The Poppy War Trilogy Book Review

“This was chaos, but chaos was where she thrived…”

-The Burning God by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War trilogy by R. F. Kuang has been highly acclaimed among readers for years. The first book, entitled The Poppy War, was Kuang’s debut novel in 2018, and since then, she has become a literary force to be reckoned with, more recently publishing books Babel and Yellowface.

In writing this trilogy, Kuang was heavily inspired by real historical events from Chinese, Japanese, and European history. She shares that learning of the Nanjing Massacre of 1930, during which Japanese soldiers brutally ravaged a Chinese city, compelled her in writing this first novel as a way to grapple with the information. To read more about Kuang and her comments on this trilogy, check out this profile from NPR.

For years, this trilogy has been on my radar, but it wasn’t until the end of 2022 that I was ready to crack it open and explore what this story had to offer–and I was not disappointed.

What follows here are my concise reviews of each installment and then my overall review of the trilogy as a whole. I have refrained from including spoilers so that this review is accessible to those who have yet to read The Poppy War. Because the summaries of the second and third books would potentially spoil the contents of the first book, I have only included the summary of the first.

I hope you enjoy!

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