Book Review: The Poppy War

This is the third time I’ve read The Poppy War and it gets better and better every time. And more devastating. It is rare to find a book that manages to pull off such vivid military depiction alongside characters that make you feel all kinds of emotions. What starts as a young girl pulling herself out of a miserable life ends with explosive power and all kinds of questions around ethics and morality. War changes people, and we see it happen at its most horrifying through the eyes of Fang Runin.

Star rating: 5 stars

Fang Runin, known commonly as Rin, is about to be married to a man old enough to be her father when she desperately tries to get out by testing into the most prestigious military academy in the whole of Nikan. She works harder than most people could even imagine, brute forcing her way to a top score only to turn up at Sinegard academy and realise her journey is only just beginning. Rin is not safe yet. She has to navigate the judgement and hatred of the elite, the majority of whom resent her presence. Bullied by students and teachers alike, Rin pushes herself to success through sheer determination, but with war on the horizon, the pettiness at the academy is nothing compared to the horrors that are to come.

This is definitely still a book of two halves for me. The first focusses on Rin’s development and her time at the academy. Her competitiveness and sheer force of will get her through and eventually her unique perspective catches the eyes of the academy Masters, not least Master Jiang, an eccentric who never showed up to teach class. Through Jiang’s instruction, Rin not only becomes physically stronger but learns there is much more to the world around her than she could have imagined. She is the only student to understand this, and has nobody but Jiang to explore it with. Rin’s time at the academy explores class issues and colourism, with Rin often isolated from the other students. Her one friend, Kitay, is a light in her life but her friendship with him does everything to highlight their differences and inequalities.

The second half of the book brings in the real world military events into Rin’s life. Forced to become a soldier too soon, her classmates are now not rivals but a team, even Nezha, the leader of her previous tormentors. Allocated to their new roles, the Sinegard students are separated, and Rin’s character progression really begins to take off. It is an electric conclusion to a first book, with more horrors than I’ve ever read about before. It’s even more sickening when you realise so much of that horror is routed in history that happened for real. It is rare that I’ve been so invested in a protagonist’s journey and Rin’s is one that can only end in heartbreak.

Overall, The Poppy War is a book that will always stand out as one of the best I’ve read. It is not happy. It does not have a romantic ending. There is only devastation in its path. But you will come out of it having had so many questions and so many observations, and possibly many, many tears.

Have you read The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang? This time I’ve been reading it alongside my sister and her friend, but I skipped ahead because I couldn’t put it down.

Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2020

Hi everyone! Welcome to my first monthly wrap-up post. I am sure these will evolve over time, but for now I’ll include Book Coven book club, fave books you can buy now, books to look out for and books I want to read soon. August was a great month for 5 star reading – more than half of the books I read achieved this! I went on holiday too, which was a really nice break from work (fortunately we had great weather – it’s gone cold now!)

Book Club

Every month the mods of the Book Coven get us to suggest books that make up the book club bracket. We then vote all the way through to a final, and that’s the book we read together over the course of 3 weeks. Then the amazing Paragraphs and Pages asks us some super insightful questions and off we go.

This month we read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This is a really creepy, bizarre horror novel that I definitely wouldn’t normally end up picking up, but I am really glad I did. It follows Noemi, a socialite sent to the countryside to investigate what’s happening to her cousin Catalina after receiving a concerning letter. But things at High Place are even worse than they appear, leaving both women in more danger than they could have imagined. Silvia has a great writing style that really draws you in, and I loved Noemi as a character – strong and caring, a winning combination. Meaghan asked some super great questions that made me consider things I didn’t pick up on when reading. You can read my friend Sam’s review for the blog tour right here.

Next month we will be reading The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant, a book I have already read and loved but can’t wait to read again. See you there?


On to my favourite books this month that you can pick up in stores right now. It is really hard to choose this month because lots of them were so good!

Ace of Shades and King of Fools are sitting there waiting for you, ready for Queen of Volts that releases on September 1st! They follow Enne, a girl that grew up on an island at a finishing school for girls, who has ventured into the City of Sin to search for her adoptive mother who never returned home. There she meets Levi, the head of a gang, The Irons. Honestly I loved the concept of these books and they are so full of mystery and puzzles. You can see my review of Queen of Volts here.

Now is also the perfect time to read The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic before The Burning God arrives in November. They follow Rin, a girl who was going to be forced into marriage who trains her way to military school to avoid that future. Honestly, these are some of the most wonderfully written heavily military books I’ve ever read. They combine detail and character growth beautifully – and The Burning God is just as wonderful. You can see my review of The Burning God here.

Finally, Record of a Spaceborn Few is the most recent book in Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series. I loved it just as much as the others. It follows a small group of humans living on the huge space-based city of Fleet, formed of huge spaceships. It is very character driven, and the stories all connect in the best ways. There is a strong theme of being lost and finding yourself which I connected with a lot. I can’t wait for the next book in the series releasing in 2021! You can see my spotlight post on Becky Chambers here.

