Cover Image: The Dragon Republic

The Dragon Republic

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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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Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is the sequel to The Poppy War, and in the shape of a classic second book of a trilogy, things get significantly worse here and do not get significantly better at the end.

Yes, from the state of things in The Poppy War. Yes, I remember how things were in that book. There is, it turns out, a lot darker to get.

And yet. And yet and yet and yet. Is this book a catalog of unremitting horrors. No. No, not unremitting. There is a lot of bleak here. There is a lot of darkness, a lot of betrayal, a lot of people fleeing from horrible situations in their world, in their politics, in their own hearts and minds, in their…theologies, I guess I would say, in a very concrete and immediate sense. This is a book that takes some of the worst situations in our own history and gives magical and divine weight to metaphors about them, and those are…not even necessarily the worst situations it describes. Some of the worst situations are very real ways humans have treated each other historically.

And yet.

Still not unremittingly bleak.

Still ways for humans to keep trying, to keep hoping, to keep reaching for a solution, for understanding, for some way for things to get better.

This is a second book.

Will book three be about the day the teddy bears have their picnic? I expect not, no. I expect there to be addiction and loss and turmoil, starvation and death and upheaval, fire and flood and betrayal. But I expect Rin to fight not just for the barest edges of survival but for something more in herself. I expect Rin to keep finding something more. And that’s why I keep reading these books. And why I think you might want to also.
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Wow, what a story! I was a little nervous going in (RIGHT after finishing book 1), as book 2 in a trilogy can often feel like a bit of a slog. Especially with the start of the war. But, this one has a lot happening and I definitely enjoyed the ride. We learn a bit more of the backstory and meet some new characters. The character development is great and I'm really enjoying this series. Excited to see what book 3 brings us!
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Kuang has easily become one of my favorite authors. The Dragon Republic picks up right after the Poppy War, and I loved every second of it. The raw emotion of the book is so refreshing and original. It feels like an authentic look at the ravages of war (despite the fantasy setting) and I really appreciate the author showing us the awful truth. Her characters are so dynamic and real - I can't get enough. This installment took us on wild ride, and I'm equal part nervous and excited for the final book!
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A fantastic installment! The fantasized Chinese history, the military strategies, the dialogue, the relationships/bonds among characters [Kitay and Rin awwww], and just the overall plot was stunning. Honestly, Kuang is a genius. Everything about this world is believable and dire. High stakes are constant and brutal. I'm seriously nervous for the final novel because you KNOW there's not going to be a "happy" ending by any means. I can't imagine how Rin's story will end, or anyone else for that matter.The only reason this isn't 5 stars is because of the fact that everyone, enemies and friends alike, were condescending, patronizing, and belittling to Rin throughout the whole novel. She was called a whore, foolish, stupid, dumb, and variations of "poor stupid Speerly" at least once a chapter. It was frustrating to read that this seemingly most powerful individual in the story is constantly being called names and put down when she's done so much for these wars - without her, where would they be??? So that put me off at times, but otherwise this story was phenomenal!
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This took a while to get to because I was so immersed with the first novel. The Dragon Republic is every bit as thought provoking, heart wrenching, and an all in all rollercoaster like its predecessor. I found myself beginning to understand Rin's character in ways that I wasn't able to in the first novel. Overall, I'm genuinely glad that I got to pick this up beforehand and that we're getting more of this fantastic story.
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Rin struggles through an opium haze to come to terms with her horrific actions ending the Third Poppy War, and fights to maintain her power and her sanity. The only way she can reconcile her actions is to become a weapon—point her and aim. But who will she choose to wield her?

I wanted to love this so much more than I did. The Poppy War was one of my favorite books of last year, and I was super excited by all of the glowing reviews. However, this left me underwhelmed.

Don't get me wrong—or misinterpret those three stars—this was a good book. It just wasn't one that I was in love with. So it took me a bajillion years (12 days) to read it.

At times I was sucked in, and then my enthusiasm would turn into a slog as I waded through what felt like eons of Rin vomiting, Rin whining, Rin falling into her own vomit, Rin whining some more, Rin bitching at others for whining, Rin jumping from one cause to another, swayed more easily than a dandelion in the wind.

Basically, I was just exhausted by Rin.

Rin hating her power. Rin getting cut off from her power and wanting it back. Rin getting her power and it not being enough. (view spoiler)

I was so frustrated why everyone was in love with her/fascinated by her/wanted her/was willing to die for her. I just...I dunno?

Also, I was frustrated by how many of the characters felt under-developed. They existed to further Rin's development, even when her development would have been served better by grinding her face into her own vomit.

Okay.

So enough of my bitching.

