Cover Image: The Dragon Republic

The Dragon Republic

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Member Reviews

The Dragon Republic is the follow up to R.F. Kuang's debut novel, The Poppy War (Review Here), easily one of the strongest novels of 2018.  It was also one of the most brutal and dark novels by its end, being based upon real life events that took place during the Sino-Japanese wars, with a new fantasy bent.  I am not a fan of grimdark books that are dark for the sake of being dark, but Kuang used her fantasy parallels to real life events to powerful ends to a satisfying if incredibly dark conclusion, leaving a reader breathless by the story's end.

So The Dragon Republic has a lot to live up to as the follow up to The Poppy War, and it doesn't quite manage to pull it off, although it's still compelling through the end.  Whereas the first book dealt with the atrocities of the Sino-Japanese wars as its base, this book has parallels to the effects of Western Imperialism/Colonization, with the fantasy equivalent of Westerners showing up to ostensibly aid some of the parties in the conflicts/rebuilding that result from the end of The Poppy War.  Any readers who were shocked and surprised at what happened in the last book will almost certainly not be here, but the feeling of dread I felt instead was nearly equally as powerful, as the book's great characters try to find a way forward in the face of having perhaps nothing left. 

Trigger Warning:  Rape, War Atrocities, and Genocide.  The First Book in this series was based upon the Sino-Japanese Wars (particularly the second one), and as such analogous events occured in that book and those are referenced here.  This book deals with the after effects of this and parallels to Western imperialism in China, where the atrocities aren't always as overt...but they're there, so again, fair warning.

Warning: Spoilers for The Poppy War cannot be avoided below.  If you intend to read The Poppy War unspoiled, stop here.
---------------------------------------------------Plot Summary-------------------------------------------------
Having destroyed the Mugen Federation with the Phoenix, Rin finds herself with no purpose in life other than to continue her vengeance against the woman who betrayed her and her Shaman allies, the Cike, the woman who rules Nikara, the Vipress and Empress, Daji.   But Rin is hunted throughout the Empire of Nikara and there are fewer than 10 people - the remaining members of the Cike - who she can trust to help her.  And even worse, Rin can barely control the Phoenix itself, with the god's voice constantly in her head begging her to consume everything in flame, and her only moments of sanity coming under the influence of opium, when she's no good to anybody.

Yet against all odds, Rin finds an unlikely ally for her quest for vengeance in her old classmate and rival Nezha's father, the Dragon Warlord, who seeks to wage a quick civil war against the Empress to establish a "Dragon Republic."  Together with her old friend Kitay, Rin struggles to both control her power and to help in the war against the Empress, so that she may once again have a way forward.  But the Dragon Warlord, and his strange White helpers from the overseas country of Hesperia, may have their own plans for Nikara.....plans that may not include people like Rin, assuming Rin and her friends can survive this new war for Nikara against an Empress who is just as magically powerful, and as brilliant strategically, as any of Rin and her friends combined.....
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The Dragon Republic has a hell of a task before it, to follow up on the stunning ending of The Poppy War.  It also can't quite pull off the same deception that the first novel tried pulling over its readers' eyes - pretending to be a much more conventional, if dark, form of a typical work in this genre (where a lower class girl goes to an upper class warrior academy, learns power, gains friends and rivals, and eventually works with them to save everyone).  No, this time around, the reader, in addition to Rin herself, is expecting the worst at nearly all times, leading to a massive sense of dread hovering around this book as the reader waits for certain shoes to eventually drop in potentially catastrophic and horrifying ways.

Leading the reader through this world once again is Fang "Rin" Runin, now an absolute wreck after the events of The Poppy War, on the verge of being driven mad by the Phoenix, desperately out of her depth in a leadership position she's never wanted, and feeling so much guilt for the death of Altan, who she still sees as the one who should have survived instead of her.  The only thing Rin thinks she wants - the only thing she thinks she deserves - is her vengeance over Daji, and so when she's presented with a war to do just that, she goes along, even despite all the warning signs of what might be happening around her.  It's a pretty incredible book that can make its main character - the protagonist we're supposed to root for - the cause of genocide and still have us on her side, but Rin actually remains sympathetic to some extent under Kuang's writing (this is no antihero).

