I seem to have developed a pattern of reading two and a half books per week at the moment. Not bad, I suppose, when I am also reading random stuff on Twitter and other sites, writing this blog, and watching a lot of TV on my iPad. I seem to have become addicted to the Lie to Me series!
My first read of the week was The Poppy War by R F Kuang, #01 in the Poppy War trilogy. The blurb is pretty long:
When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
In the end, after much thought, I gave the book three stars and wrote this review on Goodreads:
I don’t really know how to rate this book or how to write a review. The first third was a pretty conventional fantasy story and was reasonably satisfying, although slow in parts. I was enjoying the flavour of Chinese/Japanese history, as I haven’t read anything like this before. Then the plot began an acceleration into the darkest, bloodiest and gloomiest fantasy with the main characters becoming, well I am struggling to find the words, so bleak and unpleasant that I struggled to finish the book!
At one point in the book I had intended to award it the full five points. That was when I thought it was going down a particular path. By the end, I was left gasping and wondering whether I even want to read the sequels. I can usually cope with grim themes, but this book was almost too much even for me. I will have to think about the sequels!
Once again, I recommend reading other reviews on Goodreads and similar sites as many people are raving about the book. I can see why, as it is an amazing debut by this writer, but I have huge reservations. Also, I would like to warn librarians working with teens to avoid suggesting this book to the younger end. The plot starts with our “heroine” taking the exams for and entering a military school. This makes the book appear to be Young Adult, but it is definitely not! There are scenes of horrific sexual violence that make the book unsuitable for young people, in my view.
After The Poppy War, it was a relief to turn to the second book this week – The Child by Fiona Barton, once again part of a series: #02 of Kate Waters. Here is the blurb:
When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.
For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.
For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.
And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.
The Child’s story will be told.
This is my review:
This was an interesting book to read. I enjoyed the structure of using the points of view from the three main characters, with their stories weaving throughout the plot. This was very well done and there was enough difference between their “voices” to follow this easily. The plot twists were good, but I did guess the ending, even though it was billed as a huge surprise. I will definitely read other books by this author and recommend this one.
Now that I have finished this post I will return to my current book: John Connolly’s Night Music (Nocturnes Volume 2). He is one of my favourite authors and I can’t wait to read the next book in his amazing Charlie Parker series!
Happy Reading to you all!
I loved how dark The Poppy War got, but I definitely see why it wouldn’t work for everyone! I’ve heard a lot of people say they didn’t like the jump from YA-esque to the way adult stuff, but I thought it was fascinating to see such a traditional story so thoroughly smashed up.