Hello fellow booknerds!
Krisha, Nandini and I are so so sooooooo!!!!! excited to bring you The Poppy War Book Tag today! I’ve been wanting to do something special for The Poppy War for quite some time, especially as the trilogy comes to an end with The Burning God releasing on November 17th of this year. The three of us got the idea to do a Poppy War Book Tag as a welcome to new readers and one last hug to those who’ve stuck around for a while. So, let’s finish this one off with a bang, Poppy Warriors.
NOTE: All paragraphs tagged with [SPOILERS] / [SPOILERS] contain spoilers for The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic. If you have read only book one, I don’t recommend reading them because I talk about the similarities and differences between both books and the characters in almost all the tagged paragraphs.
WARNING: VERY EMOTIONAL POST UP AHEAD
—Fang Runin: Who’s your favourite anti-heroine?
I think it’s safe to say that Fang Runin, or Rin, is my favourite Anti-Heroine. I often say this so excuse my sounding like a broken record, but she was never the Chosen One and she fought tooth and nail to make herself the Chosen One. How can I not love her?
From where she begins to where this story comes to, at least in The Dragon Republic, is a marvel to behold. We met her in a little shop in Tikany, just balancing the books and handing off opium as the Fang family directed her to. And here, at the end of The Dragon Republic, we hold hands with a fatally intelligent woman, hardened by scars to her soul and the lessons the universe unkindly bestowed upon her in her twenty years. No one expected this girl from a small town and from an unknown family to be destruction incarnate, driven by her need to prove herself, to herself and to others, and by the spite that bloomed into formidable anger, burning bright like an ember breathed upon by a vengeful god.
There’s a lot to love and hate about Rin. I understand why people would struggle to love her, especially through the first two books. Still, I think there’s something about her–perhaps her drive for something else, something better, that makes a lot of us in the fandom adore her so much. Or maybe it’s her suspicion of everyone she comes in contact with, just as we’re untrusting of anyone she comes in contact with, that makes us relate so much. Whatever it might be for you personally, it’s hard not to admit that she’s an incredibly complex, sometimes frustratingly so, and we love her so much for it.
Rin’s the epitome of an Anti-Heroine to me. The journey she has in this story is…breathtaking, to say the least. If you want to read more of my breaking Rin down, I will be writing a post on her, based on the art of the Indonesian covers of The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic, soon. So keep an eye out for that!
—Chosen One Schmosen One: which character deserves more spotlight in your favourite series?
For me, it’s a tie between Kitay from The Poppy War and Laila from The Gilded Wolves.
I know that The Gilded Wolves doesn’t necessarily have the chosen one trope, but I just wanted to spend more time with Laila when I was reading the book. I loved all of the main characters a lot, especially Hypnos and Zofia, but Laila just. She stole my heart man. Stole my heart before I even knew what was happening.
And Kitay? Let me be clear. Kitay has my entire heart. (Yeah I know I said Laila stole my heart, no I will not clarify the technicalities of this, shhhhh.) I love him with everything in me. He’s so goddamn smart, and he’s got so much love in him to share. All he wants is to give and give and give, to protect the people he loves and to keep them alive. He’s a cinnamon roll , and I would give him anything he asked for. But he’s so torn, constantly questioning himself and his sanity, what he knows and who he trusts, and all anyone ever does is hurt him and take advantage of his kindness. He’s the only man in the series who deserves genuine joy and still, RFK won’t give him a minute to breath. You know what? Brb I’m gonna go draft up that strongly worded letter to her.
—No Stone Left Unturned: who’s your favourite fictional genius?
[SPOILERS] I have a very weird relationship with Kitay. On the one hand, I love this dude. He’s smart and kind and innocent and deserves a goddamn break. But, on the other hand, he’s brash and says everything that comes to mind without thinking twice because he knows now that there’s no point in thinking twice. There’s nothing left that he cares about, when we find him in The Dragon Republic, so who’s he mincing his words for? And that gets him in more and more trouble.
I guess you can’t really say that he’s putting his life in danger so much as he’s letting his life be put in danger because what even is the point anymore? He doesn’t quite realize that he hasn’t lost everyone. That Rin would go to the ends of the Earth for him. That he has friends who love him dearly. And yes, even empires that need his strategies, and his awe-inspiring problem solving skills. That he has a purpose, outside of his job, outside of what’s expected of him. And that breaks me a bit, seeing him struggle like that. [SPOILERS]
He struggles a lot with something I really struggled with as a kid, I think. I know I call myself dumb a lot, because boy, can I be dumb sometimes, but I’m really not. Like, yeah, I don’t know how to properly communicate with people, and can’t always read a situation, but I am textbook smart. I can tell you biology and maths formulas without breaking a sweat, and I may have a short memory but I need only one look at something I once learned, and I can tell you everything I’ve ever known about it. No matter how long ago I learned. Languages, sciences, humanities, really anything.