The rest of these characters remain excellent, from the big ones, to the minor ones.  Most prominent are of course the mysterious shaman Chaghan, who also struggles from the loss of Altan, and Rin's school friends Kitay and Nezha.  Kitay left off in the last book refusing to have anything to do with Rin for her actions, but events here return him, known as a brilliant strategist, to the fore and his and Rin's journeys are really well done, with his development taking some interesting paths from beginning to end.  And then there's Nezha, who was left for dead in The Poppy War but who was hinted to possibly have powers that could've helped him survive.  And sure enough he did, and he emerged into an interesting complement to Rin and Kitay, as they fight a war with leaders who might be leading them to ruin, and reveals are made of Nezha's past that pose the possibility to change everything.

I have mixed feelings about Nezha here honestly - whereas his transformation from enemy/rival to ally in The Poppy War worked rather well, I'm not sure the version of him seen here in this book is a logical end result of development based on what's happened to him, he's almost an entirely different character at times.  And he's a major character, so this is a bit of an issue in the book that can't be helped away.  Still I do think it works, despite my misgivings.  And I should point out the other minor characters, many of whom were introduced in the first book, remain excellent and natural complements to this world.

As I mentioned above, the plot of this book can't generally surprise the reader with the bad to come - although there are a few major shocks that the book still manages to pull off - but instead the book suffices the atmosphere with a feeling of dread throughout.  Any reader without utter insane naivete will be dreading reading on for instance the moment the White foreigners show up, knowing that their presence cannot possibly lead to anything good, and the book doesn't even try to pretend otherwise.  This atmosphere works generally well, and the plot never drags despite this being an even longer book than the first one, resulting in an epic conclusion that sets up the final book in the trilogy.  The end result is not as strong a book as the first novel - I'm not sure such strength would be possible after what happens there - but it is still compelling and worth your time.

So yeah, if you could survive The Poppy War and found it compelling, The Dragon Republic is worth your time, with this fantasy version of China still telling a tale worth telling, dark and brutal as it is.
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*Note: This is a spoiler-free review, though since this is the second book in a series there may be inadvertent minor spoilers from the first book.

When I read The Poppy War last year, I was entranced. I had no idea what sort of story I'd be getting into when I started it, and it wasn't until the famed second half of the book that I fully understood just how high the stakes would be and how deep and dark Kuang was would go to tell such an important and riveting story.

The Dragon Republic is vastly different from The Poppy War in regards to setting and plot developments, but it still captures the intensity, drive, despair, dichotomy of hopelessness and hopefulness, and utterly gripping narrative present in The Poppy War. It is somehow even better than the first book and it took everything in me to even be able to put this book down so that I could do other productiev things in my life (you know, like eat, sleep, clean...).

Rin continues to be a character that I oscillate between somewhat liking, hating, and feeling entirely frustrated with--and honestly, that makes me love this book even more because she is such a compelling and real character. She's incredibly angry (understandably, usually). She screws up a lot. She has an unchecked temper, but she also knows how to take care of things and be appropriate when she needs to be--well, sometimes. There is definitely a lot of growth in regards to Rin and her gradual understanding of how the world around her works and her role in it, though she does still hang on to a lot of her most stubborn characteristics.

In addition to Rin, many of the supporting characters, such as Kitay and and another character whose name I can't mention since it might be a bit of a spoiler, also continue to be developed in an engrossing and believable manner. I really enjoyed all of the characters that Kuang has created in this trilogy so far, especially those such as Vaisra the Dragon Warlord and even the Empress Su Daji. There is a fine deftness required in order to create characters that are so easily hated, yet still intriguing (and dare I say charismatic?) enough to draw you in to their own motivations and goals in the plot.