Books to Look Out For

I had the pleasure of reading many amazing eARCs from NetGalley this month. I’ve already mentioned Queen of Volts and The Burning God, so I’ll talk about the others.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue became my favourite book of all time. It’s out in October and I honestly feel like it is V.E. Schwab’s best work to date. Emotive and gripping, I feel like it’s her most personal story. I highly recommend it, and you can see my review here.

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is releasing in November, so I was super glad to get an advanced copy of this. I have the Waterstones edition of pre-order, and I do not regret it! The book centres on The Grand Jeu, which we never actually learn much about, which I love because it relies on reader imagination and will have so many different interpretations! There are some things I’m still not sure about that I’ll have to think about on my re-read, but overall this is a great book.

I didn’t read that many YA books this month, but my favourite was an eARC of Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez. It’s a story set in Rosario, Argentina, and follows Camlia, a girl who longs to play football professionally but is being pressured into medicine. I love this book mostly because Camila makes such mature decisions when it comes to the romance in her life – this representation is so, so important for teenagers, particularly girls, to have. You can read my review here. I strongly recommend you check this book out!

Next month?

I am so excited for September – A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik releases which I’m very much looking forward to. I’m also re-reading Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers as I just bought Igniting Darkness.

August purchases included Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman, Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, and Tumbling by Caela Carter. Definitely going to get to these in September, as part of the Hamilton inspired bingo by the Book Coven!

That’s all from me, hope you enjoyed this book and also had a great month of reading. Looking forward to seeing what everybody has been up to. Have you read any of the books mentioned in this post? What did you think?

The folklore Book Tag

Hi everyone! I’ve been meaning to do a folklore book tag for so long, so here it finally is! This one is by Star is All Booked Up. TS8 is probably my favourite album of the lot – it’s cohesive, sad, happy and lyrical and really plays to her strengths. Here are my book recommendations based on the prompts.

the 1: a book you grew out of

For this one, I’m going with Harry Potter. Even before the author became unforgivable, I had lost interest in this series, partly because it’s not exactly the most feminist book series out there and I’ve read so much better now. As much as it made me happy as a kid, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

cardigan: a book you keep coming back to

Fire by Kriston Cashore is one of my favourite books of all time. It’s feminist, has the most amazing, gentle, brave protagonist and I love the romance in it. I think I will re-read it for the rest of my life, along with Graceling which is also up there with my faves. Did you know Kristin Cashore is writing a new book in this series? I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

the last great american dynasty: a book where everything goes wrong (in the best way)

The Poppy War series is such a great pick for this. There are so many moments in every book where stuff goes completely wrong and the characters are left to deal with the consequences. There are some really harrowing moments about what is left after war that are written so well that it makes great, emotional reading.

exile: ending you didn’t like (ship that sank)

The series with the worst last book that I have ever read is The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks. The last book, The Burning White, I did not finish. It’s so boring, drags a lot, and becomes weirdly Christianity focused. I was really disappointed because the first few books were really good.

my tears ricochet: broke your heart

I was in tears when reading Meat Market by Juno Dawson. It’s about a girl called Jana who is scouted by a modelling agency and becomes a famous supermodel practically overnight. She faces the challenges of her new found fame, and a corrupt industry. I have never routed for a character so much, who feels so young and innocent and makes mistakes that break your heart. I highly recommend it but it’s not an easy read.

mirrorball: a book that speaks to your soul

I hate to use a book that hasn’t been published yet but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue wrecked me because I felt every word of it. The characters, Addie and Henry, are just so relatable and I have never felt so seen by a book. Just wow, I can’t wait for more people to read it. You can see my review here and we will be talking about it in The Book Coven October book club.

seven: character you want to take home and protect

Hello Lazlo Strange, I was wondering if I’d get to talk about you in this post. Lazlo from Strange the Dreamer is such a sweet cinnamon roll and I was drawn to his character immediately. I just wanted good things for him because he’s so adorable and smart and thoughtful and cute. This was the first book I read with such a gentle male protagonist. Another good one is Malik from A Song of Wraiths and Ruin.

august: summer love

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson was such a surprise for me, and I read all of her books over the month that followed. When Andie loses her place on a prestigious medical school summer program due to a scandal involving her politician Dad, she thinks her life is over. She finds another job as a dog walker, and meets Clark. Their summer romance is so adorable, and there is so much dog love I could scream.

this is me trying: mental illness rep

I recently read Take a Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert and really enjoyed it. It’s a romance about Dani Brown (Chloe Brown’s sister!) and Zafir Ansari. Zaf is an ex-rugby player who suffers from anxiety, and is doing lots for young kids playing rugby through his program, Tackle It, which helps boys with their emotions. It’s a really great read, an excellent follow up to Get a Life, Chloe Brown.

