The Poppy War

Harper Voyager. May 2018. 544p. ISBN 9780062662569. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062662590. FANTASY
OrangeReviewStarAs a war orphan from Rooster Province, Rin's future looks grim. Her guardians are already planning to marry her off, so why not work to pass the Keju, the Empire's test to discover the smartest, most talented youth to study at the Academies? Rin shocks everyone by acing the exam, but her success is not necessarily for the better, as she is targeted by classmates who look down on her as a dark-skinned peasant girl. Yet it is under this duress that Rin discovers she has a gift for shamanism. It takes an unbalanced teacher and hallucinogenic substances to help her control her powers and prove the gods are still alive, and her talent comes at a cost; when one is chosen by the gods, one becomes subject to their whims. With war looming, Rin must rely on her shamanic abilities to save herself and her people.
VERDICT Drawing on the bloody history of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), debuter Kuang balances strong, graphic details of violent warfare and its effects with a young woman's struggle to succeed and her desire for vengeance in this strikingly grim military fantasy that summons readers into an East Asian-inspired world of battles, opium, gods, and monsters. Fans of Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings will snap this one up. [See Prepub Alert, 11/11/17.]
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