So I understand his struggle with seeing his purpose in only how he is a tool to be weaponized, not because I was ever weaponized, but because I’ve been used for my brain to the point where I internalized, for a long time, that my only worth is in how I assist others. Whether that’s in making them money or getting them good grades. And I know this probably doesn’t sound like a bad life, being a know-it-all who gets good grades, but being considered a ‘gifted kid’ and then my mental health declining due to my academic life declining under the pressure, was some of the toughest shit I only made my way through because of two friends that knew me better than I knew myself. They loved me unconditionally, and helped me find my way back to loving myself.
So, I see why, without the same kind of support, Kitay has been struggling. He believes so much that all he matters for is how he exists in use of others. I understand how the events at the end of The Poppy War made him further internalize that when he finds himself alone and without an order to take, and it tears me apart.
I’ve always had a soft spot for other nerds in most media I encounter, I think, and this shared trait between us made me love Kitay so much more than I already would have. If nothing else, I want him to find some kind of joy–genuine joy at the end of this series. Out of all the characters, he deserves it the most.
—The Epic Descent: What makes you empathize with your favourite morally grey character?
I think, for Rin, I empathize with her in her need for her superiors’ approval, and to give a giant middle finger to the people who underestimated her when she was young, and hoped for a better life. There’s a lot I see in her that I relate to, and it scares me. She’s anxious, and itching for more, she wants to push the limits until she can’t anymore. She wants to touch the stars and make them into a ladder for her, leading her into the unknown. And maybe, she wants all this in my eyes because I want all this, too. I understand her hunger for something different, something better. To not sit by and take what’s been handed. And I think this is why I love her so much.
Still, there’s so much that makes me angry about her, how she makes all the wrong decisions, how she refuses to understand that this isn’t all that she deserves. That there’s more. There’s joy and kindness and love. And that she deserves it, truly. She deserves it so much.
I know why she needs to trust in the people leading her, because the other option scares the living shit out of her. I hate how she lets herself be misled so often because of that, and how she allows herself to become a weapon, knowing exactly what’s happening, and still not fighting against it. She is ruination, and she is ruined, lost to the mistake she made, unable to see the path in the fog. I understand it, I do.
[SPOILERS] The self-hate, the anger, the misery and the exhaustion, and I hate that she can’t see past the decisions that haunt her. But I know why. What she did aren’t things you easily forget, nor should you forget. She murdered and hurt and destroyed people, and she should pay for her mistakes. But reading her struggle with herself in The Dragon Republic, and struggle with the thought of death…it’s toe-curling, like someone’s choking her and I’m losing air. [SPOILERS]
—Mad Gods & Their Maddening Power: what’s your favourite novel about gods and their powers? (Bonus points for dark fiction!)
For me, obviously, The Poppy War trilogy, but I also want to recommend some other books about gods and their powers fucking shit up that I’ve herd of so:
I’ve heard great things about Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Jules has told me that we need to read it multiple times, and they’re right, but I just keep seeing so many books I’m interested in, and the Asian SFF discord has recommended Jade City and These Violent Delights and City of Brass (not for this prompt but just in general), so I’ve been trying to catch up, I’m sorry!!!
I also think that The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Neon Yang deals with wrathful gods, too. I know Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, coming out later this year, deals with gods but I don’t know in what way. Guess we’ll all find out soon enough! And of course, we can’t forget about our favourite Seaweed Brain and his dad and aunts and uncles, from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
I think the way with which R. F. Kuang discusses gods, the Pantheon, the balance of their powers until they enter the material realm, their maddening hunger, and desire for more and more and more, until the world has nothing to give, is so cool. She really changed the way a lot of us view fantasy, and engage with it, and I think that’s beautiful.
—Immortals & Their Battles: what’s your favourite battle scene?
(This entire answer consists of spoilers.)
[SPOILERS] Having recently been destroyed by The Dragon Republic, I would say my favourite battle scene has to be the battle between Rin and Feylen. The second one, where she buries him under the mountain, was truly something else. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it, desperate to see it happen before me so I could be swept up into the movements and the decisions. I felt the drum of Rin’s heartbeat, the sweat on her forehead, the itch to go on and on and on until Feylen could do nothing but take the wrath of her Phoenix god. [SPOILERS]
—This Poisonous Beauty: which character do you find as intriguing as you do terrifying?
