The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang
Publication date: 08 August 2019
Page count: 672 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review for The Dragon Republic, but will contain major spoilers for The Poppy War.
I’m very vocal about the fact that The Poppy War was my favourite book of 2018, so I was naturally extremely excited to dive into The Dragon Republic as soon as I could, but I was a little nervous. The second book in a trilogy is a difficult one to pull off, as it deals with the exciting aftermath of the first book and must set up the conclusion of the series. In addition, an author’s second book, especially following a splashy debut like The Poppy War, is a notoriously difficult one to write. Despite all of this, I am so pleased to say that The Dragon Republic is a fantastic sequel to an amazing debut novel.
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.
One of the most outstanding aspects of The Poppy War was the way that Kuang used real events and atrocities from history to influence her story — at times it felt like I wasn’t reading fiction, because in a way I really wasn’t. The Dragon Republic does something similar, however it draws deep inspiration from colonialism. Much of the book deals with war and the aftermath of the war, of course, however a new layer is added as interfering missionaries from a distant land begin meddling in the politics of Nikan. As horrifically uncomfortable as it was, especially with the racist language and values depicted, I found this aspect of the book incredibly effective in opening up the world and making The Dragon Republic feel different from its predecessor.
There are many characters in this book, both old and new, that I’m dying to talk about but don’t want to spoil the fun for you guys. I will, however, say that Rin remains one of my favourite characters ever. Despite the fact that she committed actual genocide at the end of The Poppy War, I still find myself rooting for her. Much of this book deals with her trying to live with the fact that she has done such a horrible thing and her attempts to escape the memories of Altan that continue to haunt her after his death. She shows so much incredible character growth over the course of this book and it’s just so well done.
The Dragon Republic is a sequel that effortlessly follows in the footsteps of its hugely successful predecessor. Similar enough that fans of The Poppy War will love it, yet different enough that The Dragon Republic is firmly its own book, I cannot recommend it more highly.
CW: many of the warnings for the first book apply, but there is an on-page rape scene in this book. If you’d like to know what chapter it falls in and whereabouts it happens, let me know and I can give you a heads up.
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