M’s drunk review of The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang
What I Drank Priori: I had yet another bottle of wine. I know that seems to be always the drunk review trigger, but i mean we’re all at home and it is what it is. Variety is the former spice of life, now we’re just taking it day by day.
That said, this is the THIRD and FINAL book in the series, so please don’t read past here unless you want major spoilers for books 1 and 2 in The Poppy War tril.
The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.
After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?
My Summary: After committing mass genocide and a pretty dark second book of her pulling herself back together but also killing a lot of people again, Rin has found herself in a pretty good spot all things considered. She is leading a grassroots army to take back the Southern Provinces from the Mugenese and, by proxy, sticking it to the Hesperians. Though our poor little dumb dumb has greatly underestimated both her allies (former and current), her enemies, and her followers and quickly finds herself biting off way more than she can chew.
Spoiler-free thoughts: I am not sure I could have asked more for the ending to this trilogy that I absolutely adored. After all, her go-to plan really is mass murder. And, mmm, not a great plan, right? That said, she learns some tough lessons and I thought the arc all made a lot of sense. That said, is it bad to just want everything to end happy? Is it?
Characters: Ok, we’ll start with Rin. She really is something… is it wrong that I totally think some of her plans have merit? Hm it probably is. More importantly, KITAY WAS THERE. He is literally the best character of the series. Anyone who disagrees is radically mistaken. And Nezha! Poor Nezha… I love him so much and just want his happiness. He is THE most tragic character of the whole series. Also love Venka who should have gotten more “screen” time. Additional characters I thought didn’t get their due are Souji (ugh, just ugh) and Vaisra. For the latter, he was such a big part of the second book and did not get the analysis or speech he deserved imo. Characters with layers, even if evil, are the best and deserve to be explored. As for the Trifecta, I think it is a problem part of the book that we only ever briefly get insight into what they are actually thinking, so they come out as more mythical than actual people. Which may be a point, but wouldn’t be my point.
Plot: The arc is fairly simple, building up to big battle, actual big battle, and let down from big battle. Though, if you’ve read the first two, you know there is much, much more that goes on than just the high points. My favorite parts of the plot, and our MC Rin’s strength, is really in those battle/lead up to battle portions. I really like the strategy portions and less interested in the ruling aspects, especially since that isn’t our girl’s strength. I also think some, what I would say, more important points were very glossed over, where as some things got sooo much unnecessary time. There was like A LOT of famine guys. So, so much. I get that is a big part of war and ruling, but it was a lot.
World Building: Obviously if you know me, a lot of why I loved this series was the world building. The magical/religious systems layered with the political in-fighting and external empire relations was the really fascinating part. I liked a lot of the mythical portions–a strong point of the series–but wasn’t sure it was adequately explained. Especially Nezha’s portion. What was very well done is the elements of mid-20th-century China. Something I think is subtle, but others may not agree.
SPOILERSDayum I feel like my poor Kitay was shafted in the end. Like I get it, and it made a lot of sense, but I didn’t totally love the triumvirate call back. Again, get it, but it really did blindside me at the time… better readers than me would have totally saw it coming though. Like, sort of duh.
Drink Pairing: A shooter, I suppose. Like, our faves are dumb but shooters are fun though when you have a lot there are consequences.
Rating: 4/5, this definitely wasn’t my favorite of the books, but closed out the story in a not disappointing way, which is all I ever hope for.
Xxxo always, Minda