The Dragon Republic

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

Picking up where the first installment left off, readers are thrust back into Rin's world as she grapples with the decisions she executed at the conclusion of The Poppy Wars. Now the commander of the Cike, Rin struggles with a crippling opium addiction that keeps the Phoenix at bay but also leaves her unable to make the best decisions for her small band of fighters. The only plan that Rin has is to take down the Empress who sold them out and recapture Feylen before he destroys Nikara. This leads Rin to accept the offer to fight for the Dragon Warlord; however, as the pieces are placed on the chessboard for the inevitable confrontation, Rin's loyalties and ability to command are tested in ways that she did not expect.

R.F. Kuang's second installment of this grimdark trilogy nicely expands the world, introducing new players and sections of Nikara that were mentioned but not explored in the first novel. In addition to new faces, several familiar favorites return to assist and also hinder Rin on her quest for vengeance. In a world where survival is not guaranteed for any character, some of the deaths and betrayals were truly heartbreaking but help push Rin to her limits as she grows and moves away from a need for acceptance toward true independence. 

Readers will also appreciate that several threads from the first novel were developed here, some of which only seemed like passing mentions. The Trifecta is finally explained and the source of their power and motivations also becomes clear. Though the story offered more of a slow burn, the development and details all added up to an explosive conclusion that sees new battle lines being drawn for a final confrontation that will test Rin's abilities as both the conduit for the Phoenix's power and as a military leader.

As with the first book, I cannot recommend The Dragon Republic enough. While this felt like the middle novel in a trilogy, meaning it seemed like a moment for character development while shifting the pieces into place for the final book, the action and conclusion of several loose ends allowed it to feel very satisfying while still leaving enough to explore for the final installment. The Dragon Republic is guaranteed to land in my top ten this year. The third book can't come soon enough.
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ARC provided by Harper Voyager on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

This is the follow up to one of my favorite grim dark fantasies of all time - and I was terrified it wouldn't live up to the hype. BUT Y'ALL - this was just absolutely amazing. And honestly?? I think I liked The Dragon Republic even more than I liked The Poppy War - which I wasn't sure was possible.

With the end of The Poppy War I was not quite sure the direction this series as a whole was going to go and had no idea what to expect going into this one. The last book had some major devastation happen throughout it and I had no idea where Kuang was going to take us next and how. But wow did she truly take us on a journey with Rin in this second book - both in the world and in Rin herself. We got to see so much of how the events of the first book really impacted the world and the people in it in this installment, which I thought was great and terrible to see all at the same time. Things weren't all wrapped up in a nice package and immediately right itself in this book - these people and this world are truly suffering together and Kuang doesn't shy away from that. The key relationships are hurting and all of the characters go through intense, and realistic, character and relationship development through the course of the story. I loved seeing that in this installment - because these relationships and how they changed really impacted the world and the story and felt like they had real weight to them. Overall very refreshing to see on the page.

Kuang also really delivers when it comes to battle/war staging. Wow, did those scenes feel real and brutal and well done. Like the first installment in this series, the war battles and strategy scenes were so, so well done. This universe is really blessed by having Kuang write in it. 

I love how Kuang weaves in real history allegories into this fantasy series. It's devastating and impactful all in the right ways and times to really make you think on it. She really goes there and doesn't back down to really make you think about the implications and impact these things and these groups of people have made. Looking at you Hesperians. 

Another thing I HAVE to mention is the emotional impact of the story. The ending?? The twist?? THE DUMPLING SCENE?? Help. The ending was so impactful I can't get it out of my head and cannot believe I have to wait to know what happens next!
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This book is filled with so much war, so many twists that I was not expecting and even though I was cheering for a certain individual (will not say who, to avoid spoilers), the end of this book just makes me hope that Rin gets her revenge! One thing that I wish had not happened was the loss of some of my favorites, it just made me really sad. The world is still fantastic! The magic in this book is fantastic! The characters, the plot, just everything was fantastic! I neeeeeeeed book 3 NOW!
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I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this book for months! This is certainly one of those sequels for which a reader waits impatiently as soon as news of its release comes out. I have been looking forward to reading the next book by R. F. Kuang since I rushed through the first Poppy War book. 

