This was what the balance of power looked like now. People like her waved a hand and millions were crushed within the confines of some elemental disaster, flung off the chessboard of the world like irrelevant pieces.
Publication date: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Age group & genre: Adult grimdark fantasy
Synopsis: The searing follow-up to 2018’s most celebrated fantasy debut – THE POPPY WAR.
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.
Content Warning/s: rape, infanticide, war themes, graphic violence, graphic depiction of injury, racism, drug addiction
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This review does not contain any spoilers for both The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic. You can find my review of The Poppy War here.
The Dragon Republic was the first arc I ever got approved for! I was a very small blogger when Edelweiss granted me access to it back in April, so you can imagine my surprise! I honestly can’t think of a better first arc approval.
As you probably know, The Poppy War came out last year to some criticism, but generally glowing reviews. However, I predict that The Dragon Republic’s reception will be far better than its predecessor’s, because it is far better paced, plotted and written.
My biggest complaint about The Poppy War when I read and reviewed it was that the pacing was off, but this certainly isn’t the case for The Dragon Republic. I will admit that it’s much slower, and it stays like that for the entirety of the novel. But war and political maneuvering come in, so you find yourself turning the pages despite the pacing.
The Dragon Republic starts out on a very hopeless note, but shockingly, the hopelessness lessens as the book goes on—not enough for the characters to be happy because I don’t think Kuang knows how to write happiness, but enough that I was willing to continue reading without my sadness for the characters’ situations weighing me down.
More war occurs, and Rin and her team of fellow shamans are roped into it. Reading the naval battles, land skirmishes, and political intrigue unfold is a truly unique experience, and the extensive research that went into writing them is clear in every line.
Also, THAT ENDING. I and almost all of the others who have already read this book were completely destroyed by it. I obviously can’t say more, but I’m just telling you to prepare yourself (even though that’s probably impossible).
The worldbuilding is expanded on even more in this next installment. We get to meet the Hesperians, who are the Caucasians of this world. The Hesperians blatantly view the Nikara as an inferior race, because of their smaller eyes that can “see less,” slower technological advancement, and polytheistic religion. They simply view the Nikara, especially the shamans who call on vengeful gods for their powers, as experimental subjects. Kuang uses the Hesperians to make stunning social commentary. There are so many parallels to the real world in her work that it’s nearly impossible to enumerate.
She once said on Twitter that none of the characters have a moral compass except Kitay, and this couldn’t be more true. All of the characters are flawed to say the least, but it’s hard to blame them for their choices when we can see what war is putting/has put them through.
🌿 Fang Runin– Rin might not be my favorite character, but I admire her nonetheless. She’s the definition of morally grey, and her saga is a privilege to follow. Also, Rin and Sarana?? Tell me I’m not the only one who sees it!
🌿 Chen Kitay– My love for Kitay grew ten times bigger in this book! He’s been through so much, but still manages to be the most decent character in the series. He and Rin’s relationship makes my heart soar. Their friendship trumps every romance that could ever come out of this series.
🌿 Yin Nezha– [REDACTED] [REDACTED]
🌿 Su Daji– The Empress’s snake goddess, poison-tipped needle-throwing martial artist aesthetic is iconic. At her core, Su Daji is simply an extremely powerful woman who’s been faced with a country she has no idea how to rule. She’s the ultimate villainous girlfriend, and I can’t wait to see more of her.
Overall, The Dragon Republic proves that this series is a must-read grimdark fantasy, and I’m so happy that it’s one written by an Asian woman. Sadly, The Dragon Republic doesn’t get any lighter than The Poppy War, so please read the (numerous) content warnings before going into this sequel/series. However, The Dragon Republic was a vast improvement from the first book, and I highly recommend it.
The Verdict: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I received a free e-arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All quotes may be subject to change.