Cover Image: The Dragon Republic

The Dragon Republic

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Member Reviews

2.5 stars for this ambitious but lacking sequel to The Poppy War.

There are books I read that I can easily assign a rating to. Five stars, four, two—the number pops into my head, and I know without a doubt whether I like the book or not.

The Dragon Republic is not such a book. I found myself hovering between a deeply aggravated 2 stars, an ambivalent 3 stars and a pleasantly surprised 4 stars while reading. But when I consider the sum of it, rather than the parts, I find myself settling on 2.5 stars for this occasionally brilliant, but frequently flawed book.

A quick summary: Rin is now commander of the Cike, a elite group of shamanic warriors, and is not doing a particularly good job at leading them, what with her drug addiction and war-induced PTSD. She still has her heart set upon exacting revenge on the Empress Su Daji, but has neither the resources nor the strategy to do so. So when she gets roped into joining the Dragon Republic bent upon starting a civil war against the Empress, she finds new purpose—but enters a new game of political machinations. 

Let's begin with the positives: while the first book The Poppy War suffered from its structure feeling like three different books stitched together under one binding, the Dragon Republic reads as a cohesive story, with no tonal shifts. 

Although parts of the book dragged with lengthy, strangely paced battles, there were also parts that were riveting to read, the plot careening through one twist to another. There were some entertaining creative decisions made throughout that energised the plot and kept me reading on. 

I also liked the thematic exploration of the West (called Hesperians) entering the East, and their patronising attempt at colonising. It's very heavy-handed, not in the least bit subtle—but eh, it was one of the more interesting parts of the book.

Now for the bad parts of the book that made my interest falter—and occasionally pissed me off.

First off, I need to add a disclaimer for my review: I am a reader who must connect with the main character in order to like the book. I am happy to see the protagonist suffer, make stupid decisions and mistakes as long as I like them and feel they are ultimately a person I would want to support in real life. Which does mean that grimdark fantasy is usually not my cup of tea—I don't emotionally resonate with crapsack characters doing crapsack things in a crapsack world. 

So I think a large reason why I struggled with this book was because I find Rin only pitiful at her best, and tremendously detestable at her worst. 

Rin begins this book in a drug-induced slump, trying to cope with the ramifications of her brutal decisions in the last book. While the Poppy War ended with her taking control of her situation and committing herself to a new cause, the Dragon Republic slogs through a very slow-paced chunk of chapters showcasing her incompetence as the new Cike commander. Is this a problem in itself? No, I can understand the author wanted to show the impact that the trauma of war and grief has on Rin. 

But this unfortunately does not make the rest of Rin's behaviour enjoyable to read. Rin is childish, insufferable, and hypocritical. I can understand her taking refuge in anger to shield herself from facing the ramifications of her warcrimes, but the way she does so feels so juvenile, like watching a hormonal teenager throwing a tantrum. The constant references to her shrieking and screaming do not help. "Fuck you!" is a common refrain from her. 

She picks fights and begins petty arguments throughout the entire book, which gets nauseating to read after a while. There is a noticeable absence of empathy in her, which means many of her arguments cast her in a bad light when the reader thinks about it. For example, when she learns Chaghan has also caused mass destruction and wiped out loads of innocent lives, instead of even remotely entertaining the idea of commiserating over their crimes together, she...giggles and taunts him. Later on, learning that one reason he grieves the loss of Altan was because he loved him, she...loses her shit over nothing? When Nezha shares his story of seeing his little brother devoured before his eyes as sacrifice to a dragon, and how he's been dealing with the chronic pain the water god inflicts upon his body, Rin calls him a coward and later insists that his pain "can't be that bad."