illicit affairs: forbidden romance

OK so this romance isn’t really forbidden, but it is a bit taboo. In The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa, Catalina Santos is a wedding planner that was left at the alter. Max Hartley is the brother of her ex-fiance. The two have to work together to compete for a job that would change Catalina’s life. Max is so off limits to her, but can she resist? This book is such a fun read and it even made me tear up in places. I highly recommend it!

invisible string: soulmates

Oh, I think I am going to go with Portia and Tavish in A Duke by Defualt by Alyssa Cole. These two are made for each other – they complement each other so well and bring out the best in each other! It also has ADHD representation, which is awesome. This is one of favourite romances of all time – it has exceptional charcter growth and I love the storyline.

mad woman: vengeful woman

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is a stunning book that you just know is going to break your heart as soon as it begins. It is rare to have a protagonist with a dark nature that you care for a lot, and Alex Craft is just that. This book has a lot to say about sexism and rape culture and I highly recommend it, but make sure you read the trigger warnings.

epiphany: a loss you’re not over

OK, spoilers for The High Lord by Trudi Canavan in this section so skip ahead if you don’t want to know how it ends. This is the final book in the Black Magician Trilogy, a favourite from my teenage years. At the end of the last book, after slowly falling in love, Akkarin dies by giving his remaining magic and life to Sonea, and it messes me up so hard each time I read it. Heart broken. Devastating.

betty: love triangle, f/f romance

I am choosing an f/f romance – Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner. It’s about a showrunner, Jo, and her assistant, Emma, who fall in love over the course of the book. I love an office romance and this one is adorable. These women stand up for each other and I am here for it. Jo is an ice queen who is really a softie and I loved that so much.

peace:found family

The only choice I could put here is the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan all have my heart a thousand times. The series is a masterclass in writing multiple points of view and has so much tension and action that it makes your heart race throughout. It is one of my favourite YA fantasy series of all time. I also really like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

hoax: character that fooled you

Ettian in Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutsie. I will say no more about why, but the book is a fantastic science-fiction m/m read that really surprised me. Can’t wait for the next book to come out because of that ending.

And that’s all of them – I had such a great time finding books for these prompts. Of course the lakes hadn’t been heard at the point of creation, so here’s a bonus prompt.

the lakes: a book written in verse

I hadn’t ever come across books written in verse until Elizabeth Acevedo. Clap When You Land is an emotional book about two girls who find out they share a father after he dies in a plane crash. I loved the writing style and felt it really suited the story. Camino and Yahaira have such different lives and voices, it makes for a wonderful story.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope you check out some of the books I listed. Have you read any of them? What did you think?

ARC Review: The Burning God

Consider me destroyed. R.F. Kuang has done it again. The Burning God is the final instalment in The Poppy War Trilogy, a series richly inspired by modern Chinese history – a subject which I wasn’t really familiar with before reading this series. The trilogy centres on Fang Runin, known throughout the books as Rin. The series takes her from adopted girl mistreated by her family, to student at the prestigious Sinegard Military Academy, to soldier, to shaman, to all-powerful General.

Star rating: 5 stars (all of the stars, this is a new favourite for me)

Publication date: 17th November 2020

The Burning God begins with Rin returning south to Rooster Province. In book one she saved her nation from foreign invaders, in book two she battled Empress Su Daji, Trifecta survivor and known as the Vipress. She is betrayed by her allies in the Dragon Province, which sends her home to Tikany, the small village where her story began.

This is a stunning finale with vivid military descriptions mixed with a fantasy world that is only expanded upon. Rin is faced with the challenge of her school nemesis – turned ally – turned betrayer Nezha, who has allied with a foreign colonising nation, Hesperia. Hesperia wishes to eliminate shamanism as it goes against all of their religious beliefs, but Rin knows her Gods are real and she is not afraid to prove it.

Amongst the detail and gripping plot lies a cast of characters with so much depth it’s astonishing. This is not a book of good versus evil – every character has multiple sides to them which only facilitates the twists in the plot. Rin is as ambitious and angry as usual, but really grows into her new power (not always in the best way). Kitay, now bound to her, balances her out, and becomes an even better strategist. Nezha, having been forced by Rin to acknowledge his shamanism, is now an even greater threat than ever before. Venka is as mysterious as always, and I couldn’t help but like her.

This book really explores what war can do to a country and its people, whether it is civil or through invasion. The ending made me cry, but the story definitely has a small number of humorous moments along the way. I cared so much for Rin, despite her flaws and horrific decisions. Even though it was always clear that she would not have a happy ending, I still hoped otherwise.

Thank you, R.F. Kuang for a better ending to this trilogy than I could have hoped for. Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for the eARC, it made my week.

My friend Linaria from North America also wrote an awesome review – you should check it out in Linaria’s Library