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Review: The Dragon Republic

Book: The Dragon Republic

Click here for my review of The Poppy War!

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.

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Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: The Smoke Thieves

Book: The Smoke Thieves

Author: Sally Green

Year Published: 2018

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Trigger Warnings: violence, torture

The Smoke Thieves was a sprawling tale about a vicious fight for power and the people caught in the crossfire, fighting for their freedom and a better world. There were five points of view and five main characters and each of their individual stories were like threads weaving together to form the tapestry of the wider novel.

I liked all of the different points of view and it was really interesting to learn about all of the different character’s stories from their own perspectives. It was also intriguing to see the separate plots slowly come together. However, as it usually is when a book has many points of view, none of the main characters got enough ‘screen time’ and the story was very, very slow paced as we had to be introduced to each character at a time.

———-The POV Characters———-

—–Tash ~ The Hunter—–

Tash was a 13-year-old girl who was a demon hunter in a country called Pitoria. Her partner was a man called Gravell who was more of a father figure to her than anything else. We don’t learn that much about demons in the book apart from the fact that when they die they emit a gaseous substance called ‘smoke’ that was basically a drug when inhaled by humans. Smoke was illegal in Pitoria but there was a lucrative black market for it that Tash and Gravell dealt in. Tash was the bait to lure the demons out of their homes because she was small and fast. Gravell was the one who actually killed the demons. I didn’t think it was right to put a child in danger like that but Tash thought it was a good job and loved Gravell as if he were her father because she didn’t know any better. She was very cheeky, insolent and childish but also very smart and witty. I also found her so adorable.

—–Catherine ~ The Princess—–

Catherine was the princess of a country called Brigant that, in general, did not value women at all. Her father and brothers tried to restrict and control every aspect of her life and didn’t treat her as if she were worth anything even though she was their family. At the start of the novel she was betrothed to Prince Tzayn of Pitoria, a man she had never met, and she was preparing to go to Pitoria for her wedding and make it her new home. I liked Catherine and her character development in the novel. She really came into her own and learnt how to make her own decisions and make a place for herself in the world. Then again, the fact that she was a princess definitely helped her and made it much easier for her to earn respect and find her voice. Many women around the world today aren’t so lucky. The main thing that annoyed me about Catherine, to be honest, was that she was in love with her guard called Ambrose. Every one of her chapters mentioned how much she adored him, admired him and wished she could be with him and it was incredibly infuriating. Apart from that, she was interesting to read about and was my favourite character by far.

—–Ambrose ~ The Soldier—–

Ambrose was a soldier and one of Catherine’s personal guards. He was also in love with her but they both knew they could never be together. Nevertheless, he was fiercely loyal to her and to all those he cared about and was very bad at hiding his emotions. When his sister was executed (apparently for being a traitor), he knew there was more to the situation than met the eye and decided to investigate further into the matter. I thought he was an alright character but very, very predictable.

—–March ~ The Traitor—–

March was an Abask, who were a group of mountain dwelling people. He was also a slave to the King of Calidor. A few years ago, the Kings of Calidor and the Brigant had a war (even though they were brothers) and during that war the King of Calidor betrayed the Abask people and most of them were killed. March was one of the only ones left. In the book, he embarks on a journey to extract his revenge on the King of Calidor by kidnapping his only living heir and turning him over to Brigant. March was a good character but a bit bland and two-dimensional at times.

—–Edyon ~ The Thief—–

Edyon was the illegitimate son of the King of Calidor and his only living heir. He had no idea who his father was and lived in Pitoria with his mother. He also had a stealing addiction and had impulses to steal random things that he would never use and if he was caught he was very good at lying his way out of the situation. At the start of the book he goes to a fortune teller and she tells him he has two paths in life, either a hard one that would lead him to riches and comfort or another path that was surrounded by death. It was interesting to see how this prophecy affected him and his decisions in the novel. I didn’t really know what to think about Edyon. His life was one giant mess and he was constantly trying and failing to sort it out and become a better person. It was obvious that he had feelings for March, I think March reciprocated his feelings but their relationship will probably develop more in the next book.

Overall, I think the world building and plot in The Smoke Thieves was pretty good considering the amount of perspectives and places mentioned. I would recommend it to fans of epic fantasy although I know it probably will not be every fantasy fan’s cup of tea.