Cover Image: The Dragon Republic

The Dragon Republic

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I found The Dragon Republic (TDR) to be a drudgingly slow read. As someone who liked The Poppy War (TPW), I was massively disappointed by TDR. TPW was at least polished, but TDR reads like a first draft with, in large part, little substance. The readers who are already familiar with the historical events this book is inspired by, there's not much new and you will already be able to predict how the course of TDR will go. Rin as a main character had so much potential after TPW and it was squandered in TDR only for it to be resuscitated last minute just in time for The Burning God. She is little more than a mouthpiece for what the author wants to commentate on. In fact, most if not all elements of TDR can come across as that. TDR feels less like a novel and more like the author retelling certain events with her own characters plus magic.

I dislike how rape was incorporated into TDR for either shock value, as a plot device, or for tragedy. This isn't a matter of whether I think it should or shouldn't be included in a book. It's a matter of how it is written in the story and I don't think Kuang handles it well. In the same vein, I don't think Kuang handles most of her female characters well either. Rin is automatically placed above every other female character by design since she's the main character and yet still has to be subjected to pages upon PAGES of mansplaining (sometimes from characters that aren't even alive anymore!). There were so many possible ways to handle a character like Su Daji, but in the end she's little more than a caricature even with the flashback covering her backstory. 

I also can't believe how hard Kuang is trying to push Rinzha and Rintan onto me as a reader when TPW never gave me any inclination of thinking the Rinzha or Rintan relationships were romantic in nature or headed that way at all.

Readers who enjoyed the post-academy parts of The Poppy War will like The Dragon Republic. Unfortunately, that doesn't include me. The only positives I can think of mentioning for TDR were that 1) Venka had a great mean girl redemption where she and Rin are actually friendly and have good interactions; and 2) the Kitay and Rin friendship.
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This book was fantastic in developing the plots started in The Poppy War, and had a lot of focus on character growth. I really enjoyed seeing more of the worldbuilding and Rin growing as a person. It's hard to say much more without spoilers for the first book, but this is a great continuation of the story and I cannot wait to see how it all ends.
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I genuinely hate waiting in between series.  Especially when you love the first book so much, I was nervous reading this book -since I loved the first book so much and was scared it wouldn't live up to it.  Holy moly, was I wrong.

This was unputdownable. I loved everything about this!  The plotline, characters, world-building, and the magic system.  The brutality and gore were there-and I loved it.  I have been waiting for more grimdark fantasy that does it right.  Twisty and turny the whole book, it seemed. 

I can't wait for the third book which I have preordered. 

I want to thank Kuang, Netgalley, and HarperCollins Publishers Harper Voyager for the opportunity to read and review this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Wow did this story throw me for a loop. Wasn’t expecting what came next with this book. The book went from the first to the second one so smoothly that there were no breaks. The keeps you moving at pretty fast through out the storyline. Amazing ending, can’t wait for the next book.
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There are some books that, while not perfect, just make you feel very strongly. I was on tenterhooks the whole time I was reading The Dragon Republic. I was so heavily invested in the characters and their relationships with one another that I really didn't care about anything else in the book, so I easily overlooked the minor issues with pacing that may have bogged down another novel.

In The Dragon Republic, Rin finds her self dealing with the fallout of her actions at the end of The Poppy War. What this means, practically speaking, is that she is dealing guilt, or rather guilt at her lack of guilt, opium addiction, PTSD, and a a nation overrun with bitter Mugenese soldiers who have no home to return to. Then Yin Vaisra, the Dragon Warlord and Nezha's father, strides into this mess and declares his intent to transform Nikan into a democracy, so he essentially begins to wage war against the Empress, Su Daji. Since Rin is intent on killing Su Daji, she allies herself with Vaisra.

The bulk of this book is essentially a protracted military campaign. In such a long book, I anticipated I'd struggle with the pacing, given that I don't particularly like military fantasy or military strategy, but Kuang's writing remains as compelling as ever; I couldn't put this book down, and when I did put it down all I could think about was wanting to pick it back up again. I read it in exactly two sittings. Even if you're not a fan of military strategy, it's impossible not to be impressed by the sheer scope of Kuang's knowledge, and her implementation of that knowledge into an exciting, propulsive narrative.

