Cover Image: The Dragon Republic

The Dragon Republic

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Member Reviews

The Poppy War is one of the top fantasy novels I've read in the last five years, and it is the book I find myself recommending frequently to those looking for an epic story. Kuang's sophomore novel had big shoes to fill, and The Dragon Republic does a mostly strong job in living up to the challenge. 

This book plunges immediately into war, darkness, and action with Rin running from herself and her addiction. She made a bargain with the Phoenix in order to save Nikan, but the cost was high. This book unfolds through the building of alliances while navigating the will of the gods. It's a book that will leave readers wanting more in Book 3. 

“Her story’s refreshing, shocking, and there’s some sort of invisible phoenix fire god controlling everything. Behold the horizons of fantasy expand.” -Wired

“Kuang brings brilliance to this invigorating and complex military fantasy sequel to The Poppy War.” -Publishers Weekly

R. F. Kuang is a 2018 Marshall Scholar and a graduate of the 2016 Odyssey Writing Workshop. She studied Chinese history at Georgetown University. The Poppy War was her debut novel. She lives in Cambridge, UK.
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The Poppy War was not only one of best books I read in 2018, it's also one of the best books I've ever read and I was really excited to get an ARC of The Dragon Republic from the publisher. Unfortunately, this book fell victim to the typical second-book-in-a-trilogy-slump I find myself complaining about with most trilogies.

The Dragon Republic follows Rin after her victory in the Third Poppy War. Although she's still a strong, yet flawed, character, she begins to make more errors and seems be suffering from the holy trinity of PTSD, opium addiction, and also the part where she has a psychotic god living inside her head. In a way, this combination makes her story incredibly frustrating; while I see her actions as a result of the aforementioned PTSD, addiction, and crazy god, her characterization does come off as a little too "women be overemotional and irrational". She flies off the handle in multiple instances and nearly gets people killed because of her inability to behave like a trained commander. One of the few things Rin gets right in this book is her reaction to the Hesperians but her opinions are repeatedly discounted or ignored because of her overall behavior.

The Hesperians are western colonizers who want to bring their religion and way of life to the "savages" of the Nikara Empire. The conflict between Ren, the various warlords, and the Hesperians is the most interesting part of The Dragon Republic. As in The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic pulls inspiration from real events and history, and bringing western meddling into the story adds a very interesting layer to the plot. This alone does not save the book entirely, but these plot points did get me through the parts of the story that really dragged.

And sadly, my main takeaway from The Dragon Republic is that the book was kind of slow. I do remember thinking that the first part of The Poppy War was a little slow and maybe even a little boring, but R.F. Kuang more than made up for that with the rest of the book. Here, Kuang is setting the stage for the finale and the book does suffer for it. Plot points are introduced and then seemingly forgotten, new characters pop up and then disappear, and there were odd jumps between events that made the story somewhat difficult to follow. That's not to say that I disliked the book. I still really enjoyed this, and I'm still incredibly excited for the third and final book in the series, but I was definitely let down and slightly bored at points. Regardless, I recommend reading this book because it is interesting, I think it's a unique concept, and I strongly suspect that the trilogy as whole will be well worth it.
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You know how sequels sometimes aren't as good because you're constantly comparing it to its amazing predecessor? Well, make no mistake, The Dragon Republic does not suffer from second-book syndrome. Kuang carries on from the momentum of The Poppy War to write a sequel that somehow surpasses its predecessor. The Dragon Republic immerses you in Rin's world; you'll experience these events as if you were the one stabbed or betrayed, in pain or in power.

I've been sitting on this review for so long because . . . I'm still dying over it, really. There's truly so much pain in this book, partially because there are so many betrayals. Conversely, Kuang gives us a lot more good, almost heartwarming scenes than the first book. I say "almost" because, well, you're filled with so much dread for what's to come that it's hard to appreciate them; I mean, immediately after these scenes, something bad happens, and this is why we can't have nice things.

There's not much to say without completely spoiling a lot of the events in this book, so much like my review of The Poppy War, I'll be vague and talk more about the themes.

Rin has so much character development. The Poppy War has her angry, permanently overfilled with rage. Don't get me wrong, she still is in this book, but in The Dragon Republic, we get to see a more controlled anger, which in a way is much, much worse. Her anger in the first book was so destructive and unchanneled; really, that would get her nowhere if she kept it up, a fate like, or worse than, Altan's. Now her rage is more channeled.

