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  • The Poppy War

  • A Novel
  • Written by: R. F. Kuang
  • Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 19 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (222 ratings)

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The Poppy War cover art

The Poppy War

Written by: R. F. Kuang
Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
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Publisher's Summary

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s 20th century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

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.

R.F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history. She has a BA from Georgetown University and is currently a graduate student in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship. The Poppy War is her debut novel.

©2018 Rebecca Kuang (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about The Poppy War

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Jumped the shark harder than any book I’ve read

This book begins as one of the coolest, engaging pieces of fiction and then swan dives into a flaming dumpster like there’s Pulitzer for giving up half way through a book.

There’s the first half which is like Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind” except with martial arts and an author that doesn’t abandon their readers 2/3 of the way through the trilogy. Wow, was it cool. I was raving about how great this book is and couldn’t wait to make an excuse to listen to it.

Then it’s like the author was writing this book for a creative writing class, got dumped by their significant other half way through, and spiralled into a storm of whining and complaining only to spew it all into the second half of the story.

I’ve never read a book that jumped the shark quite so hard or ended quite so impressively badly as this one. It would be like if you’re watching a Marvel movie and Wolverine spends the whole second half of the movie whimpering, complaining, and tripping over his own feet only to have the producers run out of money and dream up some convenient ending that magically destroys all the bad guys but still leaves just a little time at the end to complain about destroying the bad guys.

Just don’t. Go read Abercrombie, read Erikson or Sanderson before he strips all his characters of any resiliency and starts waxing poetic for 52 hours. Don’t waste your life minutes on this one it’s bad.

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Wasn’t looking for Asian Fantastic Historical Fiction - was very good 75% through...

Was interested in the historical Chinese cultural aspect... really enjoyed the story until final 20%. Really powerful stuff. as well. when dealing with atrocities. Seemed a little juvenile and hysterical at the end (at the mountain and beyond). Hard to listening to after the story jumped the shark. Turned into a kinda Chinese x-men. If that’s your thing, I’d say you’ll love it. I’d say I didn’t enjoy the narration.

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2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Start out good

This book really falls off half way through and lost me. The ending was big disappointment.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Reader to Femanine

the reader was too feminine to do the male voices, it sounded corny and just bad when they "spoke".

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

This had such good reviews and it never even came close for me. Maybe as a YA novel this could make sense? It’s so naive for everyone else. On top of that nothing nice happens in this novel. It’s just compounded misery and hopelessness throughout. Exactly three successes happen and all three turn bitter really soon. This book didn’t bring me any joy. Nor did it tell me anything I didn’t know.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Couldn’t get through it

About 75 percent into the book it becomes unbearable. Way too gruesome and graphic for very little reason. Overkill. Treats the reader like a moron. We get it already. Enough. Very disappointed in this book.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gets very dark but a fantastic story

wow! this book starts off slow but picks up with a bang right before part 2. will definitely listen to the next one.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it!

The story is engaging with a protagonist I loved. It takes some unexpected turns while still hitting satisfying beats. The narrator does a wonderful job of bringing the story to life as well, each character's personality shining through.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

inconsistent characters

feels like a rushed eastern military version of the kingkiller chronicles. Jiang is almost a scene for scene rip off of elodin

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Doesn't seem to pull it together

There never seems to be transition from frustrated, anger and impatience to something else - no real growth. Then, time for book 2

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