Though ostensibly the military campaign is the overarching focus of the plot, for me the beauty of this book lay in the characters and their dynamics with one another. Vaisra is an incredible addition, a wily and manipulative figure, yet one whom Rin can't help but grow attached to. Kitay undergoes some incredible character development; his trauma, rage, and disillusionment have transformed him into a hardened version of himself. Venka returns as well, and we get to see how she is dealing with her own trauma, which was a relief; in the first book Venka felt somewhat like a plot device, but here she emerges more fully into her own character with her own agency. I still think Rin is an incredible character to follow. She has (1) single brain cell, which means she is incredibly rash and very single-minded. She has so much passion but doesn't know where to direct it, and that means she willingly lets herself be used and manipulated, because she is desperate for a purpose. She is the epitome of that John Mulaney bit where he's like, "Oh, well, thank you for asking. Well, you know how I'm filled with rage?" Rin just. Has so much rage. All the time. At herself. At the world. At her friends. At her enemies. She's just bitter and angry and lost and desperate for love and maybe peace, but also all she knows is war, and she doesn't know that she's good for anything else.

There is such a staggering amount of angst and yearning in this book, in particular when it comes to Rin and Nezha. They have so many incredible moments together scattered throughout this book - banter, fights, yearning, friendship, love, lust, anger, resentment, fear - all smashed together into a complex and tangled mess that is impossible to look away from (basically...I ship them...SO MUCH). Same goes for Rin's memory of Altan: The Dragon Republic does not simply move on from Altan but digs even deeper into his character and tragedy. Rin is struggling to reconcile who Altan really was from who she wanted him to be. She loved him, she feared him, she wanted to be him. Kuang is so deft at portraying how messy and mangled their relationship truly was, and as Rin struggles to cope with survivor's guilt and PTSD, her memories of Altan alternate between being a boon and being a torture. It is such a delicate balance to craft, but Kuang does it astonishingly well.

The worldbuilding becomes more intricate as well. We learn more about both the Hinterlanders and the Hesperians. The former have intriguing ties to the Trifecta and shamanism that help to explicate the history of the Second Poppy War as well as the concept of shamanism itself. The Hesperians are a direct parallel to Western imperialists, and they are terrifying in their self-righteousness. They have brought with them technological prowess (dirigibles and muskets!), an absolutist interpretation of the world, fanatic missionaries with a penchant for scientific experimentation, Social Darwinism, and an entrenched belief in their own superiority over the Nikara. With this expansion of worldbuilding and the plot heavy on political and military scheming, Kuang is able to explore a smorgasbord of complex issues such as imperialism, class struggle, the viability of democracy, war ethics, nationalism, and so much more.

Finally, I am in awe of Kuang's ability to make her characters suffer. There are so many moments throughout this book where terrible things happen because, well, life just sucks sometimes and shit happens, and it's incredibly heartbreaking how bleak everything is sometimes. But that's grimdark fantasy for you. Kuang pulls no punches: this book is a grim, realistic look at the brutality of war. Nobody is safe. Nobody is morally or ideologically pure.

Anyway, the third and final book in this series going to break me and I'm okay with that.
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I respect the hell out of what I read of this book (and really enjoyed its predecessor), but I wasn't in the right brain space to receive it the way I needed to, or give it the space and time to breathe it requires. This is a book I'll revisit, and is clearly beautifully constructed, but as of this moment my experience was not absolutely ideal.
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"But we are the weaker party. We have no choice but to play their game. That's how power works."

This book was a solid follow-up to The Poppy War, Kuang's first book of this trilogy.

There were a lot of good things I liked about this book. I really like the characters; they are detailed and complex and nuanced, and rarely do they feel one-dimensional. I really like their interactions with each other as well as the diversity between the characters themselves. I am also a really big fan of the setting: 20th century China. It is so intricately done and woven together so beautifully, and it's nice to read about a setting and culture that is so different from what I usually read. The story itself was also interesting, with a mix of political intrigue, action, and magic.

However, the main issue I had with this book was pacing. The Dragon Republic was slow to start; there was a lot of buildup and a lot of waiting, but not much action. It wasn't until a little beyond halfway through that it started to pick up, and once it did, it seemed almost nonstop until the ending.