This one’s for you Altan.
[SPOILERS] I always found Altan interesting. A dickhead, yeah, but an interesting one. He would wrap you in his love only to destroy your very being with his words. He would whisper sweet nothings in your ears as he pushed in a ball of his hottest fire into your heart. He loved so deeply, and he betrayed just as well. And in the end, I couldn’t hate him because of that goddamn pier. He’s absolutely terrifying, and yet I can’t help but be drawn to him. I hate him so much for it, and still, I love him with all my heart. [SPOILERS]
—Clever Truths & Cleverer Lies: what’s a book rife with political intrigue that you enjoy the mind games of?
I think the thing about The Poppy War I love the most is how smart it is. Like, it’s just so goddamn smart. My mind was always engaged in figuring out the pieces to RFK’s puzzles. The use of military strategy, the way the politics are incorporated into the narrative, and the inspiration from the history and trauma of the Second Sino-Japanese war, were all very interesting to me.
The way the history geek in me came alive reading these books has never happened before, and gods, it was so much fun. (Maybe fun isn’t the right word, but it’s the closest to what I felt while immersed in these books.) I remember finishing the book and sending a link of it to my professors because I knew they’d love it just as much.
—A Trio to Reckon With: Whose your favourite fictional trio?
Rin, Venka and Kitay. I think these three are some of the best, albeit some of the most annoying at times, characters I’ve ever read. They’re compelling, irritating, heartbreaking, powerful, and the story wouldn’t be the same without them. I just think they’re very cool folks.
[SPOILERS] At the end of The Dragon Republic, for me it’s Rin, Kitay and Venka, and not Nezha because he doesn’t deserve any of them. Originally, when we put this tag together, my thinking was that the answer would include him, but fuck that, Nezha can rot in hell. We stan Venka in this house, who will send an arrow whistling past your ears without a second thought when you betray her or her friends. [SPOILERS]
—Companions for The Darkness: Tag your friends!
For this, I’m tagging Nandini, Maha, May, Rea, Joel, Fadwa, Hannah, Romie, Sara, and you! We’ve been through a lot with this series, some together and some apart, and I can’t wait to see your thoughts on the finale once it ends us all.
I’d like to thank the artists whose works I’ve featured in this post:
Thank you to Nidhi Shetty, who illustrated the feature image for this post (which you can find in PDF and .jpg above to use, too!). I love the illustration of Rin, the way the poppies catch fire and, and the glow of power and anger in Rin’s eyes. Thank you so much for creating this on such short notice, mate! I really love it.
Thank you to JungShan Chang for their brilliant work on the covers of The Poppy War trilogy for the US and UK editions, which were featured throughout the post. I’ve always found myself in awe of their art on this series, and just how well the attitude of Rin’s expressions is always depicted.
Thank you to Aentee, from Read At Midnight, whose Poppy War posters were used in the questions: Mad Gods & Their Maddening Powers and Immortals & Their Battles. I adore the way the colours work, and how well they fit the mood of the books. I really love the posters, and other book-inspired merch that Aentee has created, and I highly recommend checking them out!
Thank you to David Ardinaryas Lojaya for their work on the breathtaking Indonesian editions of The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic, featured in the question Fang Runin. I think, these are my favourite covers of the series, especially because I like the way the artist depicts the Phoenix god behind Rin, taking flight from her in book 1, and the way the dragon wraps around her, pulling her into a quiet, somber state in book 2.
Thank you to Merijae for their art of Kitay, featured in the No Stone Left Unturned question. I think it captured his kindness really well, and his messy hair is so cute in it. *Sigh* I love this dude.
Thank you to Nicole Deal for their lovely work on the character cards for The Gilded Wolves, one of which (of Laila) I featured in the Chosen One Schmosen One question. I really loved the way the artist depicts each character in every card (that was posted back when TGW was coming out) because after reading it, I saw just how well each one’s position, wardrobe, makeup and hair style matched their personality.
This tag was so much fun to create and do! I enjoyed screaming about the characters I loved in this series, and to talk about R. F. Kuang’s writing style, story arc, etc.. Every time I reread The Poppy War, I find myself finding something new to love. And when I reread The Dragon Republic, I suspect the same will happen. I can’t wait!
I hope you enjoy this tag as much as Nandini, Krisha and I did! We can’t wait to see your posts!
The Poppy War Book Tag posts from the creators:
—Vee @ Vanshika’s Books
—Nandini @ Novels and Nebulas
—Krisha @ Bookathon
Buy The Poppy War Trilogy by R. F. Kuang
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