I have a lot of feelings about this book even though I DNFed it at around 80%. This will contain spoilers, you have been warned.
Okay, first let’s talk about why I decided to DNF it. I wanted to finish it and maybe I will at some point when I feel mentally prepared. But the reason I DNFed it is because of the really, really horrific sacking of that city. I wanted to carry on reading because I know this is based on an actual fairly recent historical event and I always feel like I should know the stories of the suffering of my fellow humans. Not because I enjoy it, but because it’s the only thing I can do. To know, to get angry and to remember. But I honestly could not stomach it. I have a fairly strong stomach, I would say. I’ve read some pretty dark stuff, but this just got to a point where I just couldn’t. And I appreciate that the author was trying to portray the horrific things that happened but I had to stop. It was putting me in a really unhealthy place mentally. So that’s why I didn’t finish the book, if you have a stronger stomach than I, then maybe you can.
That aside, I still read most of the book, so I have formed some opinions. I really enjoyed the first half or so. I had a few issues, however. One of them – and I talked about this in my last wrap-up – is the way that Rin just destroyed her uterus because she got her period and it freaked her out. I don’t like kids, I don’t want any and my period has frequently made me feel like I want to rip my uterus out of my body and be done with it forever. However, the removal of one of one’s major organs, I felt, was dealt with rashly and it wasn’t really addressed. I would have expected to see at least some pondering on Rin’s part. There was one character who mentioned briefly that it’s the removal of her organs Rin’s talking about, but that’s it. I kind of understand that Rin was scared, didn’t really know or fully understand what was happening to her, having not been told about periods… but, firstly, I don’t think anyone would be so blase about something like that. And secondly, regardless of how scared or in pain she might have been, Rin was clever. It seems very out of character to me for her to not think about this at all. I found it weird. It’s something that I could overlook, but I found it weird enough that I had to mention it.
Another thing I find less easy to overlook is the drug abuse that goes on. The way the magic system works is through the consumption of mind altering substances. I find that very problematic. Because I feel like it almost encourages substance abuse. Yes, Rin grows up around opium addicts and is very against opium consumption. But then she turns around and uses other mind altering substances, including poppy seeds (which are the source of opium) for her magic. Not only that, but her mentor encourages her to cultivate her “magic” and feeds her drugs. Is it just me who finds this very problematic and not at all a good way to construct a magic system? Especially considering how much hype this series has surrounding it. Why is no one talking about this? Or am I just looking in the wrong places.
I still genuinely enjoyed the first part of the book despite my issues with it. I loved the bit at the school. Once the war started, I found it a bit more boring, oddly enough. Like, the new characters, the sikh (not sure I’m spelling that right, I audibooked this) seemed kind of dimensionless to me. I genuinely couldn’t tell you much about them besides that one was water, one was an ape guy, one had a rake and there was a girl who… had a twin? They just seem like token characters to me and it all focuses of Altin and Rin and I found that dynamic quite boring. I stopped reading shortly after that, so I can’t really comment any further. There are still things that I’m really curious about and I would like to finish this book and potentially carry on with the series, but I just don’t know when I’ll be in a sound enough state of mind to be able to read it without it being unhealthy for me. So I thought I’d talk about it, because I wanted to share my thoughts on it.
3 thoughts on “The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang – DISCUSSION”
Hey! I’m John, do you ever read much poetry?
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Hi John! No I don’t read a lot of poetry. Poetry is very hit or miss for me. I either really love it or really don’t. I have briefly reviewed a couple of poetry collections on here. 🙂
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Just wondering if you were interested, if you would like to review my poetry blog and be brutally honest what you think about it?