The Poppy War: A Novel

Written by:
R. F. Kuang
Narrated by:
Emily Woo Zeller

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2018
19 hours 27 minutes
An AudioFile Magazine Best Audiobook of 2018!

A Library Journal, Paste Magazine, and ENTROPY Best Books of 2018 pick!

Washington Post ''5 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel of 2018'' pick!

A Bustle ''30 Best Fiction Books of 2018'' pick!

“I have no doubt this will end up being the best fantasy debut of the year [...] I have absolutely no doubt that [Kuang’s] name will be up there with the likes of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.” -- Booknest

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
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Pauline H.

The book started out okay and got better. Then midway I felt like I was reading whole different book. I don’t think I can finish it with five hours left. Don’t know what direction the book is going almost feels like I’m lost in a fog.

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Brent B.

never have i hated a protagonist more than rin. so many deus ex machina too. not worth the time.

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León C.

The characters generate little empathy.

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Alexis H.

Very slow and boring to start the entirely shifted directions and got violent. Some of the descriptions of the war crimes were so graphic and disgusting I had to skip the chapter. Not a good story and hard to follow combined with the horrors made me wish I never heard of this book. Should have a HUGE trigger warning for SA.

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This is the most overhyped book series I ever read. It reads like it was written by a rich, spoiled, racist teenager—because it actually was. The authorial voice is indistinguishable from the author’s real life social media persona. The author’s xenophobia really shines in the book. For someone who aims to be the voice of justice for Asian peoples, she has a vicious hate for Asian people that don’t share her ethnic origins. I don’t say “her nationality” because she was wealthy woman living in the west even before masterful Tik Tok marketing made her a best selling author. The first few chapters of the book were okay, and if the quality and style had remained consistent with that, it would have been a middling fantasy series. Unfortunately the storytelling got progressively worse as the book and series progressed. The entire cast of characters are cardboard cut-outs with no depth. The main character never grows at all, and has no agency. This never changes throughout the series. The plot is an incoherent mash-up of plot points shamelessly lifted from superior novels. The world building is lazy, and just files the serial numbers off real world China, Mongolia, Japan, and some pacific island states, and uses real world war crimes and atrocities (like the Rape of Nanking) as a backdrop in a very insensitive way. This series is not marketed as historical fiction, or the lack of world building may be forgivable. What is not forgivable is the representation of the Rape of Nanking (a real world event).

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Malik W.

absolutely amazing book 6 hours in and cant stop Listening I would recommend this book to anyone

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Josh T.

a little bit slow and the main character is pretty whiny but the book was alright

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