Allgemein, P - T, Reviews, T

Review: The Poppy War (R.F. Kuang)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten

Book 8 on My Book List 2019

”Children ceased to be children when you put a sword in their hands. When you taught them to fight a war, then you armed them and put them on the front lines, they were not children anymore. They were soldiers.”

This book. I mean… THIS BOOK! *sighs deeply and shakes head*
There is so much to be said about “The Poppy War” and I’m afraid I won’t even be able to put at least half of my thoughts into decent sentences. Because after finishing this book about a month ago (A MONTH AGO!!!) I still have troubles to sort out all of my feelings and thoughts.

“The Poppy War” is a great book but it tackles a lot of serious topics and I guess that’s the reason why my heart always feels kind of heavy when I think about it. Of course there is a war raging in this book but there happen so many other things that it’s almost impossible not to flinch when you reach those final 40%. Think about every atrocity that’s ever happened and you get a good idea about what you’re going to read in this book. There’s genocide, rape, torture, self-harm… and that’s just me naming a few of the triggers that might come your way.

”War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.”

Let me tell you this: The longer you continue the worse it gets and even though this was masterfully done and I loved the world building and all the characters there is still this strange undercurrent of heavy sadness and dread. Golyn Niis was so tough to read I still get goose bumps when I think about it. This chapter was so, so, so, so damn hard to get through and I can’t remember the last time I read a book and felt that way. Maybe I never felt that way reading a book before. At least I can’t remember a single book that actually made me feel like this. I swear my stomach turned and I had troubles to breathe. I was feeling nauseous reading a book! Yes, it was that heavy! Everyone who already read the book will know what I’m talking about and to those who didn’t: It’s really as bad as everyone claims it to be! I got plenty of warnings but nothing prepared me for Golyn Niis!

”Amateurs obsess over strategy, Irjah had once told their class. Professionals obsess over logistics.”

Still, despite this heavy feeling of uneasiness that always overcomes me when I think about “The Poppy War” this book was definitely worth reading! I loved the fantasy elements and the idea of powers from the gods! Plus I really enjoyed the chapters at Sinegard Academy and the chimei! What I loved the most was the representation of human nature though. I might be alone with this but it’s obvious that R.F. Kuang put a lot of effort into her characters and you could see it in the way they grow, develop and change. Their character arcs were so amazing to follow, I’m in awe! And before I continue to gush about them here, I might as well move to my character section instead. ;-P

2

This is my spoilery spoiler section and if you didn’t read the book already you better turn around and leave. If you’re still curious and don’t want to heed my warning you may proceed at your own risk! I mean I warned you, right? ;-P

Rin:

”No – they couldn’t just do this to her. They might think they could sweep her away like rubbish, but she didn’t have to lie down and take it. She had come from nothing. She wasn’t going back to nothing.”

Oh gods! Rin! I can’t believe what she did in the end and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that such a sweet and innocent girl could change that much! But it still happened and her descent was so heavy to watch. >_< I guess that’s what happens when you play with fire, quite literally in her case. She got addicted to the power and I’m so damn afraid of what she’s going to do next! I loved her defiance and strength at the beginning of the book, how she wanted to learn and did everything possible to achieve her goal. She was so determined and strong-willed! But then the war began and all those things happened and with every chapter Rin changed! She became something different, she hardened her heart, she lost her moral compass and made decisions that got her deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole! And then she did the unthinkable and I’m not sure if she’ll ever be able to return from that darkness again. T_T The ending broke my heart, for Rin, for the person she could have been for everything she HAD been before she came to Sinegard. She’s not the person she used to be and I find myself weeping for everything she lost and for what she became. =(((

”She didn’t want to be possessed. She wanted to remain free.”

”Then I will die on my feet,” she said. “I will die with flames in my hand and fury in my heart.”

”My god didn’t make me do anything,” she said. “The gods can’t make our choices for us. They can only offer their power, and we can wield it. And I did, and this is what I chose.” She swallowed. “I don’t regret it.”

