I’m not much of a fantasy reader. Most of the books I’ve picked up in this genre are truly an intensive labour of love. But when I decide to read one, it’s usually because I’ve been persuaded through word of mouth. This couldn’t be truer with The Poppy War. It’s been a popular choice for fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike as of late. The main attraction for me is that it features a heroine who came from the poorest and most ridiculed part of the country to become one of the greatest warrior that ever lived. But the road to get there was far from a walk in the park.
Much has been said about the novel’s brutality, and yes. They’re of the stomach-churning variety. The author didn’t skimp on the shock and awe factor. The first half of this book focuses on Rin’s training at the Academy in the hands of the masters. Because she was nothing but an orphan from a poor province, no one considered her worthy to earn her place in the prestigious Academy or even worthy of a second look. But she sure showed them. Armed with determination and an ability to soak up knowledge, Rin quickly rose up to the challenge and gained infamy.
In the Academy, she meets the Lore master Jiang who would teach her how to hone her power, call on the gods, and harness her untapped potential. The training was grueling to say the least. It was a series of testing and skirmishes meant to determine those who were not only merely good at what they do, but the best of the best to carry on defending the territories against the Federation.
Of course, it’d be remiss of me if I don’t mention the battles. My eyes tend to glaze over when I’m in the throes of reading such scenes. But this is one of those rare occasions when I couldn’t look away. They were descriptive, visceral and not at all gratuitously violent. After all, who doesn’t want to see the evil faction fall in the hands of the least likely heroine? This would not be a book about war without deaths, blood and gore so expect those in spades.
I am not the most reliable reviewer of fantasy novels because I have a very small quantity of books in my arsenal. As well, I don’t seek them out. But even I can admit this was pretty kickass and I’m excited and terrified for the installment in equal measure.