Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

book review

The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Publication date: 08 August 2019

Genre: Fantasy

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.


Want to pick up a copy of The Dragon Republic for yourself? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links): 

Book Depository | Blackwells


Are you planning to read The Dragon Republic? Have you already devoured it? What did you think of The Poppy War? Let me know!

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

  1. I also devoured TDR. I completely agree with you, Rin’s character growth was astounding in this book. My heart felt like it was physically torn out of my chest at the end. but damn it was such a great book. I especially loved that it wasn’t just Rin that grew, the side characters did as well, and that’s really hard to do in a second book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes yes yes!!! The way she interacts with *several people* from the first book is so good and she is a such a different person. I’m so happy you loved this too!

      A couple of moments made me want to jump on my sofa and pump my fist in the air, especially when a particular contraption is introduced. She is so good at giving you rewarding, amazing moments to balance the absolute horror 😍

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so damn excited! But also kind of nervous. I think I might wait until December to read this one so I don’t have so long to wait for the third book. I’m really hesitant about my feelings towards Rin after the end of the second book. Like, I love her and I’m rooting for her, but she kind of destroyed an entire country. SO CONFLICTED. I have faith that the author has handled it well though XD

    Liked by 1 person

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