But there’s something about the way that Kuang writes these painful moments and throws them at you as a reader from completely out of the left field. It reminds me of the feeling some GOT readers/viewers got when certain characters were being killed off left and right (that ‘don’t get attached to anyone, you don’t know how long they’ll stick around’ is real). So read this with caution – you may shed a tear or three.

Again, I don’t want to spoil things, but Kuang does a phenomenal job of depicting the grieving process. This book hit the nail on the head as far as my (albeit limited) experience of grief has been, that process of putting someone on a pedestal and then having to break down that perception was remarkable and is something that will stay with me for a long time.

This is one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. For me to say that about a book that can be described as Grimdark is phenomenal – I am a soft individual who doesn’t like violence. There were parts of the book where I felt the violence was just there for the sake of it, the inclusion of an on-page rape felt like it didn’t serve anything beyond upholding the ‘reputation’ of The Poppy War as having those violent moments. This somehow didn’t hit the same as those moments in the first book and instead felt unnecessary. I still loved the book enough that I didn’t want to drop a star rating but if I’m being nitpicky that was the one thing I would change.

Overall, I loved this book. How I’m supposed to get through this wait another time is baffling to me – I think I’ll have to just keep re-reading the first two books until publication day!

My rating: 5/5 stars

I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Dragon Republic comes out August 8th!
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Rin has saved the Empire form destruction. But at what cost?

Distraught, feeling guilty and lost, and addicted to opium, Rin is still mourning Altan's death. But she still has to lead the Cike, and, if she wants to assassinate the Empress, she needs to survive. Soon, she decides to join the Dragon Warlord and his forces against the Empress. 

But this time, it's not a war that protects the Empire from an outside force. This is a civil war. A destructive power that's a means to an end. And not everyone can be trusted.

The much-anticipated sequel to The Poppy War is finally here, and R. F. Kuang hasn't disappointed. Picking up exactly where we left, we find our main hero in her hardest state possible. But Kuang has managed to portray this with such honesty and realism, that you can't help but love even the darkest parts of Rin's story.

The reader comes back to an Empire that might have won the war, but is on the verge of crumbling. Rin, disillusioned, has now taken a turn for the worse, assassinating the Empress being the only thing in her mind. But when she comes across old friends and a new commander, hope will rise once again. Maybe RIn has found a way to master the god that lives inside her. She might have even found a noble cause to follow. But not everyone is honest, not everyone is a friend, and goals always come hand in hand with great sacrifice. And Rin already knows that all too well.

R. F. Kuang has already proven that she is very good at researching and creating an Empire from scratch. It should come as no surprise that she portrays the environment around Rin so well. And yet, she doesn't cease to amaze the reader. Indeed, she's leveled up her narration game. On The Poppy War, she strategically arranged her pawns. On The Dragon Republic, it's time to get them moving. And move them she does - not in the ways that one would expect. That is one of the greatest assets of Kuang: she keeps a fantasy world realistic enough to be liked, magical enough to engage us, and unpredictable enough to keep us on our toes. The result is a world of magic, warfare, pain, suffering, love, bravery, freedom and enslavement, horrors and miracles. 

Granted, The Poppy War involved much more humor in its world building. Yes, the Dragon Republic is much darker. But it is darker times we're facing, in this novel. And it makes a perfect fit.

All in all, The Dragon Republic is a great second book in the series, portraying perfectly an empire at chaos, as well as the destruction, despair, and also the hope that follow. Definitely a recommended read.
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