One aspect of The Dragon Republic that I was particularly excited about was the expanded world-building. The Poppy War featured a fair number of various locations and settings, but in The Dragon Republic the entire world just felt as if it were opened up so much more. Even more history and locations were introduced and explored and the already expansive world-building of the first book was opened up into something that felt as real as the world I live in today. There are a variety of climates and locations, there are societies that don't concern themselves with issues far away unless it directly ebenfits them, there are hierarchies upon hierarchies that are endlessly complex and frustrating to those invoved wth them, and there is simply a constant sense of legitimacy that had me really sucked into this world. And to top off the world-building is the excellent Asian-inspired setting that absolutely makes this book even more interesting than it already is. I love that Kuang has drawn influence from historical elements and has such a vibrant world and a diverse array of cultures in place to reflect the diversity of the Asian background it is based upon.

As much as I loved The Poppy War and was easily engaged in Kuang's absorbing prose, it is clearly evident that Kuang has improved even more with the prose of The Dragon Republic and has matured even more as a writer (though, of course, this isn't to say that her writng wasn't already mature and well-done!), crafting a tale with twists, turns, scheming, and intense discussions that drew me in at every moment. At no point in this book was I ever bored--instead, I was constantly yearning for more.

This book will punch you in the face, laugh at you when you're shocked, pretend to make it better...and then stomp all over you again with a smile. And you'll love every second of it. If you loved The Poppy War, you'll love The Dragon Republic. If you were iffy on The Poppy War, you'll love The Dragon Republic so definitely still give it a chance! Overall, I've easily given The Dragon Republic five stars!
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I liked The Poppy War but struggled with it. I preferred the first half set in Sinegard where protagonist Rin trained to become an imperial soldier. The second half, focusing on war between Nikara and Mugen, was brutal. The Dragon Republic shows R.F. Kuang's growth as a writer and as a result, it is a very compelling and fantastic sequel. 
The Dragon Republic makes readers face really difficult questions: how does one cope with trauma after war and loss? How do you remember someone who you loved but wasn't perfect? Who defines humanity? 
To avoid spoilers, Rin's world expands when she allies with Nezha's father who in turn, seeks help from Hesperia. Hesperia is coded as a Western power (Chinese history isn't my forte but I think it is based on the United States). Kuang does an excellent job deconstructing the imperial/colonial "civilizing mission." Rin gets tested by Hesperian missionaries who use racist physiognomy to determine that the Nikaran possess less humanity. The Dragon Republic is a damning critique of colonial politics that still remain in contemporary times. Other reviews have criticized Rin for being "whiny" but I think this is an unfair characterization. She is struggling with PTSD, still caught in what feels like an endless loop of violence, and lacks some agency because of her subordinate political status. 
Critiques that I had for The Poppy War (some slow pacing, certain characters needing more development) were really improved. There were several twists that were welcome and not expected. The stakes have been raised tremendously and I'm impatient for the trilogy's conclusion. 
I would certainly assign this book for a college course on imperialism and colonialism. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. 4.5/5 stars.
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If you liked The Poppy Wars, the second book in the series is not a disappointment. I have seen some negative reviews, however, I think that the gist, without spoiling anything, is that Kuang is more hard hitting in book 2, The Dragon Republic. I guess some people weren’t interested in the story going in this direction but in my opinion, it leads us to an epic finale when book 3 is released. So buckle up. Action, twists, turns, adventure, you name it, this  series has it. 
Bring it on. 

#TheDragonRepublic #NetGalley
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I really liked the first book, but this one was tough to read.  It took me a week, which is unusual for me, I could only read about 30 minutes at a time because I found myself bored.  

A big reason why I was bored was that I felt like Rin was a whiny bitch at the start, one who complained all the time when she was high as a kite.  Then once Rin was forced off the drugs she continued to complain, complain and be betrayed by everyone around her.  Just when you thought Rin found a safe place, someone who had the same line of thought as her, she would be betrayed again and again.  But it was the last one that seemed to hurt the most.  The one that compelled Rin to finally "wake" up and do something.  It's just too bad that it took 500 pages for this all to happen.
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Fans of Poppy War will be excited to see more of Fan Runin after the explosive events at the end of that novel--and Dragon Republic doesn't disappoint! Rin and company remain the complex, troubled, sympathetic but fundamentally flawed people they were in the first book, and the action is equally intense.