I did enjoy the overall plot. It was exciting and went to some verrrrrry dark places, and traveled all over the breadth of Nikara with a lot of different enemies and implications and twists and turns. Venka was one of my favorite characters, although I wished that she had been used more, and than Kitay also had more screen time (and less Nezha and Altan because fuck them). The Hesperian allegory was fascinating and the parallels to history were really thought-provoking.

The book thoroughly explored the consequences of sacrifice, and how a minor sacrifice for someone can have disastrous effects for those who aren't in power.

I don't know if I'll continue with the third book, however, mostly because Rin's character arc became less engaging for me.

But don't let my underwhelmed thoughts deter you. Check it out for yourself.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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Second book syndrome? No way! This book is full of political intrigue,violence,alliances,unsure decisions, defeats and supposed victories. Rin is still suffering from the conclusion of book 1 with extreme guilt and the feelings of being thrust into something she really doesn’t want. After an alliance is offered to help in the defeat of a common enemy, Rin is all in with her temper and too quick reactions to certain situations. Of course this wouldn’t be a great book without a few bumps(or many) in the road. Expect deceptions and some very surprising revelations in this book. It’s so hard to review a sequel without giving too much away, but if you enjoyed the last half of The Poppy War, you will love this. It leaves you with an uprising to happen in the near future that has me craving Book 3 already. A must read if you enjoyed The Poppy War!
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3.25/5 stars

Lemme start this review by saying that I have never been a fan of military driven plots and find talk of strategy quite dull....which is why I didn't enjoy this book as much as it's predecessor.. I very much enjoyed Rin in The Poppy War, but I found her incredibly frustrating in this book. She is such a volatile character and leaves me screaming, "WHY WOULD YOU DO/SAY XYZ?!". But...and I say BUT, I understand why she is that way. Rin's story is a story of constant rage and grief. A big ole pile of flaming rage that consumes all. My favorite part of this novel was Nezha. What a fucking glow up, amirite!? HE MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS....and I choose not to believe his actions in the last few chapters of this book. Cannot wait for book 3!
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It actually took me a little while to get through this sequel, and not because it wasn’t good. It was just as intriguing and compelling as the first book, and I think because of that I wanted to savor the book a little longer. Well, that and I was reading it at a particularly busy time, so it made it hard to read for longer than ten minutes here and there for most of it.

There are so many great complexities in this book, especially with the consequences of actions and revelations from the first book. Oh, and then there’s characters who you thought were dead that turned out to not be dead. I’m not mentioning names but that was something I wasn’t expecting, which was pretty cool.

I felt like I got to explore so much more when it came to the world, the religions, the provinces and nations, the history of these wars…it all became just so much more expansive. It was like peeling open layer after layer of new information as the chapters went by.

I was so engrossed by this story, so I’m actually glad that I took time to completely read through this. Maybe it’ll make the wait for the next book not feel so long.
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Last year, The Poppy War shook the foundations of the fantasy community and demanded to be seen. It was brutal, horrifying, and overflowing with vengeful gods and destructive humanity—I couldn’t put it down. It was one of my favorite novels of the year and one of the best debut novels I’d  ever read. I’ve never carried any doubt about Kuang’s ability to follow up with its sequel, but The Dragon Republic  improved and expanded upon its predecessor in every conceivable way. 

Between the political machinations, the social commentary, the horrors of war, the incredible character development, and the cosmic, drug-laced thread of shamanism that connected them all, I don’t know what I can rightfully say about The Dragon Republic’s effect on me aside from telling you all that I am utterly and thoroughly obsessed with these books. I could rant on this world, these characters, and this magic system for days, but it’s something better experienced for yourself.

Kuang does not pull punches, take prisoners, or spare feelings. She’s here to tell this story in all of its burning, vicious glory and she’s done a damned incredible job of it thus far. I have no clue what to expect from the third book, but I’d follow Kuang anywhere from here and I can’t wait to see where she leads us. If you haven’t yet read these books, make them your highest priority. I can give no further praise here than to shove them into any many hands as are willing to take them and let Rin’s story fly.
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This was a rollercoaster from start to end. A lot happens in this sequel, and it definitely never fails to keep you guessing. I absolutely love the set-up of the world and the geopolitical dynamics here. Also appreciate that each character isn’t neatly divided into good/bad, and that different facets of their personalities and principles are explored.
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I hesitate to say that I love these books. And not because they’re not good, but because they’re about terrible people who do terrible things. There is literally no one who is good. No one who is purely in the right. Everyone’s been touched by the wars; everyone’s looking out for themselves, first and foremost. There are always hidden motivations and ambitions, and you don’t know who you can trust. Like. The Poppy War was fucking dark. It was hard and grueling, even when it was just about a girl who tested into the most ruthless academy in the country. But when the Third Poppy War began, it just got worse. It was hate and cruelty and people who lost their humanity and people who never had it to begin with. It was what happens when you strip away all that is good and kind, and you bring out the worst in each other. You thought that was bad? The Dragon Republic is even more horrible.

