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The Dragon Republic

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Member Reviews

This is amazing book that you will want to devour as much as book one the poppy war. The author unspools tis novels plot slowly, and never passes up the chance to make it tenser.  The action is furious, bloody, unrelenting but is delivered extremely well.  The monsters in this novels are familiar as it contains some of the darkest parts of china history.  The dragon republic should doubtless prove to be a sizzling success.  I am dying for book 3 next year.
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I really enjoyed a great many things about this book. Characters were fleshed out and the plot was well spaced. Some of the secondary storylines could've used a bit more page space but all in all an enjoyable read!
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What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said?  I'm absolutely living for every parallel to Titus Andronicus I can find because I'm That Shakespeare Freak who likes analysing the hell out of that play.  

But I'm also living for the parallel between Rin and Nezha - the morality behind what we should do when gifted with immense power.  Rin's been beaten bloody by hers, had the responsibility of entire civilizations on her shoulders because of hers, and has been told over and over that she doesn't have the luxury of being impartial.  

Nezha, on the other hand, has been beaten down in a way that others can't see.  He shoves his powers and pain into a bottle to hold into his chest until he dies.  (Fuck yeah John Mulaney reference.)  And not because he sees how powers like this affect Rin - because he does see it, sees the internal struggle that's going to haunt her until she dies - but because he doesn't want to lose the rest of himself into them.  He doesn't want to just become another shaman, to be used as a pawn in someone else's war.  He wants to fight, and do it on his own terms, knowing that by keeping himself weak in that aspect he can still retain his agency.

I'm excited to see where book 3 goes.  Beyond excited, even.
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Unfortunately I had to DNF this book around 30% of the way through. The writing was just as good as the first book, but I was struggling to stay engaged and I decided I could not stick through the lengthy tome all the way to the end. It was trending towards a 3-star review so I will rate it as such.
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I was provided with an ARC of this title from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Biggest takeaway for me? Rin is a character I can like again. By the conclusion of The Poppy War I detested her for her callous self-absorption. Rin is a completely different heroine in The Dragon Republic. Her self-absorption is still there - but it's overshadowed by her courage and sacrifice. Rin's power tore a gaping hole in the world that she's determined to seal or purge. 

Insidious, manipulative alliances and catastrophic revelations about the core motivations of characters I thought I had deciphered lured me into a starless vortex. By the end of the book I wasn't even trying to steer. I was just aimless, helmless and teetering on the edge of the precipice.

I cannot wait for Book Three!
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The Dragon Republic was another one of my more highly anticipated sequels of the year and while it was a good story, it just didn’t rock my socks the way the first book did. The Poppy War kind of checked all my “boxes” – it had a school setting, a coming of age/growing into your own theme, plenty of action and magic, and dang, it went full on grimdark in the latter half. In short, I loved it. The Dragon Republic picks up not long after those events and Rin is really struggling with the death of Altan, her new role as leader of the Cike, and a crippling opium addiction. Oh yeah, she’s also an enemy of the state and the Empress would love to have her head on a pike. 

Rin is honestly a bit of a deplorable character this time around. She has so many weaknesses, she won’t step up to the plate and truly lead the Cike, and they’re just sort of adrift with a vague suicide mission in mind. I do appreciate the fact that the author went a different direction than many others and gave Rin these weaknesses she has to deal with rather than being a total awesome-at-everything Mary Sue. Rin isn’t really a likable character either and she’s trying to drive wedges into every relationship she has and spends most of the book trying to find someone who will tell her what to do and take responsibility for the brunt of her actions. In this respect it’s pretty unique in the fantasy genre. Surprisingly, despite all this her friends are still there for her and are trying to drag her out of the mire of her own making.

