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.
But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance… -Goodreads
My Rating: 5/5
I don’t think I have ever read a book where I don’t know how to feel about the main protagonist. I hope this is purposeful, because it’s brilliant! The decisions Rin makes often make me want to shout at the book as it’s obvious that she’s letting her emotions get the better of her – that she’s either being lied to or can’t see the obvious threat because she’s so angry. That being said, Rin’s friendships are wonderful. She’s never better than when she’s talking with her friends (no names because of possible spoilers).
The plot of this book is fantastic! It’s one of the main reasons I liked this book more than The Poppy War. We go to war again, but Rin is now on the offensive. It’s fascinating to watch as the chess pieces are moved around the board, and to see how the decisions of the people on top of the hierarchy affects those at the bottom. Kuang is obviously making a statement on war and it hits home every time.
I am very excited to see where Rin’s story goes from here in The Burning God later this year. I really think this trilogy could become one of my favourite fantasy series of all time!
(Possible) SPOILER SECTION
I want to go into more depth on why I don’t always like Rin. She’s always angry, and even though we can sympathise with that anger, it becomes more difficult to be understanding when she can’t – or refuses to – see the bigger picture. This is obviously because she feels lost, alone, afraid, and betrayed. Rin is mentally unhinged, on the precipice to madness, and doesn’t feel like anything matters much. Her character is complex, and the crafting of her character is a work of art – it’s incredible! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading the book – because I loved it and appreciated what Kuang was crafting with Rin – but that doesn’t change the fact that Rin can be a difficult point of view to follow.
Nezha quickly became quite a complex character – especially with the prologue foreshadowing future events of the story, and then his final scene with Rin. His betrayal was a wonderfully symbolic knife to the back, and when I read it, it was like I could feel Rin’s agony too. I don’t believe that he is a bad person – he’s traumatised by what’s happened to him as a child and is constantly fighting for his parents’ love and attention – but I don’t think Rin or the others will ever be able to forgive him now.
The final scenes set up The Burning God really well. They’ve gotten me excited to see where Rin will go now. She’s began in The Poppy War as a new recruit of the army. In The Dragon Republic she became a commander. Now she’s going to be a Warlord. I am excited to see how she will react to this new power, and what she will do with this power – she is a Goddess in her people’s eyes! Kitay will also have a larger role in this, and I love his character and his loyalty to his friends and morality, so I want to see more of him!
Overall, this is one of the best fantasy series I have ever read, and I hope that the third book does it justice. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Burning God!