I still enjoy the magic and Rin’s characterization. Her newly found heritage as a Speerly has definitely shaped her approach to the book’s events. In this book, she seems much more comfortable with her abilities and status as a shaman warrior in the Cike. There is a fair balance of political posturing and violent confrontations. The Dragon Republic takes the reader in a new direction as Rin and her “allies” work towards defeating the Empress and the Northern Warlords. The presence of the Hesperians certainly did not help matters, especially with their believed superiority over the Nikarans and their view of the Cike as damned souls to be saved.

All in all, this sequel was definitely worth the wait.
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Title: Dragon Republic
Author: R. F. Kuang
Pages: 672
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Series or Stand-Alone: Book 2 in a trilogy
Stars: 4/5
People of Color?: Yes, a retelling of 20th century Chinese history
LGBTQ?: Unsure
Bechdel Test? (Depiction of Women): Yes
Trigger Warning: So many warnings! There is hardcore addiction, dirty warfare, entire cities of people mutilated and killed, abuse, etc. This is a very heavy book that covers heavy topics with no promises of happy endings for anyone.

I received a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wow, Ok, I don’t even know where to begin. I am not going to give too much of a summary. If you’ve read book 1, then book 2 continues from the absolute state of chaos the previous book ended on. It’s all the more terrible because this book continues to be loosely based on 20th-century Chinese history. Kuang may be the author who has best encapsulates the essence of warfare in her books that I have read. She weaves in magic and monsters into her story as well. 
	I must admit, I had to put down the book several times because the themes were overwhelming. So, I would definitely make sure you are in the right mood to read this. When the action does break, we follow a group of special forces all battling with addiction to opium. When there are quiet moments, we hear the gods rage in Rin’s head. 
	This book did not hold any punches and was a perfect sequel from the Poppy War. I look forward to what Kuang does in book 3 as well as in her future works!
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I was never going to love The Dragon Republic as much as The Poppy War, so let’s get that out of the way; The Poppy War is a book of two halves, and I preferred the first. However, it was still a 5 star read for me (review here), and with Kuang’s assertions on Twitter that The Dragon Republic was an objectively superior book, I was still cautiously optimistic about the sequel. And I didn’t hate it, but I’m disappointed.

Pacing is an issue in both of these books; in The Poppy War, things happen too fast; it feels like two books crammed into one. But I really didn’t mind that – I read a lot of literary fiction, so when I venture into genre fiction it’s with entirely different expectations and needs to be met – I like a bit of nonstop action in my fantasy as long as it doesn’t get too overwhelming, which I don’t think it did. But with The Dragon Republic the issue is the exact opposite. Nothing – and I cannot stress this enough – happens for the first three quarters of this book. Where The Poppy War feels like two books for the price of one, The Dragon Republic feels like a novella stretched out thin across 500 pages. Things of course do happen, technically, but there is so much filler. Stakes feel low (a problem that The Poppy War certainly did not have), because for the major part of this book, it feels like you’re spinning your wheels and still waiting for the main players to enter the ring.

But let’s talk about what I did like: the characters and the setting are some of my favorites from any fantasy series that I have ever read. The returning characters are as complex, endearing, and frustrating as ever, and the new characters shine as well – Vaisra in particular is a brilliant creation. And if The Dragon Republic has one thing that’s superior to The Poppy War, it’s the world building and the magic system, which is infinitely more fleshed out here with some truly fascinating developments.

It took me three months to read this, but I want to stress that every time I did pick it up, I enjoyed it. The issue is that I just seldom reached for it. I really hope this is just second book syndrome, and I do think one thing that Kuang was able to achieve with this book was laying a really solid foundation for whatever is to come next (and with that ending, I can promise you that the third book is going to destroy me). But even though I would still recommend this series wholeheartedly, this just wasn’t as good as The Poppy War, much as it pains me to say it.
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ARC provided by the publisher, Harper Voyager, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

"People will seek to use you or destroy you. If you want to live, you must pick a side. So do not shrink from war, child. Do not flinch from suffering. When you hear screaming, run towards it."