Her lack of empathy and sympathy leads her to being hopelessly hypocritical at times. She rants in a chapter over a city submitting to the Federation during the Third Poppy War, calling them cowards for not fighting to the death, when the very next chapter has her docilely capitulating in a similar way to investigation by the Hesperian army because she knows she cannot fight them so easily. Yet none of this dissonance ever pings for her. She never stops and thinks that maybe the city surrendered to stop wasting lives in a war they were going to lose, to protect the lives of civilians inside and prevent a Golyn Niis situation from occurring. As much as the rape of Golyn Niis infuriated her, driving many of her decisions since, she somehow cannot wrap her head around civilians of other cities choosing to do what they can to avoid it, even if it means surrendering to the enemy. She whines constantly of her disadvantages in life, without realising that she is now 1) a powerful wielder of fire, 2) a soldier who trained at the best military academy in the nation, and 3) commander of a group of powerful shamans, which means she now has several advantages an ordinary soldier, much less a typical untrained civilian, would not have in battle. Not everybody can call on a fire god to make a volcano erupt and wipe out an entire country, Rin. Her anger is the most defining aspect to her character, and man, these kind of rage-fuelled characters never do it for me. 

I recently read the author intends this to be a villain-origins story—but there are ways of doing this that don't make me outright lose all sympathy for the main character so early on. What more, I read the author does not want to use "sociopathy" as a reason for Rin's descent into madness, but frankly, that's the only word I can use to describe much of her attitude throughout the book. It does get better in the latter half of the book, when Rin finally gets herself together—but even here, there are plenty of moments of her acting petty and childish peppered around.

Which is just another reason why I find her a deeply uninteresting protagonist. She whinges far too much, and acts helpless for far too long. I dislike how the second book follows the first book closely in one aspect: in The Poppy War, she quickly devoted herself to Altan. In The Dragon Republic, she immediately does the same to General Vaisra, going into fits when she thinks she's no longer of use to him and will be discarded. So the continuous pattern of her making dumb decisions to advance the cause of a man and then being betrayed again and again and again gets a little tiring. The ending somewhat makes up for it, showing her choosing to make her own way and be a leader at last—but then again, the Poppy War also ended with her talking like she was going to take charge, only for the sequel to open with her being a floundering, ineffectual mess. This doesn't inspire much confidence in me.

Regarding the prose:
I think it can be argued that the prose has improved since The Poppy War, but there were still many issues. The author leans on telling rather than showing in many, many instances; her descriptions remain lacking, and often fails to paint a vibrant visual of anything; character interactions are flat and two-dimensional, and I didn't buy some of the sudden closeness and camaraderie they exhibited; characters still speak like modern day teenagers—including some adult generals, alarmingly. 

The author also should be gently advised to cut down on at least 50% of the italics in the book. They contributed to a juvenile bad YA-style prose (not to be confused with good YA-style prose) that doesn't trust the reader to intuit how to read the sentence with the right emphasis. I also couldn't help but notice the first half of the book was littered with the adverb "terribly" to the point that I got annoyed whenever it inevitably popped up again (the second half doesn't suffer as much from the terribly-itis). I'm also not entirely convinced the author justifies her rampant use of semi-colons (which are a wonderful tool that should be employed precisely and sparingly).

Now, this review sounds pretty bad. So why 2.5 stars? That's not a great rating, but my review makes it sound like I should be docking even more stars. But in the end, I can't deny I found myself turning the pages quickly, always wondering what disastrous decision would Rin make and what kerfuffle would ensue. And once again, I must end with the conclusion: a book doesn't have to be perfect. Sometimes all it has to do is entertain. And that is what this flawed book does.
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This was a great second installment. I really enjoy this world and the characters. I did feel that the first half dragged a little before it really got into the meat of the plot. There was a little wandering from Rin before the main storyline really started, but the second half pulled me in. The world building is fantastic and very fleshed out, and in this book you get to learn a little more about other regions. I’m excited for the next one!
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The Dragon Republic is a fireworks display from a very talented author that you will be willing to follow to any destination.

Kuang has proved herself capable of orchestrating walloping storylines in The Poppy War. But The Dragon Republic remarkably lays down even more potential. The author digs with dark glee into this sequel, and from page one, she doesn’t let up. The result is a sprawling—yet dynamic—novel that twists history, geography, mythology and fantasy into a resonant tale that underscores just how fragmented our own realities can be during periods of fear, unrest, and inequality—and an aching reminder that retaking what has been lost isn’t always the answer.