The plot this time around was still good, though it didn’t capture me the way The Poppy War did. As I mentioned, so much of the story focuses on Rin getting her act together (a semblance of togetherness anyway) and finding a new person to tell her what to do. This leads her to the Dragon Warlord Vaisra who has designs on creating democracy (OR DOES HE??) but he’s forged a perilous alliance with the Hesperians to accomplish his goals. Things remain quite dark in this installment, as the provinces are now at war amongst themselves and against the Mughanese soldiers that still wander about. There are some really fantastic battle scenes with lots of main characters in peril! SO THRILLING.

Overall, like, I know deep down on an intellectual level this was a really good book – well written, a poignant examination of Rin’s inner turmoil and all that, but I still didn’t love it, hence my rating. I would recommend the audiobook version because the performance was excellent, though it did take me a little longer to get through the book than it would have if I had read the physical copy since I can only grab an hour here and there to listen.
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I finished The Dragon Republic over a month ago and I'm still torn on how to properly write a review for it.. To say I love these characters would be an understatement. They are carved into my soul for the rest of my life.

Rebecca Kuang is a mastermind and I can only dream of being as brilliant of a writer as she is. This world and characters, the events that take place, all the political plot lines.. It is all SO AMAZING.

Please read all the trigger warnings for this series and then if it sounds like a book you can handle then join me in loving it! 
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An engaging follow up to The Poppy Wars. I liked how the characters were developed further through the action making this a middle book that was purposeful and necessary. (No dreaded second book slump here). Still dark but not nearly as much as the first one.
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I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The second book in the Poppy War trilogy, my review for the first book can be found  here. This book starts not long from where the first book ended. The war is over, the Muganese have been soundly defeated, and an uprising against the Empire is starting. Rin has changed over the course of the first book and when we see her now, she's broken. She has fallen into an opium addiction after the mental, emotional, and physical trauma from war without actual resources needed to get better. While there's a lot of plot and world building here, ostensibly, the second book is about trauma and grief after living through something horrible. It's about the cycle of abuse that people fall into because it's the only thing they know. It's about putting trust in the wrong people because of desperation and fear. It's about the consequences of war for not just the people making it happen, but the people who get caught in it. And surprisingly, this book also has a lot about the ideological differences between the East and West, and also a touch of the "white man's burden" mindset.

The Dragon Warlord, Yin Vaisra, is leading a rebellion against the Empress. In his eyes, the time for the empire is over and it's time for Democracy to have a chance. The different war lords are taking sides, and outside forces are coming in as well. It's a grimdark fantasy and [author:R.F. Kuang|16820001] has held back nothing in terms of how awful war is. There's graphic depictions of rape and death but it never feels gratuitous. The world is incredibly well fleshed out (perhaps made easier by borrowing so many things from the real world) and has been expanded significantly in this book. The characters are also well flesh out, each one with a voice and purpose that makes sense. Even if the reader doesn't necessarily agree with decisions that characters are making, it's very understandable as to why each choice was made.

Like the previous book, Kuang incorporates a lot of Chinese history in the book. The most obvious example is the battle that takes place in Red Cliff. Anyone familiar with the actual Battle of Red Cliff will recognize the strategies used and could figure out the outcome of the battle. There's also the Hesperians, (hesperia is Latin for western land) with blue eyes and light hair, who come to the aid of Vaisra with the promise of future aid in the form of guns and ship but also have missionaries on hand for converting people, and lots of opium. The mix of modern Chinese history with ancient Chinese history and Chinese mythology and then blended together is very well done. Though I do wonder if there are topics that are off limits. With her willingness to hit the big events of Chinese history, would she also be willing to have something like the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution? Because based on the other events that she's incorporated into the series, not including those would seem like a glaring omission. Or would the author take the risk of having Nikara actually becoming a democracy at the end? I can't wait to read the third book and find out.
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Beautifully written sequel that is equally as good as (or better) than “The Poppy Wars.”  I love the balance of character development and gut-wrenching dilemmas on justice, revenge, retribution, humanity, and war. It’s a book that both entertains and provokes thought. Highly recommended.
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Review will go live on my blog on 09/30/19