I felt like I enjoyed this one a little bit less than Poppy War, but I still enjoyed it more than most books I read. In particular, the first half of the book felt a little stagnant to me.  Rin is in a rut and has a hard time getting out of it, which was a little frustrating as a reader. About halfway through, though, some new characters come in and the situation changes, and the story was much more dynamic and interesting. I enjoyed seeing familiar characters in a new light, and we finally get a confrontation between Rin and the Empress, which was nice, too! 

In the end, despite a bit of a bumpy start, the payoff towards the end of the book, the intensity of the story, and the struggles and sacrifices of the characters all make Dragon Republic a compelling read for anyone interested in fantasy fiction, military fiction, or early modern China.
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I'd had my suspicions about a certain character's fate that was confirmed in this book, and there are indeed dragons here. Things to know about the book and author: The author is training as a historian, and I'm afraid that might have leaked a bit too much into this book. We reach the famed Red Cliffs of Chinese military history, barely disguised. The infighting among generals and the Empress is also just barely disguised. 

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I enjoyed The Poppy War. Why not? Partly because of the above tracing of history. There was lots of betrayal and bad judgement, and a lot of time the book felt like it was spinning its wheels. The ultimate goal of the series, I believe is to get Rin to the point that she goes full Mao on everyone, wreaking destruction and chaos in her wake. The goal of this books seemed to be to break down Rin's trust in authority, such as it is. Rin, once again, falls for a charismatic leader who can make the tough decisions for her while she goes out and performs her soldierly and shamanly duties. She learns, once again, that people can't be trusted (or that she has terrible judgement in people, but she doesn't figure that one out). At the end of the book, it seems like Rin might finally be willing to go it alone, because she's got no one (except one person) that she can count on. 

I feel like this plot line did not need to be a whole book. There was lots of sound and fury about various battles, but the details of all this fighting ultimately did not matter. I think the author could have achieved her goal with Rin's character arc in a lot less time, and with a lot less cribbing from history. I don't see how she's going to wrap up the trilogy without a lot of time skip or a looooong book, and feel like she might have been able to get farther in this one if she'd looked up from history and used more plot of her own. I'm not sure if I will read the third book or not. Mao is a horrific historical figure, and you have to be ready going in to read about atrocity. I'd like to see the author take a bit more time and not get bogged down in the details as much.
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I love those kind of sequels where the main character has everything that they clung to, torn away from them. When they have to re-evaluate the things that identified with. Figure out who they will have to be. A sequel born of flames and emerging not unscathed, but anew. Enter The Dragon Republic. The Dragon Republic is a story that advances the world of The Poppy War in a mountain moving, earthquake inducing, way. But what really stuck with me, even days after finishing, is how dedicated The Dragon Republic is to portraying Rin's grief and recovery. Reeling from the events of The Poppy War Rin is experiencing a grief so raw it's ripping her open. Not only that, but a guilt that seems all-consuming, haunted by memories of carnage and destruction. On top of this, the vengeful god inside of her constantly pushes her closer to the edge, throwing these memories of fire and rage at Rin.

All the characters we love so much, the ones we barely understand, the ones we relate to more than we'd like to admit are scarred by war. Reeling, unsure of what to do next. When our friends have become people we used to know, shadows of illusions and fragments of expectations. The Dragon Republic is motivated not only by Rin's burning anger, her desire for revenge, but a hope for more - a new Republic. Because sometimes it takes a wildfire for new growth to live.
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Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Be advised that this be the second book in the series.  While I try to post no spoilers, if ye haven’t read the first and keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .

the dragon republic (R.F. Kuang)

Title: the dragon republic

Author: R.F. Kuang

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: Tomorrow!!! (hardback/e-book)

ISBN: 978-0062662637

Source: NetGalley

I loved the first book but seriously this one was better.  How good ye ask?  Well while I was finishing Part III, there was apparently a huge thunderstorm AND it knocked out our power.  I didn't even notice until the power came back on and all the fans and the air conditioner turned back on at the same time.  That's how engrossed I was.  Thank goodness I was reading on me Kindle!