With understated skill, Kuang carries this book with the same taut vision and exacting precision that made its predecessor so winning. Moving like liquid, like a fish through the waves, the author unspools the novel’s plot slowly, never passing up a chance to make things tenser and tenser. It becomes head-spinning how all expectations are upended—hope and despair flared and died in me by turns, and each turn of the page was like the held-breath interlude between when a button gets pushed and the bomb either detonates or is defused. It’s exhilarating.

The author succeeds admirably on all fronts, creating a rich tapestry of wonders as well as brutality and oppression. The action is ferocious, bloody, and unrelenting—but Kuang renders that violence extremely well, and its physical and psychological effects are believable and lasting. The monsters of this novel are eerily familiar—the series, after all, contains a bright shard of China’s living past, the writing loathsomeness of humanity’s crimes against itself on full display. But for its all bloodcurdling, heart-lurching spectacle, The Dragon Republic isn’t all grim: the author knows exactly when to dole out the humor—there’s always a second for the reader to breathe, and for the protagonists to enjoy a merry quip, a smarting rejoinder, or a philosophical discursion.

It’s the ending, though, that makes The Dragon Republic an absolute knock-out. It strikes like a thunderstroke: electric, sizzling, and minutely delivered. I felt its rattle through me: a wash of panic rising up your throat, just a slap of feeling that makes you jerk to a halt, then shake your head, as though motion could dispel memory.

But even more than all of that, for me the novel’s driving force was its rich cast of characters—driven by passion, duty and humanizing, terrifying flaws, they are rendered as fully realized as ever. In many senses, The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic are two tales of two different times, and two very different people: the first, young, dauntless and full of hope, and the person she became in the wake of tragedy.

The epigenetic legacy of war, Altan and Rin have grown up with blades in their hearts. The first book is a bitter tale of how that war began, how it went back before the two of them, how they inherited it, with all else that they inherited. Inside Altan was a ruin, a funeral pyre, and the chaos of his mind amplified in Rin’s. Rage and grief, guilt and shame: these were emotions they both knew too well. Forgiveness, or even love, those were foreign countries to them, which had to be learned stone by stone.

In this sequel, the memories stack layer upon layer until they reach their inevitable conclusion: Rin had snatched hungrily at Altan’s words and loved him with her frightened eyes, thought him perfect—but “Altan was no hero,” and he wasn’t perfect, he could be selfish and remote and often cruel and still she followed him, in spite of, because. In his absence, however, Rin must come face to face with who she was—what’s she’s done—and decide what kind of person she wants to be. Rin can’t undo the damage her power has already wrought on the world, but perhaps she can seal the wound, stanch the bleeding. When it becomes clear that this is only feasible if Rin expunges Altan from her mind (“That boy is a disease on your mind. Forget him.”), and let his memory fade to a mothlike flicker, filching any remaining warmth—the task seems too excruciating to bear. Altan’s ghost was ineradicable, and in unguarded moments, the thought of him was like a wire brush on rubbed-raw skin (not only for Rin, but frankly myself as well). This is not the only way in which the author tightens the vice on Rin’s character. Rin hits many bumps, and is thrown many times, as though marked off with a cosmic kick me sign pinned to her back, and she’s also forced to confront the crimes and faults she has hitherto avoided looking directly in the eye. I just hope, Kuang has planned several intensive therapy sessions for her at the end of *gestures vaguely* all this.

That said, The Dragon Republic’s depth of character doesn’t just begin and end with Rin. There are characters who now have complex, multidimensional narratives, and others who fade to the back, to make room for their compatriots.

Kitay’s arc, in particular, still claws at me. He is no longer the lighthearted kid from the first book—soft, naive, undamaged—but a tempered, burdened and hardened version of himself. Kitay and Rin were both trapped by the same horrific day, but while Rin had always worn her feelings like a cloak, Kitay had kept his quiet and close. The flesh-tearing pain of loss and fury left splinters in him that silently festered, and it disturbs me still to think of the change Kitay has undergone, particularly when I feel that there’s something about his character still kept at something like arm’s length. This was a new worry I had not considered, since truthfully, I hadn’t thought of Kitay at all until I read this book, and, by his second reappearance, I’ve already drawn the adoption papers, ready to go full on fucking Mother Hulk upon anyone who dares lay a finger on him.

