Monday, July 29, 2019

Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War, #2)
The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang
Harper Voyager
Publication Date: August 6th, 2019
Hardcover. 560 pages

About The Dragon Republic:

"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."

*Note: This is a spoiler-free review, although since this is the second book in a series there may be inadvertent minor spoilers from the first book.

When I read The Poppy War last year, I was entranced. I had no idea what sort of story I'd be getting into when I started it, and it wasn't until the famed second half of the book that I fully understood just how high the stakes would be and how deep and dark Kuang was would go to tell such an important and riveting story.

The Dragon Republic is vastly different from The Poppy War in regards to setting and plot developments, but it still captures the intensity, drive, despair, dichotomy of hopelessness and hopefulness, and utterly gripping narrative present in The Poppy War. It is somehow even better than the first book and it took everything in me to even be able to put this book down so that I could do other productive things in my life (you know, like eat, sleep, clean...).

Rin continues to be a character that I oscillate between somewhat liking, hating, and feeling entirely frustrated with--and honestly, that makes me love this book even more because she is such a compelling and real character. She's incredibly angry (understandably, usually). She screws up a lot. She has an unchecked temper, but she also knows how to take care of things and be appropriate when she needs to be--well, sometimes. There is definitely a lot of growth in regards to Rin and her gradual understanding of how the world around her works and her role in it, though she does still hang on to a lot of her most stubborn characteristics.

In addition to Rin, many of the supporting characters, such as Kitay and and another character whose name I can't mention since it might be a bit of a spoiler, also continue to be developed in an engrossing and believable manner. I really enjoyed all of the characters that Kuang has created in this trilogy so far, especially those such as Vaisra the Dragon Warlord and even the Empress Su Daji. There is a fine deftness required in order to create characters that are so easily hated, yet still intriguing (and dare I say charismatic?) enough to draw you in to their own motivations and goals in the plot.

One aspect of The Dragon Republic that I was particularly excited about was the expanded world-building. The Poppy War featured a fair number of various locations and settings, but in The Dragon Republic the entire world just felt as if it were opened up so much more. Even more history and locations were introduced and explored and the already expansive world-building of the first book was opened up into something that felt as real as the world I live in today. There are a variety of climates and locations, there are societies that don't concern themselves with issues far away unless it directly benefits them, there are hierarchies upon hierarchies that are endlessly complex and frustrating to those involved with them, and there is simply a constant sense of legitimacy that had me really sucked into this world. And to top off the world-building is the excellent Asian-inspired setting that absolutely makes this book even more interesting than it already is. I love that Kuang has drawn influence from historical elements and has such a vibrant world and a diverse array of cultures in place to reflect the diversity of the Asian background it is based upon.

As much as I loved The Poppy War and was easily engaged in Kuang's absorbing prose, it is clearly evident that Kuang has improved even more with the prose of The Dragon Republic and has matured even more as a writer (though, of course, this isn't to say that her writing wasn't already mature and well-done!), crafting a tale with twists, turns, scheming, and intense discussions that drew me in at every moment. At no point in this book was I ever bored--instead, I was constantly yearning for more.

This book will punch you in the face, laugh at you when you're shocked, pretend to make it better...and then stomp all over you again with a smile. And you'll love every second of it. If you loved The Poppy War, you'll love The Dragon Republic. If you were iffy on The Poppy War, you'll love The Dragon Republic so definitely still give it a chance! Overall, I've easily given The Dragon Republic five stars!

*I received an ARC of The Dragon Republic courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

1 comment:

  1. I only skimmed since I just purchased the first book in the series, but I'm thrilled to see your 5 star rating. This sounds like such a powerful series.