The Dragon Republic
EXTREME SPOILERS FOR DAYS! EXTREME!
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.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review!
“‘I used to be scared of war,’ she said finally. ‘Then I realized I was very good at it.’”
Rin was an absolute hot mess in the beginning of the book and I love Kuang for that. Rin is SUPPOSED to be a hot mess after everything she has gone through and the trials ahead. She is addicted to opium, the Phoenix is playing pinball with her psyche, and she is still reeling from the war and losing Atlan–the man she was beginning to associate with family.
I felt so bad for her as she struggled with her addiction and her guilt for her brutality, the author does not pull any punches when it came to the truth about addiction and how it not only affects you but the people around you. The Cike begin to lose faith in her and so does she.
But when Nezha appears and brings her along to his father’s army to stop the Empress, she begins to have faith in herself again.
Rin looks to the Dragon Warlord as a father figure/mentor/teacher and it made me realize how deep Rin’s desire for a family really is. She craves the Warlord’s attention and aims to please him as she struggles to gain her momentum after her addiction.
A lot of old faces are reintroduced and it was almost bittersweet to see how much the war has changed the once spry students we were first introduced to.
With Nezha, we see the once rivals become the most surprising of friends.
“Why was it that whenever she looked at Nezha, she wanted to either kill him or kiss him? He made her either furious or deliriously happy. The one thing he did not make her feel was secure.”
I absolutely loved their friendship. I was honestly surprised to see how loving and patience he was with Rin. We later learn why and how Nezha can relate to her struggles with her god and powers but wow, did not see sparks of tension and romance in their future.
And the ending!! His betrayal!! Ahhhh, Rin/Nezha, fire/water, it will be epic.
“Fuck Altan, fuck his legacy, and fuck his trident. It was time she started using a weapon that would keep her alive.”
Altan and his presence continues to linger in this book, actually, his very ghost is threaded into each chapter. Rin struggles to carry the mantle of his legacy and as the last Speerly (that we know of), Rin is more unsure of herself than ever. In the first book, I was as swept up by Altan as anyone–his bravery, strength, ferocity, and my heart tore as we learned about his addiction, rage, and the times he spent getting experimented on. But in this book, Rin learns how to disassociate herself from Altan and strive to be better than him.
Eugenics and racism plays a biggg factor in this book. We are introduced to the people in the west called the Sinegardians. I can only imagine the author used Americans and or Europeans as the example of this big, blonde, blue-eyed race of people. The view Rin and her people as beneath them, nothing more than an inferior race. The use their different skin tone, eye shape, and brain sizes to fuel their hateful beliefs. This reminded me of the Eugenics movement in early American where scientist classified different types of “races” and how white people were more superior because it backed by science (eye roll).
And it was so upsetting to watch as Rin was literally stripped of her humanity from these people who want to study her. And because she is a Speerly, she was considered even less.
I knew that once the Sinegardians became more vocal about how they viewed the Kitarians that we were a threat and not an ally so I am looking forward for the next book where Rin takes her revenge.
I loved the politics, the military tactics, the reoccurring characters, the slow build, the patient story telling as we get deeper and deeper into the Third Poppy War. I loved Rin in the first book and now I can’t wait to see her progress as she kicks some more ass in the last book.