Book: The Dragon Republic
Author: R. F. Kuang
Year published: 2019
Trigger Warnings: Self harm, suicide, substance abuse, torture, basically every possible trigger warning!
- Plot: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Overall: 5/5
*Contains spoilers for The Poppy War*
The Dragon Republic was the brutally brilliant sequel to The Poppy War and it was just as amazing as the first book (maybe even more so). It was a book that most certainly didn’t pull its punches.
I’ve actually been struggling to write this review for a while. Not because I didn’t like it or I have nothing to say, but because it was such a wonderfully complex book and my emotions surrounding it are so vast and complicated I found it hard to condense them into one review!
In this book, Rin was flung into a civil war whilst battling an opium addiction and a raging god. The best way I could describe Rin’s character is as one giant ball of conflicting emotions. Anger, love, grief, hope, fear, despair all furiously grappling for space in her heart.She isn’t a good person but a part of me is still rooting for her. And that’s why she’s such a brilliant anti-hero.
Her opium addiction was given all the time it needed. Her journey to sobriety was extremely difficult and she wouldn’t have achieved it without the support of others. I also think it contributed to her character arc as stopping opium almost represented her stopping trying to escape from who she was and what she had done.
In the beginning, it felt like Rin was detaching herself from her atrocious actions at the end of The Poppy War. Yes, she had won the war but she didn’t want to understand that victory isn’t always worth its cost. She was allowing her deep and festering anger to fuel her, to excuse her from thinking and feeling and hurting. But over the course of the book she started to not necessarily feel guilty but accept the magnitude of what she had single handedly destroyed. The anger was still there (was and always will be there) but it was directed towards the people who actually deserved her terrifying rage.
It saddened me to see how much war had scarred Kitay and how he struggled to come to terms with what he had seen and done. I loved his friendship with Rin and the way they understood each other on a profound level.
I liked how this book went more in depth with the word building and it revealed more about the characters’ backgrounds and motives. The arrival of the Hesperians added another dimension to the book, especially with the introduction of their naval technology and arquebuses. However, I found the way the Hesperians thought they were superior and the way they analysed the Nikara to see if they were ‘ready for civilisation’ really disgusting and demeaning but at the same time I know that this reflects history.
The Dragon Republic was a fascinating military fantasy with themes of greed, power and the many ways to make a monster. It didn’t glorify war or try to lessen the impact of its brutality, resulting in a shocking, cruel and at times upsetting but very real read. If you enjoyed The Poppy War, you’ll enjoy this book even more!
Thank you you to Harper Voyager for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.