The Poppy War is over.  Rin made sure of that when she used the full power of the Phoenix goddess to destroy the home island of the Mugenese Federation, killing their emperor and throwing their army into disarray.  But the end of the war didn't bring a happy ending. Betrayed by the Vipress, the shamanic Empress of Nikara, Rin and her fellow Cike members are on the run.  But a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon.  The Dragon Warlord plans to unite the southern territories and overthrow the Empress, and he wants Rin and her compatriots to help him do it.  Plagued by guilt, trauma, and a burning desire for revenge, Rin agrees, content finally have an outlet for her anger and grief. But with the arrival of allies from a foreign land, Rin realizes that the path to revenge might not be cut and dry.  She's always been a soldier, but can she always trust those who are giving the commands?

THE DRAGON REPUBLIC is an engrossing tale of power and responsibility, focused on very flawed people who nonetheless have your undivided attention.  Kuang has created characters that you can utterly empathize with as they struggle to survive in a brutal world. Rin is once again the heart of the story, and she's faltering under the immensity of being a power player on the world stage.  Where in THE POPPY WAR, Rin was concerned with clawing her way into a prestigious school and proving she belonged there, Rin now has to prove that she belongs at the table with the generals deciding the fate of her country.  Except, Rin isn't sure she wants to be there.  The guilt of destroying an entire island nation weighs heavily, and she'd rather avoid responsibility for her actions by letting someone else point her in a direction. Rin's arc is one of learning whether or not she has it in her to be a true leader, to accept consequences and decide if she should act on behalf of herself or others. 

Even when she's trying to just go with the flow, Kuang threads the needle of never making Rin seem like a passive character.  This book is full of momentum, stakes and deadlines, the tension of not knowing where the enemy will strike next or if you even stand a chance against them.  Rin is constantly lashing out, not just physically, but verbally.  Never one to say silent, she is constantly challenging her leaders, demanding answers.  Sure, she can be petty and whiny at times, but that doesn't mean she's wrong in the questions she's asking.  Rin gets particularly fractious with the son of the Dragon Lord, a young man she doesn't think is stepping up to the plate when he has the chance; he, in turn, doesn't think she is willing to make the sacrifices that war demands. 

But perhaps most compelling moment is when Rin finally encounters the Vipress.  When villains make the argument to the hero that "we're the same, you and me," it often comes across as a clichéd piece of dialogue you can easily dismiss.  But in this instance, the author has done such a fantastic job of writing flawed, three-dimensional characters, I actually paused and considered the argument.  Rin isn't perfect, she's incredibly human, and what might be justifiable to her is incredibly callous to another. 

Al of this drama is playing against a backdrop of impending colonization.  In this book, we meet the Hesperians, a white-coded nation showing up to see if the Asian-inspired Nikara can be "civilized."  They offer tantalizing aid to the fledgling Dragon Republic, but demand they prove themselves worthy of that aid first. It makes for rash decision making and boxes characters into corners and explores the kind of leaders who would be tempted by such offers in the first place.   There have been more works of fiction lately examining the act of colonization from the perspective of those being colonized, and it's an important look at how degrading it is to rely on help from those who don't even view you as human.

