As soon as I finished The Poppy War I immediately bought The Dragon Republic. I wanted to hold off reading it just so I wouldn’t have a long, agonising, wait for the final instalment of the series, The Burning God. However, since finishing The Dragon Republic the fact I didn’t have a copy of The Burning God sitting on my shelf was still an agonising wait – even though it was on the way!
CW: sexual assault, violence, drug use
The Dragon Republic picks up a few months after the events of The Poppy War, where Rin is on the run and determined to live to seek revenge on the Empress. However, that’s more difficult than Rin would like with a lack of resources and her actions from the Third Poppy War haunting her. This leads her to, begrudgingly, join forces with the Dragon Warlord who is determined to change the way of the Republic forever. However, the longer the campaign goes on the more Rin wonders who her true allies are or if she’s doomed to fall under the control of the Phoenix.
It was great being back in this world with a lot of the characters that I loved from the first book. However, whilst the characters were the same ones from The Poppy War, you could clearly see how events from the first novel had changed and developed a lot of the characters. A lot of the novel is focused on the struggles that Rin is facing, both through her own actions of the previous novel and with her shaman powers. I really liked seeing this side of Rin and how Kuang built upon the fact that Rin isn’t a flawless YA protagonist, that she does make mistakes and she isn’t always sure she’s making the right decisions. In fact, she regularly makes selfish decisions which has her friends questioning her. Speaking of, I loved seeing how her relationships with Nezha and Kitay had changed since the first novel and how they continued to change throughout the novel.
As well as the returning characters, we also meet a lot of new characters, including new races of people of the Hesperians and the Ketreyids.I really enjoyed how, not only did this introduce new conflicts between people, but also continued to build on the world the novel is set in and make it feel even more like a real place and real events and illustrates the scale of what is going on and who is affected by the actions of these wars.
Whilst a lot of the plot surrounds the political landscape of the Republic and the civil war, there is also a focus on character development and individual backstories. I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t completely clear whose side was right with all of the conflicting information being thrown at you. There are many moments that you doubt Rin’s allies or motives and she does herself, too. Although this is a very meaty novel, of nearly 700 pages, I found that they just flew by. The pacing of the novel makes it even more a joy to read as it easily absorbs you and keeps you hooked and keeps the plot feeling fresh.
This novel is an absolute must if you have read The Poppy War and the entire series is a must read for any fantasy or YA fan! It will certainly build your excitement for the final novel, The Burning God – and it will make you a little nervous too!
If you want to learn more about the parallels The Poppy War series draws from East Asian history, Read by Tiffany wrote a brilliantly detailed blog post going through all the ways The Poppy War series can be read – which I highly recommend you check out!