Kuang’s Poppy War series, the saga of a young shaman fighting to bring the old gods back to her homeland, comes to a striking close in this gritty finale (after The Dragon Republic). Nikaran shaman Fang “Rin” Runin, now a part of the rebel Southern Coalition, leads troops to clear out the remaining rogue Mugen invaders whose own homeland Rin destroyed earlier in the wars. But the bigger threat to Rin comes in the form of her former colleagues in the northern Republican Army. The Republicans plan to turn her over to their western allies, the Hesperians, who hope to use their advanced technology and devout monotheism to disprove the existence of Rin’s gods altogether. To win the war once and for all, Rin must ally herself with the monsters who once betrayed Nikara—and avoid becoming a monster herself. Kuang pointedly underlines the ambiguous moral choices and personal costs of the path toward victory and lasting peace, sparing neither characters nor readers from the horrors and consequences of war. The result is a satisfying if not happy end to the series. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Assoc. (Nov.)
"It feels nostalgic, wistful even … The Burning God is the best-written book of the trilogy … This place and this protagonist are singular in fantasy literature."
Booklist (starred review)
"Bringing her complex Poppy War trilogy to a poignant conclusion, Kuang shines a searing light on the devastating price and valiant sacrifices that warfare requires of all involved."
Fang Runin has been betrayed and left for dead, after facing off against numerous enemies during a disastrous civil war. Rin returns to her home, the Southern Provinces, where the rebel Southern Coalition has been fighting the Dragon Republic and their colonizing allies, the Hesperians. While her relationship with the Southern Coalition is tenuous at best, she realizes that most of the commoners of Nikan desire vengeance for the havoc wreaked upon them—and they believe Rin is their savior, with the Phoenix inside her. Backed by some old friends, a couple enemies, and the Southern Army, Rin is determined to free her people. Yet freedom comes with a heavy price, and with the Phoenix's encouragement, Rin may decide that the only way to bring change is to burn it all down. Kuang (The Poppy War) doesn't hold back on the physical and emotional toll of war, along with the cycle of abuse and trauma that can cause good people to make painful choices. VERDICT An incredible end to this epic trilogy. Mixing historical parallels of Chinese history, the themes of war, politics, and colonialism are balanced with terrific, flawed characters and amazing worldbuilding.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton
In the final installment of the Poppy War trilogy, a warrior shaman resolves to seize control of her homeland from enemies far and near, no matter the cost.
Having suffered severe losses and betrayals, Rin rallies the Southern Coalition in an effort to defeat the Mugenese troops still in Nikan, the president of the Nikara Republic, and the foreign menace of the Hesperians, with their almost unimaginably advanced technology. But a southern army is not enough, and Rin must also rely on the unpredictable powers of her wild god, the Phoenix, and form a risky alliance with the Trifecta that once ruled Nikan. Drawing heavily on 20th-century Chinese history, Kuang continues to explore familiar themes—including imperialism, racism, colorism, and the terrible and long-lasting effects of war—while deepening Rin’s portrayal, as Rin experiences moments of heartfelt sympathy and connection with others while also continually seeking power and succumbing over and over to her own hubris and paranoia. This installment dwells heavily on the devastating realities of war and the costs of leading a nation in crisis but does not sink into overly grotesque meditations—or perhaps we, along with Rin, have become desensitized and hardened. Ultimately, despite the epic scope of the plot, the novel hinges on the relationships between Rin and those closest to her: A nation may rise or fall and thousands may lose their homes or starve in the process, but their fate depends not on magic from the divine plane but on simple, fallible people.
A dark and devastating conclusion that transcends its roots in historical fact to examine brutal truths. (Map, Dramatis Personae)