Yikes, y'all. I thought The Poppy War destroyed me, but I was in no way prepared for the sequel. I'll be honest, I dragged my feet a little on this one - I just wasn't in the mood for such dense fantasy. But I am so glad I pushed through and read it. I don't say this lightly: no author has every made me feel such a strong, vast array of emotions in a fantasy novel better than Kuang. This woman is the queen of feels, and once again she doesn't pull any punches.

We pick up after the end of the Third Poppy War, following Rin and her gang of misfits who have frankly seen better days. Rin's sole purpose is now to assassinate the Empress her sold her - and Altan - out to the Federation. Addicted to opium and a sham of a commander, the task is a daunting one, and even the Cike is beginning to lose hope. When the Dragon Warlord snatches them up and proposes a new Republic, Rin isn't left with much of a choice but to join forces. Besides, at least another war will give her purpose again - and an outlet for her vengeance.

"The only thing permanent about this Empire is war."

The Dragon Republic is broken down much like The Poppy War was - it seems like it could actually be divided into three separate books, with each section becoming darker than the last. And it brings to the table all of the things I loved about the first book. All of our favorite (and complex) characters are back, and the world building and magic system is still head and shoulders anything I've ever read before. But more than anything, the FEELINGS were back. I became so invested in these characters and this war. When bad decisions were made, I felt so much anxiety. When Rin was in a downward spiral, I felt anger and helplessness. When there was death (and oh man, is there death), true grief made an appearance. Betrayal, loss, love - everything was felt as if the book was happening to me instead of Rin.

Speaking of Rin, I want to touch on her for a minute. This character is so well written. I've never read anything like her before. It's not that she's a likable character - she isn't. In fact, sometimes I wanted to shake her so hard her teeth rattled to knock some sense into her. And she is completely unredeemable. All she has to fuel herself is her vengeance, and it's easy to see why. But I also loved watching her struggle with that, and struggle to hold on to pieces of her humanity, despite all of the atrocities she's seen and committed - her love for her country, her friendship with Kitay. Those are the things that keep her grounded, and make her human. Rin fought her way back from the brink of opium addiction, found a way around a block on her magic, and managed to escape from so many people so many times that I lost count. She may not be likable, but she's determined and stubborn and fierce - just don't get on her bad side.

"You are the most powerful creature in this world right now. You have an ability that can begin or end wars. You could launch this Empire into a glorious new and united age, and you could also destroy us. What you don't get to do is remain neutral. When you have the power that you do, your life is not your own."

Kitay, on the other hand, was my bright burning spot in this entire book. He is hands down my favorite and I will do anything to protect him. He is good and pure and honest, and watching him struggle with war, and knowing people he loves have committed such heinous acts, was such a hard thing. But like everyone else around him, he's in a constant war zone, and had to grow up very quickly. Because if one thing's for sure, he and Rin aren't at Sinegard anymore, and no one will ever be the same. The only question is if they can come out of this alive, and without losing everything good about themselves in the process.

"Kitay was pure. He was the best person she had ever known. Kitay shouldn't know how it felt to call a god of vengeance. Kitay was the last thing in the world that was still fundamentally kind and good, and she'd die before she corrupted that."

I ended up giving this book 4 stars. The beginning was a little slow pace-wise for me, although that may have just been where my headspace was at. I did struggle to get into it, but by the 50% mark I was hanging on to every word. And I feel like I did mention this about The Poppy War in my review, but some of the war schemes are so technical that I found myself skimming a bit through those parts - this is not a bad thing, it's just not for me. And BE WARNED, readers. This book has JUST as many triggers as The Poppy War. I honestly stopped writing them down, because there were so many. Basically if you can think of a trigger, it is in this book. This series is DARK - make sure you are in the right frame of mind to read it.

This book completely destroyed me. I feel like I read the last third with my mouth hanging completely open. I laughed, and cried, and almost threw the book against the wall. I had to get up and walk around and take breaks because I felt like I just couldn't take it anymore. If you loved the Poppy War, do not wait to read the sequel. Or maybe do wait - the ending is vicious, and the third book does not come out anytime soon.

The Dragon Republic released on August 6, 2019.

*All quotations taken from an ARC and are subject to change prior to publication.
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This is a worthy successor to the amazing "The Poppy War." Rin, along with her compatriots, suffer a lot more. I mean, that's not really a spoiler, because things weren't going to be peaches and cream after the Poppy War ended. Rin doesn't know how to cope, and no one knows how to help her. I spent a lot of time yelling - both in my head and occasionally aloud - "INVENT THERAPY AND THEN GO TO IT." (And then much, much later there is a kind of therapy and I get very relieved.)