In the first book, I had some problems sympathizing with Rin due to her stubborn nature and thoughtless mistakes.  This time I was avidly following her every move.  And I adored the rest of the gang in this one too.  Though the set-up elements for book three were there from the beginning, it was impossible to chart how the course of the action was nonetheless completely unexpected.  I will leave it at that because the crew deserves to explore these strange waters on their own.  Arrrrrr!

Check out me crew members reviews of this one:

Melisssa @ melissareviewsbooks - "DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! That ending! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN!"

James Lafayette Tivendale - "The Dragon Republic is a phenomenal follow-up to what was one of my highest rated fantasy books of 2018, and I think this exceeds the debut in almost everyway."

Aimal @ bookshelves&paperbacks - "Well... fuck."

Rain @ bookdragonism - "Reading is all fun and games until all them books decide to tear your heart straight out of your chest, punch you in the gut, and leave you to the sharks to devour. THAT IS WHAT THE DRAGON REPUBLIC MADE ME FEEL."

Hamad @ thebookprescription - "Now I am giving 5 stars to books where everyone dies! I think I need help xD"

Goodreads has this to say about the novel (shortened by me):

"In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do . . ."

To  visit the author's website go to:

R.F. Kuang – Author

To buy the book go to:

the dragon republic - Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Log Entries for this Author

the poppy war - book one (Captain's Log - Fantasy)
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Thank you Harper Voyager / Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review! 

You learn quite a bit in the sequel to The Poppy War. You get a lot of backstory to all of the characters. Rin is still dealing with the effects of Opium. She clearly has an addiction, and while trying to wean her off of it, they have to use it intentionally at one point. You meet up the other members of the Cike. It was all fine. I stayed involved because I learned so much. There seems to be a lot of side picking in this one. No one really knows who's side anyone is on. You have villains who aren't villains, and "good" characters who are villains. It's all one big mess, and that is how war is. I'm glad that Kuang portrays that in this book. 

I will say that it read a little like a young adult book to me. I don't read a lot of young adult, and I didn't go into this expecting that. It didn't totally ruin it for me, but it did make me not want to pick it up all of the time. There are a few phrases that a certain character says that makes me shake my head. 

I read The Poppy War last year, and gave it the same rating. I will say that The Poppy War probably has a higher three-star rating. This one was WAY too long. I don't have an issue with books 500+ pages, but I do run the risk of getting bored after a certain point. What I am saying is, it wasn't always keeping me on my toes. 
Would I recommend it? Maybe. I can see why a lot of people would love it. It's a story you commit to, and I won't take that away from people. If you read fantasy all the time, this probably won't do it for you. It was entertaining though and I'll at least give it that. 

*Reviews on all my other social media (Blog & Instagram) will be released at a later date!*
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I am at 37% and have decided to DNF this one. I really hate to do it, but I've tried to get into TDR since March and haven't been able to do it. I loved the Poppy War, and Kuang is a talented young writer. But I can't stand Rin. I'm hoping to get back to this eventually, but for right now I find myself struggling to care. 3/5 stars because it is well written and I like the world and magic system. I just need to move on. Maybe I'll pick it up when it comes out.
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AHHHHHHHHH. THE ENDING. KUANG IS REALLY EVIL WHEN IT COMES TO THESE CLIFF HANGERS!!!!

So this book was really, really good. I will say that you had to have liked the first book to like this one, because there is a lot more of the same. If you can’t stomach gore and don’t have an interest in war strategies and politics, this book isn’t for you.

The novel picks up a bit where the last one left off, with Rin picking up the pieces and facing the consequences of her actions at the end of The Poppy War. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy the beginning of this book. I understood the dilemma that Run was facing, but I had zero sympathy for her. It was frustrating to see how she dealt with her guilt, and I couldn’t understand why she was so angry all the time. Besides this, the plot took a while to really pick up. The first half or so of the book was filled with politics that I found less than interesting. Kuang makes up for this in the second half of the book, because I could hardly put it down. There are a number of twists and turns and gasp-worthy moments that left no question of Kuang’s masterful writing skills. The action scenes are edge-of-your-seat, and the dialogue is also fun and engaging. It’s unfortunate that you have to push through a little bit to get there, but I promise it’s worth it.