But lest you think THE DRAGON REPUBLIC waxes too philosophical, never fear, there's plenty of war and action to be had in these pages.  The days of school are done, and now it's time for naval battles and warring shamans.  From the opening pages, when Rin leads her fellow shamanic Cike compatriots on a strike mission, Kuang keeps the action coming, while never losing sight of the horror of war and the thousands that die while leaders squabble.  All of this is to put Rin through the grinder once again, so that by the end, she knows unequivocally where she belongs and what comes next.  And that decision should make her enemies tremble.
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I love, love, love this world, and this book did not disappoint. I don't know how but Kuangs delivery was just as good as the first book! The world building, magic system and character development keeps evolving into so much more drawing you in and not letting you go.
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3.5 stars. This was an entertaining, satisfying follow up to THE POPPY WAR. It does everything a good sequel should do: expand the world and mythology, escalate the stakes, and set up the next installment. The action and battle sequences are just as good as in the first book, the new characters are just as compelling as the old, and Kuang maintains her break-neck pacing. However, some of the world/history expansion got muddled and murky for me and stopped making sense, particularly the Hesperian/Mugen history. It felt sloppy and forced, like it was being cobbled together in the moment, and as Kuang sets the Hesperians up to be bigger villains than the Mugenese (despite there being barely any mention of Hesperia in the first book), she fails to make them interesting in the same way the Mugenese fail to be interesting, like the nameless evil orcs from LOTR. I'll still read the final book, but I'm less excited for it than I was for this one, hence the rounding down.
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This book was a RIDE. An emotional, difficult ride. And I loved it: seeing Rin mess up over and over; it was frustrating and realistic and I appreciated seeing her journey and healing and comeuppance. Just... everything that happened attacked me in some way and I'm not okay??? I may or may not need the third book... ASAP,
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Runin “Rin” Fang is (still) reeling from her actions, which led to the end of the Third Poppy War and victory for the Empire. However, the victory has left Rin feeling hollow due to the deaths of her friends, her teachers, and her comrades. Everything she’d witnessed throughout the war: death, rape, starvation, mutilation, her lack of control as a shaman over a goddess, her addiction to opium, and the betrayal she and her Unit suffered towards the end of the war has left Rin in a depressive state of mind. As a soldier, Rin believes her only purpose lies in seeking revenge against those who betrayed her and the other denizens of the Empire. Lacking support, resources, and leadership skills, Rin leads the 13th Division to fight their remaining enemies. However, Rin and her soldiers are approached by Yin Vaisra—the Dragon Warlord, the Head of the House of Yin, and the father of one of her Sinegard classmates—and, he has a proposition for her: join up with him to form a “democratic” Republic amongst the now disbanded 12 Provinces and he will assist her with her vengeance. Rin—suspecting hidden motives and desiring to remain a soldier—agrees to the Dragon Warlord’s terms. As Rin works with her Unit and the Dragon Province, she is reunited with her former classmates who make their own decisions regarding the civil war that has broken out between the Empire and the Dragon Republic. This time, she has to determine her worth within this latest conflict. In order to do this, Rin develops from soldier to puppet to commander; it is a rough, but essential growth for Rin!

Fans of "The Poppy War," other military fiction, and grimdark will enjoy this sequel. As the world expands, so does the world-building, which is found in the characters and the weapons, which are based on military history and Chinese culture and folklore. It must be mentioned that anyone who couldn’t finish "The Poppy War" and/or are triggered by real life acts of violence should NOT read this book! While not all readers are into military literature, actual events of war, such as rape, is mentioned in this novel. Otherwise, expect another well-written story by R.F. Kuang. 

"The Dragon Republic" is an amazing sequel. The story picks up where "The Poppy War" left off and it is both creative and realistic for the type of grimdark and military fantasy the author is telling the readers. Parts of the plot and the narrative can drag on at times, but they are necessary for the story the author is telling everyone. I can’t wait for the next book, even though I must.
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The Poppy War trilogy continues to pull exactly zero punches as Rin and crew are still reeling from their experiences in Book 1. The promise of a better future comes in the form of a republic founded by Lord Vaisra of the Dragon Province. Left with few options but to see it through, Rin goes on an expedition that goes completely wrong with Empress Daji interfering at every step of the way.

I loved all the new characters and depth of world-building this book brought. The Hesperians are so interesting (even though completely dastardly). The series continues to provide no easy answers as to what better looks like. The political intrigue is top notch, especially since we, the reader, are trying to figure it all out beside Rin. In terms of specific moments, I definitely loved this bit with some dumplings and just how literal the backstabbing was towards the end.

The magic continues to delight and is in no way a distraction from the brutality of civil war that colors these books. It's a hell of a ride, as we have encounters with a wind god, a water god, and Rin's own nemesis—the Phoenix. The rules of how shamanism and magic work in this world are also given a deeper exploration. It is so rich and intricate, told in a prose so elegant and easy-to-follow.