I can't wait to read the final installment of this trilogy. That cliffhanger at the end had me reeling. I can honestly say I have no idea what Kuang will do next, because every time I think I know where the story is going, it takes a complete turn and surprises me every time.
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I liked this sequel less than the first book in the series. It's hard to articulate why, but a few things I can put a finger on:

- Character motivations are fuzzier. The alliances and beliefs of the characters shift so quickly and completely that it's a little hard to believe and definitely disorienting. Rin, in particular, believes one thing completely and defends it mercilessly for a while, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, and then, within the span of five minutes, believes something completely opposite. Rinse and repeat. I didn't care for it.

- The narrative is again both lengthy and rushed. There are some sections with careful detail and wonderful description, and some that are skipped entirely, like a chunk of the text is missing.

- I honestly didn't care for the plot in this book. It hopped from point to point in a way that seemed completely unrealistic, even for fantasy. It didn't feel organic? I'm not sure how to express this in a way anyone else could understand. It just strained my suspension of disbelief.

- Rin, once again, is supposed to be this genius, but doesn't see what's staring her in the face until someone else points it out for her. As a reader, I could see the plot twists coming a mile off, but there goes Rin, happily ignorant, without paying attention to all of the things she should be. Irked me a little bit.

- I now actively dislike all of the characters in these books, with the possible exception of Kitay. Like, there's no one to root for, really. Usually there's at least some background gremlin I can latch onto and be excited to read about, but....not really. (view spoiler)

- There was not enough magic in this book. Just my preference.

I really hope the final installment is an improvement over this one. I still enjoyed it, but the drawbacks were more jarring and I liked it a lot less than The Poppy War.

2.5 stars, rounded up.
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This series has some of the most well constructed and well-written prose I have seen in the past 5 years. Anyone who's a fan of intricate and strong characters is doing themselves a disservice by not reading this book. I can't wait to read more from R.F Kuang, she is a very talented writer who I hope has a long writing career ahead of her. Can't wait for book 3!
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“The Dragon Republic” is the amazing follow up to The Poppy War. This book was so good. Like seriously, my review will not even begin to do it justice. I will get straight to the point. Plot? Amazing. Character Development? So good! World building? Do not get me started! I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait for the third installment to release. Be aware, however, that this book does deal with some heavy subject matter. Slavery, racism, abortion, are just a few. The pacing was just a touch slower this time around. Overall, I really liked it.
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The Dragon Republic picks up shortly after the first book, and is somehow heavier than the first in terms of where it takes you: through addiction, through war, and through the bitter hauntingness of regrets. Kuang delivered a wild, gutting ride with the first book, and left all of us wondering just how she could possibly top it in the second--and yet she does. With incredible gusto, just as much pain, and even more surprises. 

The book opens with a traumatized, mentally exhausted Rin, who ends up joining forces with The Dragon Warlord--Nezha’s father. Lost in a game she doesn’t quite understand between people she doesn’t quite like, we follow Rin through the shattered remains of her mind and the process of picking up those jagged pieces to keep on fighting. The psychological warfare in the book is just as, if not more, believable as the physical violence and is perhaps what’s so compelling about Rin: despite every way in which she’s broken, she somehow manages to carry on. And not perfectly, as we’ve come to expect from our protagonists, but rather as a fragile, hurting thing, something painfully relatable for many of us struggling with mental illness. 

Not only that, but the way the book exists exclusively in a gray area sets it apart from other fantasy reads. The more Rin learns about the war and what led up to it, the more you learn about the motivations behind every character, including the Empress. It’s easy to say “not everything is as it seems”, but Kuang truly takes the statement to another level, building up a conflict that’s interconnected in at least a dozen ways. 

It’s the ending, however, that takes the book from ‘great’ to ‘incredible’ and sets up the finale for the series with a vigour that isn’t common in today’s fantasy novels. With characters we’ve come to love standing on both sides and betrayal fresh on our minds, Kuang has built an entire world out of blood and carnage and leaves us counting down the days to finding out if Rin will finally best all those who deserve it.
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RF Kuang is not messing around, this is a beautifully written, must-read story! Just stop what you are doing and go get the book, you will not regret it. 