In line with this, her relationship with Altan is called into question. She's obviously his foil, toeing the line of giving into her anger like him, a cycle of self-destruction that will only end in ruin, but did she really know him? Were they friends, pseudo-family, something more, or something less?

I also love how she's a horrible commander and can recognize it. Sometimes when you have greatness thrust upon you, you screw it all up. Rin's always been able to follow someone else's orders and is fine with that. Eventually she's obviously so desperate for someone else to give orders and be responsible for the consequences that she turns to a certain unexpected someone and their cause. She wants to be a soldier again, but she is destined for bigger things, something she comes to realize over the course of this book.

We get to meet a new enemy, and their rhetoric is truly sickening. Kuang has been open about the inspiration she's drawn from real life events, and remembering how these beliefs were once commonplace (and still are, to some people) is horrific.

I did relate to Rin, though, and how she almost starts believing their rhetoric. Having grown up Asian and non-religious in a predominantly white, religious setting, I understand how easy it is to almost want to give into their proselytizing and believe in something more than yourself. Also, the amount of preaching and attempts to convert you is very true.

Similarly, when Rin realized how much she changed herself to fit in with the higher classes, I really felt that. I went to Kuang's signing last year, and knowing the school she went to (I say that in the least creepiest way possible; it's just that I also went to private school and it's a relatively small world, private schooling in this area, so I've been to that school for events) and that she's an immigrant, she's been through similar feelings. What person of color or first/second-generation immigrant hasn't? There's a line between acclimating to your new environment and adapting by changing yourself completely to fit in; sometimes the pressure pushes you to adapt.

Kuang's writing has somehow gotten even better. I found parts of the first book to be jolting, but The Dragon Republic is strongly cohesive from start to finish. Also I reread The Poppy War after reading this ARC and there is so much foreshadowing and little bits of plot that she connects. I recommend reading the first book again before jumping into this one so you'll catch all of it because honestly, Kuang's mind works on another level.

There's so much more that I want to talk about because SPOILERS, so just know that I'm silently sitting here, suffering and waiting for this book to release so you all can relate to the pain I'm still feeling, months later. I'll just say that her relationships with people we've met in the first book grow, in some cases, into something more. Who'd have thought that in a book about war, I'd be most devastated by . . . oh never mind. I'll just leave you with this quote, no context.

Any expectations of this novel that you might have, Kuang shoots out of the water and sets on fire. This book is one of the strongest sequels I've ever had the privilege of reading, and I cannot wait to see how she one-ups herself again in the third book, especially after THAT ENDING. If you think you're ready for this book, be prepared for how little you can prepare to experience the masterpiece that is The Dragon Republic.

**This review will be posted on my blog, Magical Reads, on July 6, 2019.**
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3.5 stars. I think this book is strongest when it's doing magic and battle scenes. The action is riveting and exciting. Rin gets very repetitive throughout the book, but the characters around her are solid. The religious overtones are a bit heavy handed, but the different factions and shifting alliances are good. So a mixed bag, but definitely a series I'll stick with.
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Rin is back, and still making poor choices (from a very limited choice set) about who to trust in her quest to kill the Empress. Given the horrors of the last book, it’s not surprising that more death and coercion follow, but the greater threat of the Hesperians (English/European analogues) emerges as they want to study Rin so they can destroy the gods, which they consider agents of chaos compared to their superior monotheism. I kept thinking of N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, because it is also about how abuse does not ennoble and how existing structures can make it all but impossible for someone who has power to use it well.
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Title: The Dragon Republic
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: Aug. 6th, 2019
eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

"The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect." (Goodreads)

My Review:

Sometimes it is hard for sequels to live up to the first book. I had high hopes for this book because I fell in love with the characters and the writing of the author. Let me tell you, this book exceeded my expectations!

Rin finds herself in the aftermath of war. She is filled with emotions because of it and at times those emotions lead her to make some poor decisions. Grief and loss are powerful things to deal with. Throughout the book she is developing more and more because of what she has gone through and the knowledge she comes to know. It makes her a stronger person and helps her create bonds with the ones who have always been at her side.

