This is the sequel to Kuang’s The Poppy War that many readers (myself included) fell in love with. Released in August of 2019 (in the U.S.), The Dragon Republic follows Rin after she survives the Poppy War and is on the run. The warlords’ loyalty has splintered, and a civil war may be brewing. Rin and her group of shamans must choose where to place their own loyalties as they fight to preserve their country.
This was a solid follow-up novel to The Poppy War. I really liked the beginning of The Poppy War in which Rin and her classmates were learning how to fight at Sinegard, but the latter half with the war itself felt too fast paced for me to really grasp everything that was happening. A lot more action and battles happen in The Dragon Republic, but the pacing is a bit smoother with enough down time between battles/action to process the event and any mental/emotional and political repercussions. The action scenes were well described and easy to imagine, which I found to be a small improvement from the previous novel’s latter half.
This is a dark, action-packed series with an interesting magic system and a heavy dose of Chinese history. In this installment we see what would be considered the “westerners” if Rin and the people of Nikan are considered the equivalent of the “east” in real life. Rin witnesses the culture and religious clash between her people and the Hesperians (westerners), which I thought was a very interesting part of the novel for the author to focus on. Another thing I like about this series (and it was done even better in this sequel) is that the stakes actually feel high. Side characters die fairly often, plans go awry, battles are lost, and even Rin fails and gets knocked down or betrayed multiple times. Rin and many of the other characters are imperfect and do not always make the best decisions, but it all feels fairly realistic. Honestly, I don’t particularly like Rin as a character because of her faults and impulsiveness, but her reactions make sense, especially when you factor in that her hot-headed god has some control over her emotions. I respect Rin, even if I wouldn’t get along with her if she were real. And as this sequel progressed, I found myself agreeing with Rin’s actions more and more, so I would say that is a good gauge of her character developing throughout the series!
This series is pretty dark even when it isn’t based on real history. It doesn’t stray away from tough topics and shows the horrors of war on civilians, which some fantasy series gloss over. I gave The Dragon Republic four out of five stars, and I am ready to see where the next book takes the story.