Series: The Poppy War #2
Published by Harper Voyager on August 6, 2019
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fantasy, Fiction, War & Military
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In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.
With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.
But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance
The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect.
Chinese military fantasy debut The Poppy War was one of my favourite books of 2018 (if not of all time), so I was really excited to dive into The Dragon Republic, the 2nd book in the Poppy War series. It took me a few months to prepare for it, as I wanted to reread The Poppy War so everything was fresh in my head before delving in. I’m really glad I did, because this one continues just a few weeks after the first book, and it didn’t take me long to become familiar with the series and the characters again.
So without further ado, how does The Dragon Republic stack up as a sequel?
Rin is now suffering from PTSD
After literally achieving the impossible in The Poppy War, Rin has become a political bargaining chip as one of the most powerful beings in existance. She finds herself relying on opium and other substances to drown out the memories haunting her.
Rin goes through a lot of introspection in this novel, which lent itself to a much slower pace than the first book, and oftentimes her narrative dragged. But given the events of the first book, there’s definitely a lot for her to go over and that’s okay – she’s got a lot to process, and doesn’t have all the answers.
It has a much slower pace than the first book
While The Poppy War moved extremely quickly, covering many years from Rin’s childhood to her becoming a soldier, The Dragon Republic runs over a few months (or years). There’s a rebellion to plan within this time as Vaisra, the Dragon Warlord needs to build his army and gain favour for his republic. The book delves into more military tactics and naval warfare, along with building an army and winning over towns and people over the course of months.
Because of this, there were a few moments in here which featured a lot of talking, political maneuvering and also many pages where Rin doesn’t seem to know what to do – or who to trust.
Questions of morality for the greater good
This theme continues in The Dragon Republic – do you sacrifice what you want in the short term for long term gain? Do you wipe out an entire race of people, just to save millions of others? Do you betray a friend, just so you can cement the loyalty of others? This is war, and this is brutal, and there are many questions of morality that are explored here – some completely devastating and some would say evil. But you do what you have to do as a ruler, and that makes us question our humanity – over and over again.
Friendship at its finest (but not without its flaws)
Rin and Kitay make me warm and fuzzy inside because of how much they care for each other. There’s absolutely nothing that they won’t do for one another and they share some fantastic banter for one another. Rin doesn’t always make the right decisions, and she makes some downright wrong ones, but Kitay is the only opinion that she trusts. He’s not afraid to tell her that she’s wrong, and she’s not always going to follow his advice, but I love how their friendship is based on mutual respect for one another.
It’s always hard following up on a first book, but as a sequel, The Dragon Republic did what it needed to do: it provided more world-building, more character development as Rin reflects on how far she’s come, introduces some heart-stopping twists and turns and a direction for the next book in the series.
While The Dragon Republic was slower paced than the first book, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing more military tactics with Chinese mythology and political struggles thrown in, set amongst a backdrop of illicit substances, magic and lore.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5