My favorite part of this book was the development of character. Kuang didn’t just focus on a couple main characters–we got insights for a lot of our favorites, but enemies as well. It was so interesting to see the motivations and insecurities of characters like Daji, Kitay, Nezha, Venka, the Cike, and of course, Rin. It progressed so naturally that I hadn’t realized how subtly Kuang was making progress. There was nothing too obvious; I really liked how the little things added up to people that I felt that I knew. There are also some interesting developments in relationships (parabatai fans rejoice!!).

Kuang’s writing is honest, brutal, raw, and sometimes a little funny. Politics, strategy, and religious philosophy ground the story, but shamanism balances that with something magical and exciting. There is no shying away from tough topics, but the characters respond to everything appropriately and in a relatable way. The world-building was expansive and has set up the next book to be something really epic. While there was a cliff-hanger, it still ended with a few resolutions that I was glad to see. I would highly recommend this for fans of Game of Thrones (there is a hardcore Arya moment that I actually screamed at) or alternate history.
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Well, fuck. I’m pretty sure this book has ruined me for all others. No, I'm certain it has.

The Poppy War was in my top ten books of 2018, and its sequel, The Dragon Republic has exceeded all of my expectations, officially becoming my favorite fantasy read of 2019. That’s right, spot number one is now ruled by the powerful, damaged, and fiery Fang Runin.

R.F. Kuang has taken her epic grimdark fantasy to a whole new level, pulling zero punches while showing us a fracturing Nikara in the aftermath of events of The Poppy War. Rin is back with vengeance in her heart and opium in her lungs. She now commands the Cike, and is no more comfortable in her new role than she is with controlling her god-given powers, so she’s turned to drugs to keep her god, past, PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and self-hatred at bay to varying degrees of failure and success. I hate to say it, but I loved how Rin fought and dealt with these feelings within herself. It made for an emotionally raw read, and as a result her sometimes erratic decisions became ultimately believable.

Speaking of feelings, I don’t know how to talk about this book without introducing major spoilers, so l’ll just say that it was Rin’s chemistry with her closest friends and found family that, in the end, cruelly broke me. Yes, this book has all the hallmarks of fantastic grimdark fantasy: bloody battles, gory deaths, graphic scenes, dueling religions, bitter betrayals, harsh politics, and the machinations of chaotic and powerful gods, but for me what tore my heart out were the interpersonal relationships, the quiet moments, all well written and dread-inducing. So yeah. Fuck.

The Dragon Republic is a brutal, tragic, war torn, gut-punch of a ride where the stakes have been raised and the pieces all put into place so cleverly for what I presume will be an explosive third book in the series.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to start my reread to cure my migraine-strength book hangover.

__

A version of this review will feature on Goodreads and Amazon, as well as a mini review on my Instagram on pub day.
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While I did not love this book as much as the first, I still thought it was exceptional. It is literally a war story - 500+ pages that feel like the second half of the first one. Rin is experiencing PTSD, loss, anger, rage, and is self-medicating with opiates. She's suddenly in charge of the Cike, and has literally no idea what to do with it.

This book has so many content warnings. They extend from the previous one. War, torture, self-harm, drug abuse, gore (so much gore), rape, mass casualties, and more.

I really enjoyed the relationships in this book. Some were reforged, some were built, others were truly and utterly broken. But they each felt real. Also - the villains were great. 

The plot moves at a similar pace to the last one, slow with bursts of fire (get it??). But it all builds.

A wonderful continuation of the story, highly recommend.
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This review took me forever to write, because I couldn’t quite put into words the perfection of this book. There is no second book syndrome here, and no need to worry that it won’t live up to the hype: The Dragon Republic shines just as bright – if not more – than The Poppy War. Once again, R. F. Kuang has written a masterful fantasy story. 

