Title: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2)
Author: R.F. Kuang
Published by: Harper Voyager
Release date: 8th August 2019
The searing follow-up to 2018’s most celebrated fantasy debut – THE POPPY WAR.
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.
The Dragon Republic picks up straight after The Poppy War, and explores the aftermath of Rin’s actions in book 1. She is addled with guilt, grief, and trauma, and is struggling with addiction to cope. Rin’s journey is at turns shocking and heartbreaking, and I never knew what to expect – I was on the edge of my seat the entire book, alternately thinking ‘Rin, no,’ and then rooting for her the next chapter.
One of the things I love about these books is the unflinching exploration of war and all of its complexities, and the way that Kuang maintains focus on the horrific impact of it. They are incredibly difficult to read at times, and, again, I would definitely recommend a look at the content warnings (linked here and at the end of this review) before you go in. R.F. Kuang is an absolutely incredible writer, and it is impossible for me to do these books justice in a review, other than insisting that everyone read them ASAP. The Dragon Republic was non-stop twists and turns, and is action packed from beginning to end – you will not be able to put this book down.
I’d hoped to get the chance to really get to know the rest of the Cike in this book, and Kuang most definitely delivered. I fell completely in love with them, and I loved Kitay’s storyline — he remains my favourite character. I also loved that Venka had a bigger part in this book, and I honestly cannot wait to see more of her in the next book!
Much like The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic left me completely speechless, but also completely dead inside in the best and worst way possible. I am equal parts excited and scared to read book 3. I can honestly say that I have no clue what Kuang is going to throw at us in the next book, but I am ready to suffer.