One Sentence Synopsis
After the catastrophic events of The Poppy War, Rin finds herself hunted by the Empress and throwing her lot in with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who envisions a new republic for Nikan.
“But eventually, you’ll have to ask yourself precisely what you’re fighting for. And you’ll have to find a reason to live past vengeance.”
SPOILER ALERT: This is the second book in a trilogy, so my review might contain some spoilers for the first book. If you have not read The Poppy War, you might want to skip this. Might I recommend my review for the first book instead? 😉
You know that feeling when you read a sequel and feel like it is quite possibly better than the first book? Yeah, we’re gonna talk all about that in this review!
The Dragon Republic picks up after the end of the Third Poppy War that was “won” through a shocking display of violence. The source behind that violence? A war orphan who is now in communion with a god of destruction named Rin. Rin is now afloat… on the run from the Empress and burning with a need for revenge, she’s struggling to keep her and her unit, the Cike, from certain death in Nikan. But, then, they stumble upon an offer they can’t refuse: The Dragon Warlord has decided to rise up against the Empress, to form a new republic, and he wants the assistance of the Cike. Of course, politics are never simple and Rin has a lot of tough choices to make while battling with the god in her head calling for her to burn it all to the ground.
After I finished reading The Poppy War, I thought that there was no way the second book could blow my mind as much as it did. I’m so used to second books in trilogies being just so much filler. I figured I was going to enjoy The Dragon Republic, of course, but I didn’t think it could be as good.
Y’ALL, I WAS WRONG!
This book was just as good, if not better, than the first! And it was incredible for different reasons, which made it feel fresh, not a place-holder until the end of the series. This was a book that was rich with political intrigue and I 👏🏾 ate 👏🏾 it 👏🏾 up! It was so well-crafted and complicated, with R.F. Kuang weaving a landscape littered with political landmines that keep the reader guessing as they wade through. But don’t let me mislead you into thinking it’s too convoluted to follow or dull. Oh no! Though it felt like everyone was always one step ahead of me, I still was completely engrossed in trying to guess everyone’s motives. It was almost my favorite aspect of this book. Almost.
But there’s just no way that I could love anything about this book more than I love our main character, Rin. Rin is an absolute disaster, a war criminal with questionable morals… and I adore her! Well, I suppose what I adore mores o is how incredibly vivid she is. Rin feels like a character that I could learn was a real person and not be surprised at all. Ya know… beyond the channeling a god bit. Everything about her is so real and, if not relatable, understandable. She makes terrible choices. She’s angry and impulsive and naïve. But she would also die for the people she loves and she truly loves her country. R.F. Kuang really saw the anti-hero trope and was like “Yeah, I’m going to completely own that.” Seriously, Rin has to be one of the best anti-heroes that has been written. She’s not a great person, but she has a good heart, or at least a decent one. She is not a fan of war, but it’s all she knows. She’s not a fan of the destructive power of her god, but she also feels that power is the only thing she can use to protect her loved ones. She’s freakin’ complicated and I love it!
Beyond those two things, I rather enjoyed all the other aspects of this book, as well. The world-building continues to be top-notch. The plot was *chef’s kiss* and perfectly paced. The writing is, of course, immaculate. Everything about this book converges to make for one immersive and engaging reading experience. There are, of course, some pretty intense trigger warnings, so please make sure to check those out before going in, in case there is something in this book that you would rather avoid. This is one of those books that you tear through at the beginning and then slow down towards the end because you just don’t want it to be over! At least, that’s what happened to me, lol.
Final thoughts: I always love it when the sequel is just as good, if not better, than the first book and The Dragon Republic is a shining example! Everything about this book was expertly created, from the world-building, to the characters, and beyond. Rin is a complicated character to love, but love her I do. The political machinations definitely tic up in this one and it makes the story even more compelling than it was before. It’s just… it’s just phenomenal! If you enjoyed The Poppy War, if you like your fantasy on the brutal side, if you’re looking for an anti-hero to get behind, I think you would love The Dragon Republic!