the dragon republic – r. f. kuang | review + spoiler section

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

Series: The Poppy War #2
Published August 8th 2019 by Harper Voyager
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, War, Grimdark
Rep: author of color, POC cast (chinese & japanese-inspired)


Rating: 5 out of 5.


In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.


disclaimer: this review might contain spoilers for the first book, the poppy war.

trigger and content warnings:
  • colorism, PTSD, self-harm, graphic violence, genocide, drug use, drug addiction, torture, death, rape, racism, misogyny, human experimentations

naturally, i was intimidated with the hype surrounding the dragon republic recently despite loving the poppy war. let me tell you something, r.f. kuang doesn’t disappoint. the dragon republic is a phenomenal book filled with riveting moments and stunning revelations. r.f. kuang’s writing definitely matured; it became more descriptive, immersive and bolder. she created a complex plot that is built upon multidimensional, flawed characters. at the same time, r.f. kuang unflinchingly discussed the influence and atrocities of war under the hands of the powerful and the greedy.

while planning and preparing for another war, the characters end up in places with various climates and people with other magic, teachings and beliefs. r.f. kuang skilfully plotted how the neighbouring countries played a part in the current situation. an important and dangerous example is the republic of hesperia. the full extent of this western country’s involvement in the war is yet to be comprehended. in hesperia, they worship their maker, and they believe that they are superior. to them, the people of nikara are barbarians and uncivilised beings.

“Life and death, they’re equal to this cosmos. We enter the material world and we go away again, reincarnated into something better.” 

everyone is incredibly flawed. rin is still impulsive, reckless and driven by anger. continuously, rin is struggling with her guilt and mental health, withdrawal from opium, and her drop in confidence. the toxic combination had resulted in her inability to fully focus on being the commander of the cike. whenever she makes decisions motivated by frustration and hatred, i couldn’t help but cringe, fearing that it would explode in her face later. sadly, rin had to learn from her mistakes frequently. rather than being in control of the situation, rin is like a pawn in this chess game. unfortunately, she’s a little too trustworthy despite the political climate they are in.

kitay is the best. while chaos and destruction is happening, kitay is quiet and focused. since i’m used to seeing him calm and collected, it was surprising when his anger leaked out. he’s one of the people who would fearlessly debate rin and as her moral compass, try to prevent her from deviating too far from good. the rest of the cike were cool too. chaghan seemed like the other person who would tell rin the truth as it is. i adore venka too.

iconic scene of kitay: him pouting about his almost finished ledgers that got burned

trust nobody. that’s what i learned from the dragon republic. someone has an agenda, a motive, someway somehow. empress su daji’s presence impacted rin far more than i had expected to read about. even though there aren’t many of her scenes, every conversation she had with rin held weight and meaning.

overall, i’m in awe despite being punched, kicked and gutted by the events in the dragon republic. r.f. kuang doesn’t hesitate and has no mercy. however, i’m grateful for all the light-hearted moments amidst the chaos and destruction.

“Have you seen their penises?” Kitay asked.
Rin nearly spat out her fish. “What?”
He gestured with his hands. “Hesperian men are supposed to be much, ah, bigger than Nikara men. Salkhi said so.”
“How would Salkhi know?”
“How do you think?” Kitay waggled his eyebrows. “Admit it, you’ve thought about it.”

on one last note, i don’t know how else the burning god is going to devastate me and i’m not ready for it. send help.

☁️ spoiler section ☁️

you know what? i can’t believe r.f. kuang allowed everyone in the cike (except water boy and qara) to survive the freaking battle at arlong BUT KILLED SUNI, BAJI AND RAMSA at the last two chapters. nani the fuck?????? i can’t deal with this.

not going to lie, i thought the dragon warlord was capable and was actually looking for the betterment of society and his people. apparently, he’s a fucking coward and a puppet controlled by the hesperians. HOW WRONG I WAS!!!!! i’m so done with everyone!!!!!! except kitay, he’s the best.

i got weirdly excited about the cormorant fishing method whereby fishermen use birds to catch fish.

the god in daji is nüwa!! whut

rin’s method to distance herself from altan: melt down his trident and made a sword from it. after struggling for ages, i’m glad she actually did this as a step to her own independence and clarity of mind. her mental health had been detrimental the whole time when her memories kept reminding her of altan.

nezha’s betrayal was PAINFUL TO READ. i can’t believe he stabbed her in the back!!! the scene when rin asked when had nezha been preparing for this war, and he replied with “ever since birth”, and rin thinking to herself that he knew all along that he might have to fight in opposite side with his sinegard friends, AND THEN HE SAYS “LUCKILY WE’RE ON THE SAME SIDE”, and then at the end of chapter 35, HE STABS HER IN THE BACK AND THEN RIN, KITAY AND VENKA RAN AWAY. SO NOW THEY’RE GOING TO FIGHT AGAINST EACH OTHER?! WHAT THE FUCKING FORESHADOWING.

nezha being a shaman should’ve surprised me but i was so consumed with what was going on aka almost everyone being blown up by some mysterious thing in the water that it just washed over me. the explanation of how he got the powers was super upsetting and it’s linked to mingzha and the prologue scene. OUCH. nezha being protective of jinzha was a little too much. stop saying he’s not a madman. he’s literally marching onwards cause his pride couldn’t handle proving the hesperians wrong. as the best wartime general, he should’ve been strategising for the good of the people but now, he’s just picking up a stone and hitting himself in the foot with it.

the democracy offered wasn’t heartfelt or true. either they vote to join the republic or they die. as kitay puts it, “that’s what you get when you’ve killed all the brave men and let the cowards vote” when an overwhelming majority elected to join the republic.

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9 thoughts on “the dragon republic – r. f. kuang | review + spoiler section”

  1. It’s been a couple of months since I finished it, but reading your post made me relive the betrayals, and I’m still flabbergasted. She did a great job of seeding the story with enough foreshadowing that all the facts crystallized when each reveal occurred—it all rang true, but was gutting nonetheless. I’m not sure what lessons I’ve taken from it yet—perhaps reinforcing the precept that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. r.f. kuang’s writing had improved so much. every time i get a clue about what might happen in the future because of her foreshadowing, i can’t help but be afraid for them.
      i agree with you. maybe it’s about how you can never trust anyone and how having control is just an illusion. there’s no knowing when they would turn around and betray you. i believe rin and the rest didn’t really think about it much until it was right in their face. and they’re so incredibly young. the amount of stress that was piled on their shoulders was unfathomable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh I just finished this too and it wrecked my soul – I hope The Burning God can put it back together but I just think we’re in for so much PAIN! I loved reading your review, and the reactions in the spoiler section were on point!! ♥♥

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i can officially tell you that the pain doesn’t subside but is greatly enhanced. it doesn’t stop, and i’m absolutely wrecked. all the best for your soul, erin. i’m here when you need to do some screaming.

      thank you, erin! glad you liked the review ❤️ i wanted to add more things in the spoiler section, but i was so immersed in the book that i could only get the significantly devastating and glaringly obvious parts.

      Liked by 1 person

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