Grimdark fantasies can be difficult to get through, but R. F. Kuang does an excellent job blending the darker aspects of the novel with lighter elements and some humorous dialogue. There’s a lot more political maneuvering happening in this book, as well as the consequences of actions taken in The Poppy War begin to make an appearance.

I think I enjoyed The Dragon Republic immensely more than The Poppy War for one major reason: the characters. New characters are introduced in this book that are essential to the story, such as The Dragon Warlord (Nezha’s father). I really enjoyed the complexity of his character and found myself easily understanding Rin’s reasoning for supporting him. Along with new faces, a couple of my favorite characters return from The Poppy War: Kitay and...a certain someone whose name I won't spoil. The three of them are together for a good chunk of the book, it was amazing to watch Rin’s relationships with each of them deepen and grow. They really take center stage in this book, which I think is why I loved the book so much. Also, I don’t want to get too spoilery, but R. F. Kuang really gave me the fuel for my ship and my shipper heart was so thankful. ❤️

My original review was much different than this, because R. F. Kuang pulls a plot twist out of nowhere and nearly destroyed my will to live. The entire book is action-packed and fast-paced, but the tension really builds during the last few chapters with an ending that is going to sucker punch you in the face. Holy shit. I have no idea what to expect in the next book, but it is riding at the top of my list for most anticipated releases for next year.

The Dragon Republic gave me a serious book hangover. Similar to The Poppy War, this stellar sequel is full of non-stop action, amazing morally-complex characters, political intrigue, and worldbuilding unlike any other. The world is not ready for this book.
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The Poppy War was my favorite book last year. While The Dragon Republic isn't quite as good, it's still compelling, even though it took a while to get through. It's brutal and depressing most of the way, and my reactions to Rin kept fluctuating between respect and revulsion. I'll want to continue her adventures, although I'm glad it will be a while before I have to follow her into battle again.
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Thank you NetGalley for giving me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

Seriously THANK YOU! I've been craving this book since I read The Poppy War last year... and it did NOT disappoint!

Trigger Warning (because like its predecessor this book has a lot: talk of rape, attempted rape, talk of genocide, severe abuse (seen and talked about), drug abuse, forced drug consumption, depression, self harm, white supremacy, possibly more tbh.

Putting this book into words is hard, because I'm feeling a lot of emotions right now. And because so much happened. SO MUCH. If you read The Poppy War this should not be a surprise as that book managed to, in detail, cover multiple years and events. Well, while the sequel did not cover the same amount of time, it did cover a wide variety of events, and it managed to do it in detail.

This is going to be a spoiler free review, which is honestly really fucking hard because so much "spoilery" things happen in the very beginning and influence the rest of the story. And honestly the synopsis of this book doesn't even TOUCH on the events of this book. But as I am reviewing an ARC I promise NO SPOILERS!!!

Plot

This book starts pretty much right after the end of The Poppy War, so we see Rin dealing with some pretty heavy shit. And that isn't even the top of the iceberg of what we see. So much happens in this book, it's insane. The beginning starts off a little slower, but just like with The Poppy War, it is setting the stage and is based on character development.

Even with it being a bit slower, this story was never boring. I was engaged the entire time and dying to know what would happen next.

There were many ups and downs in this story, and many parts that had me horrified. This is once again a story about war and it shows those horrors. It does not shy away from it.

Characters

I need to start of with Kitay, because once again this boy is a highlight! I love him, straight and simple. This kid is just amazing. It was really interesting to see him in this book because it's very clear that what happened in the first book effected him. This is no surprise as what he went through was beyond horrific. Seeing the changes was really interesting and watching him come back into himself was really interesting. He's still my boy and a main favorite of mine!

Rin. This girl has a shitload of issues to go through, this is no surprise. After what she went through during the war, and what she did at the end of the first book, I think it's safe to say anyone would. When we start this book, she is not in a good place. Seeing Rin go through what she does in this book and come out on the other side was unbelievable. It's no surprise that Rin is a strong character, but seeing her endure and come out strong is great because what Rin goes through in this book was just... wow.