"Do not shirk from war, child. Do not flinch from suffering. When you hear screaming, run toward it."

Thanks Netgalley and Harper Voyager for the arc.
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Unfortunately, I thought this was the first book in the series but I was mistaken. I am really interested to read the first book, but until then I cannot properly review this book.
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R.F. Kuang is fast becoming one of my absolute favorite authors. While I loved the Poppy War a little more than the Dragon Republic, this book was just as epic, just as imaginative, and just as gut punching as the first novel. Rin has been through literal hell after the Poppy War; the loss of Altan is a blow that will not heal easily if ever. His ghost follows her throughout the book, hurting her and the reader. 

There were so many unexpected twists in this book that I can't go into due to spoilers but by the end of the book I was screaming for the third (the Burning God). This is an author that isn't afraid to go dark, and I absolutely love that... and I'm terrified of it too. She has created characters that are complex, and you care what happens to them. This is a story that I don't imagine has a happy ending, and my heart is already hurting for the next book.
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This series is amazing! Brutal and well written it is sure to be a favorite of many. Kuang is a great new voice in fantasy.
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I definitely enjoyed this sequel. I really enjoyed The Poppy War, which I think I liked more than this one. I tend to lean towards the first books in a series though. This was a great read though. It picks up where the first one ended and continues on with a magic-filled, adventurous story. If you enjoy epic fantasy with strong, female characters, and a cool magic system, then pick up this series.
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The Dragon Republic is an amazing sequel to The Poppy War, which is one of my favorite books that I have ever read. The sequel was intense and engaging and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. R. F. Kuang is an incredible writer and is a master at keeping you turning the pages while simultaneously being unsure if you can continue in the best way possible. I would absolutely read any and everything from this author in the future!
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Shout out to NetGalley for an eARC of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t like how the previous book in this series, The Poppy War ended. I felt like that book had a hard time swapping between it’s combat scenes and it’s normal scenes and as such the flow of the book itself suffered. This unfortunately feels like it’s repeated with The Dragon Republic.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, but the transitions between the various combat scenes combined with the occasionally curious pacing forced me to drop this title down lower than I would have thought before starting. The book is by and large a somewhat traditional (if slightly fantastical) military epic. People fighting for what they believe in to the point that it starts to destroy or damage the entire country, political intrigue, relatively common stuff. Suddenly however the book shifts deep into the full fantasy side of things with how Rin comes to terms with her powers and the gods that power them. By the end of the book I felt like I had read two separate books.

Despite this however, it’s a good book, a quality read for anyone a fan of the kind of fantasy or martial arts that this book spends much of it’s time focusing on. I believe R.F. Kuang has definitely improved with this book and I look forward to what comes later down the line. There’s still a huge potential here for a masterful closing of this story. We’ll just have to wait and see where the next book takes us.
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This book does not follow the middle book syndrome by any means. It can hold its own and it took me on new adventures that I didn't even know I wanted to go on. The characters are taken to a new level of depth and the arc for Rin is by and far not repetitive. I love the development of characters as a whole especially Rin. We see her as a little girl trying to prove herself in the first book and now we see her as someone grown trying to find and understand her place in the world.
This book does the same thing as the first one where it makes you want more and it leaves you wanting to learn more about the real Chinese history and finding out where the inspiration came from. We are introduced to a new group of people who are a natural addition to story (not necessarily for happy reasons). 
I am most grateful for the tactfulness that R.F. Kuang demonstrates when she writes about the brutal and dark parts of war. Sure, there is camaraderie which she does wonderfully but most importantly she does not gloss over the horrors of war. Neither does she dwell on it and take away from the rest of the story. She found that nice balance that allows readers to face the injustices and walk away wanting to act rather than wallow. She creates an empowerment that is not easy to do in literature with such content.
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This is a sequel to The much loved The Poppy War and book two does not disappoint! Fans of her first book will be hooked from page one since it picks up right after book one ends. This book has a similar working style sans the YA writing displayed in the first half of the Poppy War. 

Rin continues to discover her powers and the powers from above. There is death, war and everything in between but I enjoyed every moment of it. The ending left me with my mouth open just like fantasies should. High recommend.

Thankyou for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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