Good evening friends! I’m looking forward to sharing today’s First Lines Friday post as I am featuring the start of a military fantasy trilogy that I can’t wait to pick up and begin!
I have previously read one very well-known book by this author. It was both recommended and gifted to me by my sister’s fiancé. As I’m trying to finish reading ongoing series rather than pick new ones up, I have been resisting temptation to start. I’m not sure that’s going to last much longer, after today’s introduction.
Shall we take a look?
“Take your clothes off. “
Rin blinked. “What?“
The proctor glanced up from his book. “Cheating prevention protocol.” He gestured across the room to a female proctor. “Go with her, if you must.”
Rin crossed her arms tightly across her chest and walked toward the second proctor. She was led behind a screen, patted thoroughly to make sure she hadn’t packed test materials up any orifices, and then handed a formless blue sack.
“Put this on,“ said the proctor.
“Is this really necessary?“ Rin’s teeth chattered as she stripped.
The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: 01 May 2018
An epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic.
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.
I was first introduced to this author by reading her now very popular novel, Babel, last year. It seems apparent that she is a very diverse author in that she can write very different books. Whilst The Poppy War seems very reminiscent of the fantasy structure I am used to seeing, Babel is quite different in its more historical setting and context. I’m also intrigued to pick up Yellowface, which was published earlier this year.
This introduction has me asking an awful lot of questions and wondering what on Earth is going on! It is definitely a solid hook for a reader in order to get them invested very quickly in finding out what is happening.
Having read the synopsis, I think I’m going to enjoy the underpinning commentary of race, social class and personal background. A lot of this is already alluded to in the synopsis, and based on how similar themes are tackled in Babel, I’m confident that this will add to the book rather than distract from any action.
I have a mixed experience with military fantasy in the past. I have enjoyed books like The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Red Rising. However, I’ve also had less good experiences… and ironically, that’s with the second book of the Red Rising series, but I’ve just mentioned as a great experience! Overall, my experience has been more positive than negative. My only gripe with Golden Son is that the pacing felt off; there was too much action and not enough world-building. But, that is a specific book problem, rather than a genre problem.
Given my fantastic experience with this author already, and several recommendations, I will be venturing into The Poppy War with high hopes!
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s First Lines Friday post!
Have you read The Poppy War or any other books by R.F. Kuang?