This one was almost more heavy, in a sense, because it was about the aftermath of war. It was thousands starving and displaced, soldiers trying to run from their nightmares, and good people dealing with their choices and the things that happened to them in the past. It was almost worse, because the war doesn’t end. The enemies and allies just shift, and the cowardly and stupid Warlords can’t stop bickering long enough to help their own people. And Daji. Daji sold out her own country for reasons unknown, and now Rin is doing her absolute best to take her down. But Rin is stuck in the past, barely surviving, cut off from her Phoenix god and the fire that makes her feel in control. Buried so deep in her own grief and anger over Altan, and what happened to him, that she can’t see beyond her own desires. Her own feelings. She’s fed on her hatred for so long, it’s all she truly knows.

And I’ll be honest. There were times that this book almost lost me. Because I didn’t really get the infatuation with Altan. I felt like I didn’t get to know him, because he left the school after he graduated, and then he becomes a too-young Commander of a group of shamans who need his help to survive, because they can’t face their gods on their own. We only saw the vengeful Altan, the warrior, the guy who couldn’t handle the power without burning himself up in the process. When Nezha called him Rin’s abuser, he wasn’t completely wrong. Altan did some awful shit to her, and I don’t think the story necessarily wanted you to be okay with that. But I wasn’t here for Rin’s bullshit because of it. She was so cruel sometimes, so ignorant and uncaring of everyone else’s feelings, that I started to dislike her a little bit. But she’s always been vicious, and I love that, I really do.

I love that this series has such morally gray characters, and absolute villains who know they’re villains but don’t give a fuck. I’m not talking about the loathsome assholes, but the ones like Daji and Moag and yes, Vaisra. I love books that tackle these big questions and morals, that make you rethink everything you know about what it means being human. These characters are ruthless, and they feel. They feel deeply, and they aren’t afraid to show that. I just couldn’t always get behind the fact that it was war after war after war. That it was putting all of these people who have been through SO MUCH and who are still reeling from the Federation in another horrible situation. For so long, they felt like they were winning, and they celebrated. And I just couldn’t help but think: these victories are hollow because the people are so defeated they can’t put up any resistance. 

But don’t worry, there’s Kitay, the one person who always sees the truth. The shrewdly intelligent kid who just needed a purpose, a place to put all of his anger toward because then he didn’t have to feel all of his grief and the losses, didn’t have to think about Golyn Niis again. I still can’t get over what the Federation did to that city and its people. So I was SUPER glad The Dragon Republic didn’t shy away from showing PTSD and the effects of war. Everyone is dealing with it in their own way, even if it’s a shit way (re: Rin). And Venka!! My DARLING. I love that she got more page-time, that she wasn’t just brushed aside. Come to think of it, no one is brushed aside. People who were around for even a tiny bit end up becoming bigger players in the end. Or my favorites DIE. SUNI. BAJI. I’m still upset about Ramsa’s death, though. I don’t think I will ever get over that one. *sobs*

I also missed the fuck out of Jiang. I really think he and Daji will either a) team up in the 3rd book or b) fight each other to the possible death. And since the Dragon Emperor didn’t actually die, my theory is that his god took over his mind and body, and he’s the grotto dragon that has been sucking the life out of Nezha since he was a kid. There’s something about the Trifecta that isn’t nearly over yet. They are at the heart of this, and there is no way that Daji won’t want to destroy the Hesperians. She and Rin are DEFINITELY gonna team up at some point. And I need way more background about the three. There wasn’t enough in here for me, though it was great to see how it all started with them and just how corrupted the power made them. But I NEED to know more; I have a hunger. And really, I just want Jiang back!! BRING HIM BACK!! AND CHAGHAN, MY LOVE!

There is so much going on underneath the main plot, and everything feels like it just keeps building up toward that finale. But I still don’t know where it’s gonna go, or how it’ll shape up. And that worries the fuck out of me. Like I said, you can’t trust ANYONE. You think there’s one true enemy for so long until you realize that another didn’t leave, or that you actually had to worry about the one that seemed so benevolent and just. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to move on from this story and these characters. I’m writing this review a few hours after I finished it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. I literally gasped aloud over the Dragon Emperor theory that popped into my head after I was trying and failing to sleep. I’m not going to survive the 3rd book, I already know this. Good thing I’ll have to wait a long-ass time to read it because I’M NOT READY!
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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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