Characters from the first book come back and new characters are also introduced. I loved the development of some that didn't get much page time in the first. I also enjoyed Vaisra who at times becomes the voice of reason for Rin.

As for the plot, it is dark, bloody, and full of battles on land and sea. It is heartbreaking, raw, and draws you in. I wouldn't expect anything else from this series. It takes a lot to get through but it is such a thought provoking series that I think everyone should read.

I will be anxiously waiting for the third book in the series. If you haven't picked up The Poppy War yet, go read it so you can pick up The Dragon Republic!
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4.5/5 Stars:

Received an advance copy from Netgalley. While I gave the first book 5 stars, this one rounds down to 4 because the main character was more unlikable in this second outing. In the first book she was a genius, getting into Sinegard on her own merits and becoming a top student, shaman, and all-around excellent soldier. This book she's a just makes mistake after mistake, a real step backwards. However, the supporting characters are still strong and compelling, while new characters from different lands are introduced in a very interesting way. 

It started slow but really picked up in the final chapters and I'm excited for the final book.
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The Dragon Republic is a continuation of the chaos Rin has left behind in her wake- only this time, it is different. Rin is no longer the same girl from Sinegard and Nikara is far from the empire she fought so desperately for. Now, amid an inevitable civil war, Rin is forced to choose sides and fight for an uncertain and possibly unattainable future. 

The character development continues to grow dramatically and transforms Rin, Nezha, and Kitay into desperate humans seeking for the truth. Rin's narrative is continuously flawed reflecting her human-like mishaps and making this war story all the more heart-wrenching. Furthermore, much of the story focuses on strategy and warfare, resulting in a lesser focus on world-building and characterization. This aspect was crucial, however, it slowed the pace of the book. This is not a bad thing, but being a reader with a short attention span, I favor gripping books with fast-paced action. Despite this, the last few chapters of the book were exhilarating enough to change the novel from a four-star read to five-stars. Unforeseen plot twists paired with raw pain and emotion delivered the perfect, climatic ending. I will most definitely be looking forward to reading the next book.
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I enjoyed reading the dark Chinese history and culture inspired debut The Poppy War last year. It was a solid debut. I gave it three stars at the time because—I believe—I didn't really enjoy the first half, which was about the main characters training at school. This is just a personal preference, of course, but unless I'm getting a lot of interiority of a character and less of what they're learning, I get bored with that sort of storyline. As the second book in a trilogy, The Dragon Republic, picks up right in the middle of things, where we left off at the end of the Third Poppy War. Thus, unlike the first book, The Dragon Republic gets right into the action and pulled me in immediately. Rin is out for revenge against the Empress Su Daji, but she's a bit of a mess, having just committed atrocities that I don't think even she fully comprehends. She's mourning the loss of her superior—who I will not name to avoid spoilers if you haven't read the first book—and is also addicted to opium in order to keep the Phoenix god in check. Also, a character from the first book, who readers likely thought was dead, returns, which I was happy about. This character has an important dynamic with Rin that had me wanting more. As much as Rin can be an infuriating character, her story is what drove me to read this book. Whenever the story focused on her struggles, choices, and development, it had me hooked. Whenever I got to see what Rin was thinking and feeling, I had to read more to find out what was going to happen next. But there are a handful of chapters in the middle of part two—the book has three parts—where the author veers a bit away from Rin and focuses more on telling us about the strategic maneuvers the so-called Dragon Republic is taking, and that's where I struggled a little bit. I know these chapters were necessary in moving the story forward, but I still had a hard time getting through this part. Luckily, I kept going, and found the end of part two and the rest of part three to again focus more on the characters and how they're dealing with everything, as well as on some new worldbuilding—the two things that, to me, makes this trilogy so interesting.
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We’re baaaack.

After the events of The Poppy War, Rin is still seeking revenge from the person who hurt her the most – Daji, empress and betrayer of Nikan. But killing an empress, especially one with supernatural powers, is a hard thing to do without allies. And despite Rin’s many skills and talents, she’s always been absolutely terrible at making friends.

In Poppy War land, anything can happen and anyone can die. The prose often reads like a YA novel (not a criticism, it’s just very readable), except this is also a book where people swear left and right and the brutal realities of war are not skated over at all, even a tiny bit. Honestly, this series might just be the Song of Ice and Fire version of YA fantasy. This is what happens when YA shenanigans have real consequences. Lots and lots of people die horribly.