I cannot wait for the final installment, even though the kids are definitely not okay coming out of this harrowing adventure.
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Wow. I loved this even more than The Poppy War, which is saying something.

I can't say too much about this book since it is a sequel, but this trilogy is one of the most bloodthirsty, vengeful series I've ever read, and it is awesome. I seriously cannot wait for the final installment!

Thanks so much to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for the eARC! This review will be posted on Goodreads and to Barnes and Noble's website.
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R.F. Kuang continues to amaze me with her writing abilities! The second installment of this trilogy starts off after the third Poppy War ends, and Rin is racked with guilt. She fights her opioid addiction, battling her internal demons as her lust for vengeance against the Empress Daji shapes her actions. The story spends much of its time inside Rin's head as she struggles to find control of her Phoenix power, just as potent a battleground as those outside it. Eventually, with the help of the Cike and the Dragon Warlord, Rin regains control of her power, and brings the fight to Daji. While I enjoyed the world-building more than some of the characters, and it seems that both sides of this conflict are excessively vicious, as the adage goes: "War is hell." For Rin, it certainly is no different. I can't wait to see where Kuang will take us next, but wherever it is I know it will be spectacular!
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This is a grim book; no surprise from anyone who has read the first in the series. But it is grim without ever reveling in it or losing sight of the humanity of its characters. Every character is a person and even where the story doesn't fully explore a character, it offers a hint of hidden depths. Rebecca Kuang has established herself as a leading voice in the fantasy genre and I very much look forward to Book 3 of the series.
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Just like last year with her eye-opening, debut novel The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang has crafted a brutal, god-touched, and war-torn narrative with its sequel, The Dragon Republic.

So as to not spoil the first book, here’s this for the summary: Rin is looking for purpose after the actions she took to end the Third Poppy War, and the Phoenix, the vengeful god in her head granting her incredible incendiary powers, seems determined to drive her insane. Fortunately, revenge is still on Rin’s mind, so she sets her sights on destroying Nikara’s traitorous Empress. On the run, addicted to opium, and with few allies, Rin has little choice but to join the Dragon Warlord as he attempts a coup on the Empire, but is his vision for a democratic republic sincere or a smokescreen for ulterior motives?

Rin is still one of the messiest, most raw protagonists I’ve seen in a long time, and I utterly love her. Even more, I love Kuang for being brave enough to craft a female main character who is terrible and emotional and understandable, who will do whatever it takes to protect her country, even if it means committing atrocities. Even if it means running from the guilt and trying to pin the blame on someone else.

Rin’s journey to accept her role in the events of The Poppy War features heavily here in The Dragon Republic, and I’m glad we see her trying so many things to cope with her actions. Opium. Inaction. Choosing to follow someone else’s orders. Being someone else’s weapon. Rin comes close to giving up her own agency if it means she cannot be blamed for the power she wields, and this is a struggle we see people wrestle with all the time.

We all like making excuses for ourselves. We all like making exceptions of ourselves. It can take someone a long time with a lot of lessons learned the hard way to begin to accept responsibility, not just for past actions but for actions they will commit in the future. We see this portion of that journey with Rin, which was completely necessary given how the last book ended, and it is a hard and painful one, as it should be. How can you still be human if you don’t truly regret your horrible actions towards other humans?Was their own lack of humanity justification enough? Or is the fact that you’re still attempting to reconcile your humanity with your own ruthlessness proof that you are tragically, terribly human no matter what? Is anyone ever really innocent? These questions and more face Rin but also us, and the social commentary does not stop there. Be prepared to delve into racial issues that might start to look uncomfortably familiar.

Luckily at the end of the day, Rin is still Rin, however. No matter how much she tries to surrender, she’s too angry to do so completely. She’s too opinionated and loves her freedom too much. There’s a reason the Phoenix chose her, and seeing her true nature at war with this “I just want to be used” mindset is entertaining, to say the least. Rin owns her power, and she’s learning to accept her own consequences, nobody else’s.