There's not much I can say about the plot in the review that won't be a spoiler. I can't even tell you who she spends most of her time with. I will say this took me a lot longer to read than I expected because it's pretty brutal - not surprisingly, given the plot of The Poppy War, but aftermath books are always harder on me. I don't deal with when people I care for are bogged down or taking wrong emotional turns for reasons I want them to rise above. (See above re: INVENT THERAPY AND THEN GO TO IT.) It's one thing to have brutality done to you; it's another to inflict it on yourself because you don't think you deserve any better. It's a journey that's sadly far too common, but it's really very tough to witness, even in fictional form. So be ready, and be warned. It's such a very good book, and story, and I still can't believe this series is a debut series. But gird your hearts well.
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“The Dragon Republic couldn’t possibly live up to The Poppy War,” I thought to myself before opening the book. After all, The Poppy War was one of my favorite books of 2018 and it had the element of !surprise amazing! going for it (since I acquired an early ARC and went in without any expectations). Plus I’ve always had a hard time with second books in trilogies - they lack the magical ‘discovering a new world’ feeling of a first book and they don’t have the satisfaction of a third book.

Oh ye of little faith.

Okay, I’ll fully admit that I’d forgotten much of the first book, despite having read it twice. Worst book memory ever. BUT I’m still confident in saying that The Dragon Republic IS EVEN BETTER THAN TPW. YOU HEARD ME.

(Side note: if you also suffer book amnesia, fear not - R.F. Kuang has you covered! She did such a great job of reintroducing the characters, struggles, and stakes - I had no trouble diving right back in.)

TDR is so so SO powerful, packed full of emotions and themes. It’s both incredibly brilliant and so stressful to read, but in the best possible way. Because NO ONE IS SAFE. Its war, damnit, and Kuang does not pull her punches.

I can’t even begin to explain how many powerful themes come into play here. Some are familiar ones from the first book (addiction, morality in times of war, vengeance, wealth divide, racism, war crimes, soldier vs. commander responsibility, and so much more), while others are brand new or more strongly emphasized [spoiler redacted - will be added and spoiler tagged on goodreads]. My head spun with everything going on. And yet none of it feels awkwardly placed. It all fits seamlessly into the story.

I’m not usually a fan of villains. Rin is one of the only villainous characters I’ve ever rooted for, even though in many ways it felt wrong to do so. And she often doesn’t do herself any favors, acting impulsively and thinking about, saying, and doing terrible things to others. But there’s so much pressure on her and I couldn’t help but to want her to succeed. She’s tenacious and determined to survive, despite it all, and it’s hard not to be drawn to that kind of willpower.

But she’s not the only character I’m invested in from the series. AHHH there are so many! The characters act consistently and they feel so real. I can’t name some of the ones who appear in this book because spoilers, but I will mention that I absolutely love Kitay. As a former accountant, there were some jokes in the book that made me laugh so hard. Kitay has my heart!

Also, TDR made me understand why reading about Rin attending Sinegard in TPW was so necessary. I remember that the switch from academy to war was jarring for some readers and I’m not sure I understood why it was so important to tell the story in that way. But having read TDR, I can now say that the trilogy wouldn’t be nearly as powerful without our having spent a significant amount of time in Sinegard first.

Anyway, I’m writing a LOT because there’s so much to say about this book. There’s no way I can cover everything I felt or thought about this book in one review, so here’s a small sampling of my emotions and reactions throughout: laughter, gasps, sadness, worry, surprise, shock, heartbreak, devastation, empowerment.

READ THIS BOOK. Just remember, when you do finally sit down with a fresh, shiny copy of the book, do as Fonda Lee’s front cover blurb says and “brace yourself.”

Advanced copy provided by Harper Collins through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

(There are a ton of triggers in this book, but given that TPW was the mother of triggering books, I’ll just warn you that TDR is about on par with TPW.)