New revelations about other characters I’ve thought I knew also left my mind churning in circles. They were suddenly redefined, brought into sharper focus, clear as glass, and my perspective of them grievously altered. It made a scattering of my thoughts, even as I was in awe of Kuang’s unerring ability to craft characters that leap off the page and follow you off the book.

The Dragon Republic should doubtless prove to be a sizzling success. I’m really looking forward to the next installment (but with a sense of opulent gloom and indeterminate anxiety).
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Sad to say - but I am DNFing this. I LOVED The Poppy War, but this was just redundant. Rin has not changed at all - a book and a half and we have absolutely no character growth - just a whiny brat with daddy issues. We've substituted Altan for someone else and it's the same story. Also the god, are they boring. And the ships...once a fantasy novel gets to the ships and stays there for all of the book - I am done. I started this book in May - it is not almost August and I can't read more than  2 pages at a time b/c I am SOOOO BORED. And I don't care about any of the characters - I just don't. 

The good: I did enjoy the historical depiction of the East meeting the West. I think it is important to understand how an indigenous population saw western soldiers and reacted to them.
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The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang is very nearly the perfect sequel to The Poppy War.  The first novel was such a pleasant surprise and my expectations for it went from next to nothing to sky high for this follow up.  I really lucked out when I was approved for this advanced copy on NetGalley because book two really delivers.  I don't want to give too much away, but Rin is a pleasure to know regardless of all of her complexities and the rough situations she finds herself in the middle of.  She and her crew go through some stuff to say the least.  Fair warning: the stakes are very high and not everyone is safe.  Overall, The Dragon Republic will keep you on edge and dying for more.  I can't wait to see what happens in the next novel in the series.  Not only that, but I also can't wait to see everything this author will work on in the future.
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The Dragon Republic is the highly anticipated sequel to The Poppy War which was one of my favorite reads of 2019 so far. I am so thrilled that I got my hands on a copy of The Dragon Republic because I love the characters of this series and needed more of their story. In this installment many of our favorite characters are back to face both new and old enemies.

While the first book was incredibly difficult to summarize as it took place over a period of years and so much happened, this book was a little different in that aspect, as it focused on political and military issues. The first book also introduced us to so many characters and Rin went through quite a lot of change, where in this book we know everybody and while they do grow and change, it didn’t feel as drastic. This book is primarily a military fantasy, and while I loved that part of The Poppy War, I also really loved the military school setting and watching Rin struggle to discover who she was and what she could do. Of course with any sequel you expect it not to be as great as the first book, and where The Poppy War absolutely blew my mind, The Dragon Republic was a great continuation.

“Because when you have this much power, it’s selfish to sit on it just because you’re scared.”

I felt like we got to know some of the other members of the Cike better, like Chagan and Ramsa. I love this ragtag mix of shamans, Chagan always calls Rin out on her stubborn bullshit and Ramsa was a great comic relief. We also gt to know Kitay a bit better. I really enjoyed seeing him become more of a main character because he is so intelligent and cunning and I felt like having him as more of a central fixture really added to the plot. I also thought that the book did a great job representing drug addiction and what it is really like, without demonizing it too much. Rin struggled hard against her opium addiction and I’m so glad that aspect of the story was done well.

The nice thing about opium was that once she’d inhaled it, everything stopped mattering; and for hours at a time, carved out into her world, she could stop dealing with the responsibility of existence.

The thing that I love about this series is that the writing is so great that the books are so compulsively readable. I devour these 500 to 600 page books in absolutely no time at all. I am so attached to all of these characters and I love the story lines. I feel like I am constantly searching for high fantasy books like this with amazing character development and intricate plots set in worlds that feel real, have layers of political issues and compelling fantasy elements. While The Dragon Republic wasn’t as amazing as The Poppy War it was still an incredible read. I am glad that this isn’t the end of the series, but sad that I have to wait for the next book in the series, because I got to read this book right after finishing The Poppy War.
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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.....
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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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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