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R.F. Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang is the Nebula, Locus, and Campbell Award nominated author of The Poppy War. She is currently pursuing an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies at Cambridge University on a Marshall Scholarship, where her dissertation examines propaganda literature by Northeast writers during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Her debut The Poppy War was listed by Times, Amazon, Goodreads, and the Guardian as one of the best books of 2018 and has won the Crawford Award and Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel.

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The Poppy War: Grimdark military fantasy in an Asian world

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Fang Runin (Rin) is a war orphan living with opium-dealing foster parents who physically abuse her and treat her like a slave, which is miserable enough. But when they arrange a match for her at age fourteen with a twice-divorced merchant three times her age, Rin has finally had enough. She comes up with an escape plan, managing to hold off her foster parents’ marriage plans for her for the time being through a combination of threats and promises. Rin spends every spare waking moment during the next two years studying for the Keju, a national test to find the brightest students in the empire to admit to the Academies, even burning herself with hot candle wax to keep herself awake and focused as she crams for the test. And it works: Rin does so well on the Keju that she’s admitted to Sinegard, the military school for the most elite students in the Nikara Empire.

It seems like a dream come true, but R... Read More

The Dragon Republic: For fans of grimdark

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

As a rule, I don’t like grimdark, and I don’t read grimdark. R.F. Kuang’s debut novel The Poppy War was an exception. It impressed me, mostly for the way she wove the historical wars between China and Japan into her fully fleshed-out fantasy world. Based on my liking of the first book, I read 2019’s The Dragon Republic, Book Two in THE POPPY WAR series. Sadly, with the second book I was reminded of why I don’t like grimdark.

So why did I read it? See above: Because the first one lured me in.

In Book One, we met Fang Runin, who goes by Rin. Rin is an orphan, a woman, darker-skinned than the aristocratic northerners, and raised in the south, the poorer part of the Nikara Empire. Rin is unvalued and dismissed, but through determination and s... Read More