Some of the other characters we know from book one are back and it was really great to see them again. We got a lot more about some characters, and got to see some cameos from people I didn't expect. My big surprise new favorite is Venka! She wasn't in it as much as I'd want, but given what happened in book one it makes sense. But Venka is so strong and a badass and I kind of love her! Which is funny considering how I felt about her at the beginning of book one. 

A lot of new characters introduced that I just absolutely hate. Especially the Gray Company. Fuck those guys. Some from book one who I did hate, then ended up liking, and others I liked and now I don't. But I won't say more than that. 

Final Thoughts

This book took me on a wild ride. And that ending. HOLY HELLS I NEED THAT NEXT BOOK IMMEDIATELY! I am dying to know what happens next and so sad that I have to wait so long for the next book!

If you loved the first book you will love this one as well! Once again we see some horrific moments of war, but they are all realistic (which makes it more horrific tbh) and really leave you thinking.
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I received an advance copy of the book via Netgalley.

The Poppy War kicked off this grimdark Chinese history-inspired series, which continues with The Dragon Republic. Rin is an abrasive protagonist--she's a survivor, in part because of her own ruthlessness. She also is a shaman, able to channel a Phoenix and wield fire. Amid the topsy-turvy politics of her homeland, she is a weapon capable of genocide. As this book begins, she's suffering from severe PTSD, mired in grief from the losses rendered at the end of The Poppy War, and heavily addicted to opium as her coping mechanism.

Full confession: I almost stopped the book a short ways in. Rin's impulsive, brutal nature is pretty much the opposite of my own, and I felt a profound urge to slap her and yell, 'Grow up!' Fortunately, I stuck with the book, and fortunately, she did just that. This is a book about maturing as a person and in terms of power. Like its predecessor, this book is incredibly dark and gruesome at times. Kuang does not shy away from showing the full nature of war and its aftermath, and no character is sacred or safe. The ending contains jaw-dropping twists that leave me very curious about what the next volume will deliver.
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Well damn... RF Kuang is coming for your wig, your wife, your dog, your feelings, your patio furniture - she wants it all. This book is completely brutal and pulls no punches (I would say it's even darker than the first book), which I really appreciate about it. This is not a book that glorifies war or the choices that leaders make in the course of shaping the future of nations. This is a book that looks at war as a loss no matter who comes out on top, and it's not afraid to bring the horror of what is really happening right up into the reader's face. I think the highs of this book are probably higher than The Poppy War, but I do think it suffers from even more pacing issues than the first book. With those in balance, I'd land on a 4 star for this book, just as I gave the first book 4 stars.

That said, this is definitely not a sophomore slump and THAT ENDING THOUGH. Cannot wait for the conclusion of this trilogy.
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FAIR WARNING! There will be spoilers here, because some folks show up that we never expected to see again.

The Poppy War was my all time favorite read last year. It's brutal, it's grim, but it's so damn good. I read it for a book club and I think maybe five of us finished it? It's a beast, for sure.

This picks up a few weeks after the events of The Poppy War, with Rin leading the rest of the Cike on an assassination trip. That's right, the best soldiers in all of Nikan are now just mercenaries for a pirate queen.

Rin is struggling. That's putting it lightly, honestly. She's not even really holding it together after she literally burned the entirety of the Federation of Mugen, witnessed Altan's death, and is dealing with a killer opium addiction. Kuang is putting Rin through it, but in a way, it doesn't feel overly abusive? Like, Rin is dealing with these things because of choices she made. These are all direct consequences of her actions. And it doesn't shy away from PTSD at all.

We learn more about Hesparia, or, Europe. We learn about the missionaries, the outrageous racism (that honestly is accurate in regards to ideologies of the area/time). Sister Petra is the absolute WORST.

We see more of Nezha, that glorious cocky asshole. We learn more about his family.

And the Viperess. The true monster of the story. Rin's whole goal now is to kill her for starting another war and killing the only connection she had to her past.

A haunting look at PTSD following the events of The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic is an incredible sequel that doesn't suffer from second-book-syndrome in any way. I give it 5 out of 5 tridents.
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