The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang – REVIEW
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.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperVoyager.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“You are the most powerful creature in this world right now. You have an ability that can begin or end wars.”
I was lucky enough to have a proof copy of this book ready to read as soon as I finished The Poppy War (TPW) as I desperately needed to find out what happened next. There may be some spoilers regarding TPW in this review as it’s hard to discuss without mentioning previous significant events (I’ll try to be as vague as possible though). The story opens three months after TPW and there’s obviously a lot of focus on the consequences of war. When commanders make these huge military decisions what does it mean for ordinary people? How do people like Rin cope with making catastrophic choices with such far-reaching ramifications?
“Do not shirk from war, child. Do not flinch from suffering. When you hear screaming, run toward it.”
Now relying on opium to dull the grief and anger, Rin is struggling with PTSD and the constant presence of the Phoenix. Alongside Kitay and Nezha, Rin slowly begins to heal and learn to control her shamanic ability. The dynamic between Rin, Nezha, and Kitay is one of my favourite elements and I loved their interactions in this book. The friendship between Rin and Kitay is so pure, and her complex relationship with Nezha was grippingly nuanced. The Cike, especially Ramsa, provide some much-needed comic relief, although my heart was pretty much destroyed by the end.
“The world is our chessboard. It’s not our fault if the pieces get broken.”
The military strategies remain fascinating although I did miss the Sinegard Academy. Vaisra, the Dragon Warlord and Nezha’s father, is a perfect addition to the cast of characters with his military prowess, intelligence, and power. Similar to the Empress, his motives are shadowy and it’s always difficult to know who to trust. Like TPW, I was completely immersed in the world-building and engaging writing style. It contains some graphic scenes and the author provides trigger warnings so make sure you check them out if necessary. The ending was completely unexpected, with betrayal, murder, and sacrifice, setting up the action of the third book which I can’t wait to get my hands on.