”She was sane, she was convinced of it. She was whole. She had lost much, yes, but she still had her own mind. She made her decisions. She chose to accept the Phoenix. She chose to let it invade her mind.”

Altan:

”We’re the final front,” said Altan. “If we fail, this country’s lost.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “Excited?”

Altan broke my heart. At first I had the same impression like everyone else: That he knows what he’s doing, that he’s in control and a perfect student/soldier but the more we got to see from him, the more it became obvious that he’s far from all those things! This boy was broken beyond repair and he hid it so well that no one ever noticed until it was too late! I can’t say that I liked his actions but I could understand why he acted the way he did! He was lashing out at everyone because he was like a wild animal that only saw threats and didn’t know how to react to kindness. Altan was unable to see that not everyone who confronted him wanted to do him harm. Which makes me sad on so many levels. =( That poor, poor boy! To be tortured like this, to get out of it alive, to live with his past and the knowledge that it might happen again. Just to live with everything he went through! To draw breath every day and to continue, to keep on moving! I can’t even begin to comprehend how he must have felt and I can’t put into words how strongly I feel for him. T_T And I don’t want to believe that he’s dead! He can’t be dead! >_<

”I don’t know,” he said after a long moment. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

”Altan’s fire drew as its source an unending hate. It was a deep, slow burn. She could almost taste it, the venomous intent, the ancient misery, and it horrified her.
How could one person hate so much?
What had happened to him?

Kitay:

”One urinating statue for my easily entertained friend.”
Rin blushed. “Kitay, I can’t.”
“It costs nothing.”
“It costs a lot to me,” she said.
Kitay placed the statue in her hand. “If you say one more thing about money, I’m leaving you to get lost.”

I absolutely adored Kitay! He’s such a good friend and I loved that Rin and he became besties. =) Despite being fortunate enough to be one of the rich kids at Sinegard Academy he still reached out to her and became her friend. I think that’s what I loved about him the most, he didn’t care about titles or money, he just cared about the person and what it could do! Kitay is the living and breathing proof that good people exist and in the end his character was the only one that gave me any hope. Because despite all the things he witnessed and regardless of everything that happened to him, he still had moral values and acted according to them. In a world so harsh and cruel that it changed everyone around him, he still held on to his convictions and I loved him for it! <333

”There was a hard glint to his eyes that she had never seen in him before. He looked as if he had aged five years. He looked like his father. He was like a sword that had been sharpened, metal that had been tempered.”

Jiang:

”I am a mortal who has woken up, and there is power in awareness.”

I really don’t know how to feel about Jiang! I actually liked him at the beginning of the book but I was so disappointed by him when it ended. His character was some sort of catalyst and I had the distinct feeling that he could have done more, that he SHOUD HAVE done more! What if he would have taught Rin about her powers? What if he would have allowed her to use them in a safe setting? What if he would have fought alongside them and would have helped her to control the phoenix? He basically left Altan and Rin to their own devices and this set them on the dark path they were descending at the end. How different everything could have gone if Jiang would have watched out for them! =( To drop Altan as his student was the first mistake he made and not to teach Rin properly apparently his last.

”Ah. The law.” Jiang sniffed at an unidentified leaf and then tossed it away. “So inconvenient. So irrelevant.”

3

Rin & Altan:

”She knew what addiction looked like. Opium smokers were yellowed, useless sacks of flesh. They did not fight like Altan did. They did not move like Altan did. They were not perfect, lethal animals of graceful beauty.”