The Dragon Republic builds its foundations in real Chinese history. If a poem is quoted, that’s probably a real poem. And many of the battles and conflicts really did happen, albeit in modified form (in the real world, fire shamans are not a thing). This gives the entire story tremendous weight. This isn’t just pure fantastical fantasy. These things really did happen to real people, and the deep anger that Rin and her friends feel towards those who have hurt them is consequently real in a way most fantasy novels can’t ever conjure up. The Chinese people were horribly, horribly hurt and oppressed by generation after generation of foreign invaders. Their anger is Kuang’s anger, and so too Rin’s anger. 

Probably the biggest question on anyone’s mind is, can The Dragon Republic match The Poppy War. And to be honest…. No. The Poppy War was one of the best debut novels I’ve read since Name of the Wind. That book was so effective partially because it was incredibly tightly written, and partially because the first half lured the reader into a sense of complacency before delivering the massive punches of the second half. Now that Kuang has shown her cards, it’s difficult for The Dragon Republic to shock me quite as badly as she did when Rin set off a fantasy atomic bomb in the previous book (not a metaphor or an exaggeration). 

But I really want to stress that The Dragon Republic only falls short by comparison because The Poppy War was just so fucking good. This is still a fantastic, nutso book. And I’m so excited for the third. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest and fair review.
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Well... that's not something you read everyday. And thank goodness for that! Because, while Kuang once again crafts a unique and compelling story, it's just as brutal as ever and almost a little hard to take at times. That in no way diminishes the book, I've just got a weak stomach.

Rin is back and she is beyond angry. She soon learns that the actions she took in the last book have consequences. There is no school to train at this time. She and her friends are pushed headfirst into war- a war she thinks she understands. Yet, things aren't always as they appear and she soon learns that she must fight another type of war-one where she will have to battle her inner demons while being able to trust very few of the people around her. 

This is a long book, but there's never really a dull moment. Kuang has expertly created a world where history and fantasy go hand in hand. So much is going on that if you're not paying attention, you might miss something. And with a world this detailed, that would be a shame. 

Thank you Net Galley for giving me a chance to read this.
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That happened. 

I was fortunate enough to get a copy of this from NetGalley as an ARC in exchange for an, of course, honest review; and when I say "fortunate" what I mean is "I damn near yelled out loud in public when the email popped up on my phone." I'd been waiting for this ever since I finished The Poppy War. Author R.F. Kuang's debut gripped me from start to finish, and I couldn't wait to read more of what was on the horizon for Rin and Co. after such a dramatic ending. 

You won't get any spoilers from me. You're not going to get a plot summary. Read the official one. My reasoning being, I don't trust myself not to spoil anything, quite frankly, and given the magnitude of my love for The Dragon Republic - which improves upon its predecessor in virtually every respect - that would be a literary disservice of the first order to you fine people. 

Here's what I will say. This book isn't for the faint of heart. Neither was The Poppy War, but this takes it to a whole new level. Because we stick very close to a cast of characters we know and love, and as our understanding of Rin grows in particular, so does our sympathy. And really our horror at the actions of which she is capable. Kuang does such a wonderful job of portraying this girl who radiates anger so strongly it literally pours fire from her body at times as equal parts terrifying/sympathetic/and...heartbroken? Maybe? I don't even know how to describe it. 

This is a world inhabited now not just by gods and demigods, but by modern technology - you'll see - in the form of powder-based weaponry and airships. The politicking is brilliant, the battles are so huge in scope but written in such a way that we never lose track of what's happening, and the characters. Oh man...the characters. So many brilliant arcs continue to develop and are either cut off or veer down paths we never expected. More than once I had an ache in my chest while reading. 

Does it sound like I'm pouring it on thick? I'm not. I'm really, really not. This was so good, and if anything I feel I'm doing a poor job describing it. But please, have a strong stomach going in. You know what portion of history upon which Kuang's series is based. You know the atrocities that took place. If you don't, educate yourself. Those same atrocities are either hinted at or take place on the pages here. This is war. It's all Rin knows. This lost girl trying to find justice for herself, for a people she never knew, even to find atonement for her sins if's a bloody path she walks. And the people on the road with her aren't so nice. 