Needless to say, Rin continues to be one of my favorites, and it really hits home how young she actually is, barely an adult, really. That’s true for most of the characters, but the fact that it’s so easy to forget is a testament to how masterfully Kuang has written her narrative around war and how it utterly destroys anything approaching childhood and innocence. This series is not one that hints at war and then glosses over or sensitizes it when you finally get there. From war strategies to war crimes, Kuang has done her research, and this is one of the greatest strengths about her books thus far.

That, and her magic system. The emphasis around shamanism, gods, and hallucinogens provides the trippy, cosmic encounters I came to love in The Poppy War, and those moments continue to be amazingly described and developed further with The Dragon Republic. The Empress, especially, and Nezha both brought surprises that have turned my understanding (and Rin’s) about shamanism on its head, and I cannot wait to see where the answers might lead in the next book.

Speaking of Nezha, let’s talk about him briefly.

Oh, Nezha. I hate you, but I love you, but I hate you. I think Rin sympathizes. At the end of the day, however, I cannot wait to see where his character arc is going. It has already been so nuts.

Kitay, however, continues to be Best Boy and my absolute favorite. I already love war strategists almost on principle, but there is such a joy that comes with Kitay whenever he’s on the page. I love him to pieces, and the friendship between he and Rin is next-level but also chaotic? Anything with Rin is chaotic, let’s be honest, but again, that’s part of why I love her.

I was so happy to see Venka again, but I dearly wish she’d had much more page time. I think the next book is going to be her time to shine—or at least, it better be.

Of course, members of the Cike and Feylen also stole the spotlight at various times. I want to say more about them all, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Seeing visions and memories of Altan also had me feeling some type of way. Namely, I realized how truly destructive of a force he was on Rin and how tightly bound she truly felt towards him. Obsession’s a hell of a thing, huh?

Other than the characters, the war narrative, and the shamanism, what The Dragon Republic also has in spades is politics. Personally, I find politics to be as fascinating as they are frustrating, and since I felt those very things while reading, that means Kuang did them exactly right. It’s not just the Nikara versus the Mugenese anymore, either. More players become introduced to this chessboard, including the Hysperians and the Ketreyids, and honestly? I need them all to go on somewhere and leave Nikan and my girl Rin alone. But in the meantime… I’m going to enjoy this utter train wreck, too. I can’t help it. I love political games like this.

Despite all this love that I have for The Dragon Republic, I couldn’t give it a full five stars for a few reasons. The first is that I was bummed that Rin got nerfed so soon into reading. I felt like I had just gotten excited about Rin finding the control and freedom she needed, and then it all got derailed. Fortunately, what results from her being nerfed totally pays off in the span of the book, but I couldn’t help but deflate from it. This choice for her character arc also made the middle drag a bit. As I was reading about war strategies and then watching them being carried out, I had to realize that, without the Phoenix, there wasn’t much for Rin to do. This was crucial for her to realize, too, and make contingency plans, but it lessened the reading experience.

The other thing was that all the political betrayals were a bit too obvious. Maybe they were supposed to be. Maybe it was supposed to be transparent to show how much Rin wanted to be manipulated, how much she wanted to follow other’s orders and needed to believe in something, even if it’s so clearly false—but it just wasn’t as riveting as I’d hoped it would be to read. While there were some twists I very much enjoyed, none of them compared to The Poppy War’s ending, but admittedly, that was going to be a nearly impossible follow-up.

Once again, the ending here was just crazy enough that I have no idea where we’re going or how far Kuang (or Rin) will go, and that’s as exciting as it is terrifying. (And yes, I’m still very much hurting.) At the conclusion of this trilogy, who will the real enemy be? What cause will Rin come to truly commit to? What’s going to happen to those still alive? What’s the full truth about the Trifecta, shamanism, and the gods as a whole?

Best believe, I’m fully strapped in, ready to find out!
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