Okay, I’m going to say it: I DIDN’T SHIP RIN AND ALTAN! I’m sorry but I just couldn’t! They didn’t have much of a relationship before Rin joined the Cike and once she was a part of them her relationship with Altan was nothing but abusive. He slapped her, hurt her with words, forced her to do things she didn’t want to do and was everything else but supportive. How was I supposed to ship that? I get that Altan was thoroughly broken but he didn’t have to let it out on Rin and as frustrated as he might have been with her, he still had no right to hurt her. So nope, it was clear right from the beginning that he didn’t respect her as much as she respected him and if you ask me those two never had a future. (Not saying that I wouldn’t love for Altan to come back again. I still wouldn’t ship him with Rin though) I’ll never ship those two and I stand by it. Fight me! *lol* ;-P

”Hey. Hey.”
Cool fingers wrapped around her wrists. Gently, Altan pulled her hands away from her face. She looked up and met his eyes. They were a shade of crimson brighter than poppy petals.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I know. I know what it’s like. I’m going to help you.”

”She had adored an idea of him, an archetype, a version of him that was invulnerable. But now she knew the truth, she knew the realness of Altan and his vulnerabilities and most of all his pain… and still she loved him.”

He leaned forward and grasped her face in both hands. She thought for a bizarre moment that he was going to kiss her. He didn’t. He pressed his forehead against hers for a long time. She closed her eyes. She drank in the sensation of her skin against his. She seared it into her memory.”

Rin & Nezha:

”We aren’t here to be sophisticated. We’re here to fuck people up.”

Now that’s a relationship I could appreciate! Yes, Nezha was an ass at the beginning of the book but in contrast to Altan he actually realized his faults and apologized to Rin. I loved how they both grew out of their initial animosity and became friends in the end. And those fighting scenes!! They were pure harmony on the battlefield and anyone who claims differently didn’t read the book! XD Just like Kitay seemed to have become a moral compass for Rin the same could be said for Nezha and I’m sure if he’d been around at the end she wouldn’t have gone down that dark road. >_< Unfortunately Nezha was lost in the toxic mist and seems to be dead. I refuse to believe that he’s gone for good though. I mean he had some serious healing abilities so maybe he survived it and became a prisoner? But then again he most likely would have been with the Mugenese when Rin launched her attack and I don’t know if he would have been able to survive this as well. >_< I really hope Nezha will magically reappear in the second book! =)

”But I saved your life. Doesn’t that make us at least a little square?”
Square? Square? She had to laugh. “You almost got me expelled!”
“And you almost killed me,” he said. That shut her up.
“I was scared of you,” Nezha continued. “And I lashed out. I was stupid. I was a spoiled brat. I was a real pain in the ass. I thought I was better than you, and I’m not. I’m sorry.”

Altan & Chaghan:

”They had come to an understanding, she and Chaghan. They were no longer opposed, vying for Altan’s favor. They were allies, now, bound by the mutual atrocities they had commited.”

I’m going to be honest here: I’m such a sucker for Chaghan!!! I love his character!!!! And is it just me or did I actually feel some gay vibes between those two?! Altan and Chaghan definitely had more chemistry than Rin and Altan ever had! *lol* And they didn’t even have all too many scenes together! I got the distinct feeling that something happened when they spent those three days in the valleys and I’m not talking about Altan winning a fight between them, feel me? *wriggles eyebrows* Haha! ;-P Gosh, I really would have loved to find out more about their relationship and this is just one more reason why Altan can’t be dead! I just ship him and Chaghan too much to accept his death! Period! XD

4

“The Poppy War” was an amazing and sometimes truly revolting dark tale about a young girl that follows her own path and fights for what she thinks is right. It shows us how people can grow and how their circumstances and perceptions can change them. For better or for worse… This tale isn’t over yet. In fact it just began and I can’t wait to read what’s going to happen next. Let’s continue to hope for the best while we expect the worst, because apparently that’s the only attitude that will get you through this series. 😉

”And she would call the gods to do such terrible things.”

3 Gedanken zu „Review: The Poppy War (R.F. Kuang)“

  1. Reading these books was such a brutal experience! R.F. Kuang really wasn’t afraid to go there, and the fact that this book is based on real-life events made it worse. Also, you’re not the only one who sensed a gay vibe between Altan and Chaghan. I have a soft spot for Chaghan as well! ❤

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