Man. What an amazing ride.
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Absolutely amazing start right into the action and immediately after the conclusion of the first book. The pace continues throughout and by the time I was done I wanted to start it all over again. I didn't think book 2 would match the quality of book 1, but boy am I glad I was wrong!
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Ms. Kuang does it again. The Poppy War was a rollercoaster that continues on in The Dragon Republic. Rin is in the middle of dealing with her fall into addiction while also trying to get revenge upon the Empress that betrayed her country, when Rin and is asked to help topple the Empire and build a Republic. Only things aren't as black and white as Rin would like them to be. The Dragon Republic is a thrill ride through the world of shamans and war that introduces new characters while bringing back many favorites.
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There are some books that you love and wait in anticipation for the sequel, only to be let down. This is one of those books. I absolutely loved the first one, and rated it 5/5 stars. It may have had something to do with the school setting or that Rin was such an underdog, but the first book was really strong. I sympathized with her and connected with Rin so much. But in this book, she flipped the switch and became somewhat of a hated character in my opinion. She was always antisocial and somewhat of an outcast, but she as just straight up mean in this one. 

The plot seemed forced to me and the story rushed. Perhaps it was because the first one was so successful she wrote this super quickly, but it just fell flat for me. I know there will be people who love this book though, it just wasn't for me.
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The second in a series, after "The Poppy War" it takes a bit to get into them because of the well developed characters, storyline but well worth it
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Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang 🐉🔥🐲🔥
I am so disappointed that I didn’t like this one. I read the Poppy War last year and found it too jarring and gory, with a weird timeline. I was hoping Kuang would have ironed out her timing issues and amped up characterization. No dice. Don’t hate me. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

The concept is there. The research is obviously there. I love the idea of most of the characters. It just didn’t work for me. The style is youthful in a way that’s inappropriate for the violent context of the story. 
The whole Rin-Altan- Nezha dynamic is one I’ve seen plenty. Rin is an underdeveloped “strong female character,” with so much talk about her powers and addiction without any emotive narrative.

The plot felt like one long climb, with no peak or descent. I appreciate, though, that TDR was less graphic than its predecessor during battle sequences. 
I like the concept of Kuang’s world so much that I’m willing to give the next book a try. However, I would love to see some major growth in style and characterization. 🐲
ARC courtesy of Harper Collins and Net Galley
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I have not stopped raving about The Poppy War to everyone and I was so excited to receive an ARC for The Dragon Republic! 
I had high expectations for this book, and Kuang not only met, but greatly surpassed them. Get ready to be emotional torn apart by a series of plot twists, betrayals, character developments, battles, and revelations. Although packed with action, Kuang's prose has become even more seamless in TDR. She dives deeper into the relationships between various characters, showing different sides of individuals that we only got a glimpse of in TPW. Her world-building is also a lot more clear, which is great because TDR involves all of the provinces of Nikara and more foreign states.
TDR is a novel about trust and moving on. Rin suffers from the burden of what happened to the Federation, and she struggles to figure out what to do next, and who she can truly trust. However, the true question is, can she ever trust herself? 

The only criticism I have is that, because there is so much action, sometimes the plot moved very quickly and I was begging for more of a moment. There were characters who I wanted to learn more about before they disappeared, or actions from characters that I felt like was surprising based on their characterizations in TPW. However, I am someone who places more value on plot and the ability for a novel to make me feel raw emotion, and the fast pace of TDR did not take away from either of these.
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My thanks to Harper Collins/Voyager and Netgalley.
This book was so much better than the first. So much action this time! I confess that I didn't even finish the first book, but now I may just to back and do that. Looking forward to book 3.
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AMAZING!!! I looooved the first book in this series, The Poppy War, and when I saw the second up for review I knew I had to grab it right away. The author described this series as showing how a girl from a rural background can grow up into Mao ZeDong, an exciting premise that is being executed flawlessly. There is a lot of violence and horrors but the author is pulling from historical events, which makes that much more of an impact. She makes you root for the main character, even though you know she's going down a path that she can't come back from. There's also a decent amount of "magic" elements too that add to the mystery. As long as you don't mistake this for YA, I would recommend to any fan of fantasy and intricate world-building.
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