NOTE: Review links added!
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I am stunned after finishing The Dragon Republic. At over 500 pages, I was nervous that I'd be bored or that the book would go in a direction I didn't care for, but The Dragon Republic exceeded all my expectations. It was riveting and compelling, exploring the cost of war, the lure of power, morality, religion, and colonialism.

Rin is the kind of character that I wouldn't say I love, but I can understand and appreciate her complexity. She carries so much rage because of her childhood and how people have treated her, and she's impulsive and arrogant. The stakes are high in The Dragon Republic, and the many military strategy and battle scenes are strong, both brutal and unflinching. I loved the supporting characters, from Kitay and Nezha to Daji and Vaisra.

Kuang has really improved as a writer and delved deeper into the compelling world she's created. I can't wait for the final book in the trilogy.
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5/5 stars — an exceptional sequel worthy of The Poppy War

contains spoilers for The Poppy War but NOT The Dragon Republic

I haven't read a book of this length so quickly since I was in my teens. The Dragon Republic, R.F. Kuang's brilliant addition to The Poppy War series, certainly isn't for children, but it held the same thrill as all my childhood favorites with the added perspective of an adult take on war and the accompanying subtler types of violence. This book is heavy and dark, but absolutely impossible to put down.

Rin begins the book shaken by the death of Altan Trengsin, who was commander, teacher, and abuser in one messy package. She's also heavily dependant on opium to maintain control of her shamanic powers—and to deaden her memories of the atrocities she saw and committed in the Third Poppy War. The Dragon Republic is a story of military strategy, tyranny, colonial influence, and magic, but it still centers Rin's character as its driving force. This is her story; not of redemption, but of self-discovery and gaining intimate familiarity with her own strengths and weaknesses.

Rin is the least likeable protagonist I've ever read, but also (within reason) one of the most relatable. She's motivated by pain and praise; she's judgemental and filled with self-loathing. Kuang pulls no punches when it comes to Rin's character, filling her to the eyeballs with negative traits. And it works. By being authentically herself down to the last internalized horror, Rin is dreadfully and perfectly compelling. This is true of all Kuang's characters, down to the minor players who appear only a few times. They're messy and awful and real. 

Kuang also works wonders with language in terms of both linguistics and prose. Without going so far as to invent whole languages, she weaves linguistic associations into her worldbuilding so that certain names/places instantly give you chills. Golyn Niis? Forever ingrained in my hindbrain as terrifying, but it sounded scary even before the events of the previous book. Hesperian? Sounds European and lofty in a holier-than-thou way, which is right on. The prose varies from Rin's unadorned introspection at the height of her addiction to punchy dialogue that further cements Rin coming into her own.

There's so much more to analyze and praise in the way Kuang constructs setting, conflict, and character arcs, but other reviews will (and have) done it better than I can. There's also a lot to unpack regarding fictionalized but universal lessons about treatment of refugees, technologically advanced nations interfering in other countries' conflicts to gain power and withholding aid while pushing religion, and internalized racism/colorism and classism, but those discussions are better left to people who can speak from a place of experience. 

I'll keep it simple: read this book! If you enjoyed the first installment in the series, you know what to expect here. The Dragon Republic lives up to The Poppy War's legacy, delivering just as many moments of triumph, rage, and devastation. [My favorite quote isn't one of the most poignant or beautiful, but I think it sums up the peak of Rin's arc in this book, the moment I fell in love with her character all over again: "Fuck Altan, fuck his legacy, and fuck his trident. It was time she started using a weapon that would keep her alive." (hide spoiler)]

** content warnings: explicit wartime violence, rape, colorism, (fantasy) racism, referenced genocide and mass murder, gore, drug addiction, medical experimentation
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5 stars

The Poppy War was good, this one is better
The Poppy War was brutal, this one is ruthless
The Poppy War enticed, this one demanded
The Poppy War sparked the war, this one incinerated the battlefield

There was nothing I did not love about The Dragon Republic.

Plot: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Character growth: ★★★★★
War/Gore Factor: ★★★★★ (yeah it's still rough.)

The Dragon Republic is the explosive follow-up to R.F. Kuang's insanely talented debut novel, The Poppy War, and it does not disappoint—in fact, it packs double the punch. Haven't read the first book? Stop! Go find it! Read it! Love it! Then come back here! See if you agree with what I thought! Warning: it's going to spoil aspects of The Poppy War in order to cover its goodness.

