Minda’s preg review of The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang—this is #2 in the saga so I recommend you hold off reading if you haven’t read The Poppy War yet.
And I know we already have Sam’s review, but I. Have. Feelings.
What I drank prior: It’s Christmas morning! I wish I had a mimosa (or five) but still counting down until baby.
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.
My Overview: We pick up where the first installment left off with Rin reeling from the end of the Third Poppy War and the death of her leader and, well, let’s just say she’s not dealing with it well. To try to isolate herself from decision-making, she joins a push for a Republic-controlled country led by her former-rival-turned-love-interest’s father to rise against the reigning dictatorship that she blames for ruining her life. Hm a character driven by revenge and opium addiction? Let’s see how this goes.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: OMG I had been counting down the days until I *finally* got a copy from the library and man it did not disappoint! I was basically at the edge of my seat the whole time and I have FEELINGS about this book. The book provides an Eastern perspective as opposed to the Western one most books (that I at least read) are, and I greatly appreciate the diverse perspective.
Characters: Of course we have our main squeeze Rin, who like I mentioned above is not managing well after the decisions she made in the last book. I think TDR deals with it very well and I’m glad it isn’t just swept under the rug. Kitay also plays an outsized role in the book and—though I have some questions—he’s a great character as the voice of reason and logic. I also can’t help but heart Nehza so much!! But also whyyyyy. Vaisra, N’s dad, was also a great addition as Ron’s new idol/focal point. The Hesperians (people from the West aka white people) also made a good addition to further ingrain the diverse perspective of the book. I still think the members of the Cike could be more fleshed out to make me care about the more—they feel very disposable to me.
Plot: Personally, I liked how the plot moved along—I thought there were three very clear acts of Rin’s journey: denial, resignation, acceptance. She—and other characters—really do some growing, which makes sense as the first book was more-or-less about going from a nobody to a student to a solider.
World Building: Legit my favorite part about the series. You can definitely see the parallels between this world and China in the post-WWII time period, intertwined with the Eastern magical aspects. Expanding the world to include the Hesperians and the Ketreyids also served the book well.
Writing Style: All from Rin’s perspective, which I think serves the book.
Write Spoilers Here
Ok so like I said, I have questions about the anchoring/soul-bonding thing. If Kitay knows all her thoughts, why does she ever have to share anything out loud and him not already know? Why does she not know immediately what he is thinking about a situation?
Also, what was that twist about the Trifecta being bonded? Like, Changhan only decides this is important to share now, not when you are trying to assassinate her the whole time? Seemed a bit convenient/out of nowhere for me, but open to explanation.
Also, Nehza’s betrayal killed me you guys. I just want them to be happy and cute together!
What to pair it with: I like Sam’s suggestion about the three Long Island ice teas… oof, feelings.
Rating: 5/5 shots