Fang Runin (Rin) is not doing so well. At the end of The Poppy War, she's just watched her Cike commander/shaman/troubled love interest Altan sacrifice himself to the flames of the vengeful Phoenix god, and in her grief-torn rage she sets fire to an entire island. (An. Entire. Island.) She singlehandedly ended the Third Poppy War against the killing an entire population in one swoop. 

As we entire The Dragon Republic, Rin's struggling with the emotional backlash of that decision and sliding the slippery slope down to PTSD-inflicted opium addiction. She's shaky, hard to control, and hard to predict. The Phoenix is winning. Her characteristic ego is flailing. The last thing she wants is to be in control of the Cike, a small band of powerful shamans who are also held on the precipice of madness in order to commune with their gods and reap the supernatural powers. She's making poor decisions, and it shows. What can a soldier do when her commander abandons her? 

She finds a new commander, a new war, and a new path toward vengeance. But is lending her war-ending powers to another puppeteer the answer to this game? 

I can't say I was expecting this novel to unfold in this way it did—mainly due to the fact that the plot was impossible to predict. It had a lot more boats than I was expecting, and appealed to the inner pirate/adventurer in me. It introduced aspects of Western civilization-inflicted colonialism parallels that were disturbing to read and disturbing to reflect upon. In traditional Kuang style, it reflected aspects of China's history that will make your heart ache, and your conscience guilty. It reflects on female roles in the military, gender imbalances, and sexual violence as a result of war. I really appreciated these inclusions. It's not a pretty story, but it is a necessary one—and in the context of this fantasy world it has the potential for a glorious re-do. I can't wait for Rin to burn it down. 

Also, the sheer amount of game-changing moments in this novel left me in a state of perpetual tension. Who will betray whom, and when, and how? Who will die next? How will Rin's characteristic impulsiveness react to this latest reveal? And where will Rin and Nezha's wonderful hate-to-maybe-more dynamic go as they dance around their lies and truths?

Like the first novel in the series, The Dragon Republic has a lot to say. It was brutal, it was vicious, it was nauseating. It took no prisoners and no one's life was sacred. But, it was also poignant, original, and absolutely thrilling. I can't wait to see where Kuang takes Rin next—it's going to be an explosive journey.
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I loved this book. It’s a worthy follow up to The Poppy War and one that promises even more excitement to come. Kuang has shown that she is a force to be reckoned with and one that looks to be a rising force in the genre and one that’s providing an important perspective in fantasy. A
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“People will seek to use you or destroy you. If you want to live, you must pick a side. So do not shirk from war, child. Do not flinch from suffering. When you hear screaming, run toward it.”

R. F. Kuang returns to the world of The Poppy War with this stunning sequel, The Dragon Republic. Everything I enjoyed about The Poppy War is not only present once again in The Dragon Republic, but amplified. Rather than falling victim to “middle book syndrome,” Kuang knocks it out of the park by taking Rin & Co. in an entirely new direction. Instead of continuing to fight the same old battles against the same old enemies, Rin becomes a soldier in a new fight: the battle to fill the power vacuum she created at the conclusion of The Poppy War. 

For those who have yet to read The Poppy War, I highly recommend checking out my earlier review. Beware, O Ye Who Enter Here: there WILL be spoilers for the first book (and first book only). 

There’s a time skip of several months at the start of The Dragon Republic, which helps to throw us right into the beginning of the new story arc. Where The Poppy War was a novel in two parts, starting with a military academy before throwing it out in favor of full-on grimdark military fantasy, the sequel has a much steadier pace throughout the book. I found this to be a great deal more enjoyable, as it felt more natural and less jarring. Rin and the Cike have fallen in with the pirate queen, Moag, before quickly being sold out to the Dragon Warlord: Yin Vaisra. Fortunately, Vaisra isn’t after their deaths, but rather after the firepower the Cike will bring to his campaign. Vaisra, you see, intends not to set himself upon a throne… but to create a democratic legacy rather than a dynasty. He intends to create a republic. 

“Fear used to be a unifying force. Now the cracks in the foundation grow day by day. Do you know how many local insurrections have erupted in the past month? Daji is doing everything she can to keep the Empire united, but the institution is a sinking ship that’s rotted at the core. It may drift for a while, but eventually it will be dashed to pieces against the rocks.”

“And you think you can destroy it and building a new one.”

Rin, at this point, is thoroughly dependent on opium both to function and to contend with what she has done with the help of the phoenix. She is a shell of a person, not fit for command. However, a large portion of this book deals with her coming to accept not only who she is, but also who Altan was… both as a human being, and to her specifically. His memory is used against her repeatedly as a weapon, beating her down and crushing her spirit, and it is only by accepting herself and how she feels about him that she’ll be able to move forward. It’s a painful and heartbreaking process, but it’s a poison that’s eating her from the inside out and which must be purged before she can be whole once more. 

“She’d known for months she was killing herself and that she didn’t have the control to stop, that the only person who might have stopped her was dead. 

She needed someone who was capable of controlling her like no one since Altan could. She hated to admit it, but she knew that in Vaisra she might have found a savior.”

Kitay, of course, also returns in this novel. He’s grown, hardened by the massacre at Golyn Niis, but to Rin… he’s still the same old Kitay. He’s been hurt, and badly, but it’s forged him into steel. While Rin may still think of him as innocent and pure, Kitay will be tested and will not sit quietly when Rin tries to shelter him. I was thrilled to watch Kitay grow and develop, even as my soul ached to see him so.

The battles and war in the book are excellent, especially towards the conclusion as the shamans become more involved. In the start, I was impressed by the clever use of river warfare, including mines and delayed-release poisons. By the end, I was stunned by the vivid imagery of shamans fighting and using the powers of their gods against one another. For Rin & Co., this means fighting not only against new faces, but also against old friends – friends who they knew from their academy days. 

“I suppose it’s not easy going to war against friends. . .”

“Yes, it is,” Kitay said. “They have a choice. Niang made her choice. She just happened to be dead fucking wrong.”

Kuang’s prose has also improved by leaps and bounds. Where I found The Poppy War to be slightly lacking in this regard, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the prose in The Dragon Republic. I found myself highlighting much more liberally, showcasing paragraphs and sentences I particular liked. Kuang’s cussing is also thoroughly on point, often with a dash of humor mixed in to alleviate the dark subject matter of the novels. Masterful use of the word “fuck,” if I do say so myself. Many paragraphs are poetic, thoughts and ideas that will stick with you.

All in all, this was a fantastic sequel that promises an explosive conclusion in the third installment. I’m already looking forward to what Kuang will bring us next!

This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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As much as I enjoyed The Dragon Republic, it felt like it had “second in the series” syndrome. Not sure if there’s an official term, but sometimes, it feels like second books are not as exciting, especially if they are part of a trilogy. They tend to feel like a “bridge” between the exciting beginning and the thrilling conclusion. The second book always seems to start with where it logically should -what comes after the climax of the first book, after the harrowing battles or whatever equally gripping situation happened. The smoke is clearing, the pieces are being picked up, wounds are being tended. So, vital, but not the edge-of-your-seat storytelling that was the end of the first book. Although it is anticipated, with The Dragon Republic, it felt like that part went on a bit long, or at least, the action was a bit slow to pick back up. I was about halfway through the book before I experienced the feeling of eagerness to continue reading. 
With that said, the second half of the book was thoroughly excellent. There were surprises, more magic, and huge turns of events. I wish I could say more, but you know, spoilers. 
I have to say, this has been one of the best fantasy series I’ve read in a long time, and it feels so refreshing to read a YA fantasy (no matter how much I love them) that doesn’t center on royalty, which seems to be saturating the genre at the moment.
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While I enjoyed The Poppy War immensely, The Dragon Republic felt bogged down and slow for me. I started to dislike Rin as I felt that her loyalties to her friends, the Cike, and her causes changed at the drop of a dime. I felt her character just wanted acceptance and a pat on the back constantly. The ending twist redeemed the story for me and because of that, I would read subsequent books in the series.
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The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang 4 stars

It took me awhile to get through this ( I had to read parts of it more than once)  because this is a rich and complicated tale.  When I read the Poppy War, I took into account the author's comments on the violence that is depicted in the novel.  I have listened to podcast's where Ms. Kuang is interviewed on what inspired the books and therefore, I had an idea about what the Dragon Republic would be about.  Ms. Kuang did not disappoint her readers. 

I enjoyed her imaginative take on Chinese history - the Sino-Japanese invasion, the Opium War of the 19th century and the formation of the Republic of China .  As we left Rin at the end of the Poppy War, she has been possessed by an elemental force and did a "Pompeii" on the entire island nation of Mugen.  During the first novel she finds out that the Empress she serves betrayed her and parts of the country to the Mugen.  She is determined to get vengeance an makes several attempts to achieve her goal.  She eventually encounters a old classmate and his father, the Warlord  of the Dragon Province who convinces her that the formation of a Democratic Republic is the only way to bring Nikan together.  They want her as a living weapon and to achieve her goal to kill the Empress she joins the cause.

Rin is such a conflicted and complicated character.  She want her revenge on all that was done to her and her friends and goes all out to make it happen.  But she has several handicaps - she is an opium addict because the drug gives her some rest from the elemental in her head; she wants to be a follower - for someone to validate her existence and give her praise and be worthy of her loyalty.  Unfortunately, the leader she follows has his own motives and asks her to be an assassin and willing lab rat.  He has no loyalty to her and I saw early on that she is a disposable asset.  

This book asks the question - who is your true enemy and does the ends justify the means to achieve your goals.  Who is the real villain is this book - the story will offer more than one viewpoint for the reader to decide. 
I eagerly await the finale of this series.

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins/Harper Voyager for this ARC.
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Reviews to be published for each part of the book. The following is my review for Part One:

Part One of The Dragon Republic sees the most powerful woman in the world fighting against herself as she attempts to control her powers and come to terms with the destruction wrought from her actions. We continue to be reminded of how terrifying her strength can be and how powerful she can be when she learns to control her demons. It’s an interesting character journey filled with fights, betrayals, and a final battle that starts off the coming war. All in all, this is a great beginning to an epic tale.


This is masterful writing on display. Kuang alternates between the inner struggles of her protagonist, the destruction of the Empire at her feet, and the political intrigue needed for a major shift in power. Everything flows perfectly, leaving you mesmerized with the story and excited to see what direction it will take.


In the beginning of the book, we see the aftermath of war and the destruction it unleashes. Beyond the general breakdown of consolidated power, we see the suffering refugees trying to find a home, the bodies floating in the water, the cities all but gone. Rin is on a journey to rebuild the Empire, but seeing the horrors of war makes that journey all the more painful. Those stark descriptions show the sacrifice to come and if deeply affects all involved.


Politics highlights the first part of the book as the vulturous warlords descend on the Autumn Palace for a council. Rin is sided with Vaisra, a powerful warlord with an incredibly impressive navy. We see her struggling to come to terms with serving someone beyond herself and, when she finally agrees to become a part of the fight, it’s a big growth moment for her. Whereas before she couldn’t move beyond her own needs, she now sees what must be done to save people from the destruction she’s witnessed on her travels. There are plenty of behind-the-scenes moments as we watch the warlords bicker and see Vaisra try to gain followers on his side. The Empress herself is a terrifying presence, imbued with immense power that shocks in the right moments.


It’s startling to follow a group of such powerful shamans. Rin in particular has an immense power that can burn cities to the ground, brought on by any number of factors that incapacitate her with anger and revenge. It’s terrifying on the page, filling the masses with fear. We get to know her as a person, get to see the past that’s constantly roiling about in her mind, but that power keeps you from being completely on her side.

To be published on 8/9:
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I'm not going to lie I didn't completely finish this book.. I really liked the poppy war and was interested in seeing where Kuang  takes us next. Except I just cannot get behind this complete opposite character change of our main character. I tried reading the beginning, but kept getting distracted and not happy with the direction. I do want to know what happens in the end, but I couldn't force myself to finish it at this time when I have so many more that are actually sucking me in.
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Rin is back for another adventure and another war. The Dragon Republic really kept me reading. The story is engaging and honestly, makes me even want to be friends with these fantasy people IRL. 

I loved The Dragon Republic just as much as its predecessor and read through it just as quickly. 

Anyone else wish they had secret dragon powers?
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