Kuang’s debut is a thought-provoking, coming-of-age fairytale stocked with myths, legends, lore, politics and power struggles. The narrative is an impactful, impressive symphony of words that grant life to this incredible morality tale. Setting the stage for an epic fantasy is an understandably enormous undertaking, but Kuang does an exceptional job of world and character building. The first half of The Poppy War has an expected slower pace, but the second half is rich with a brutal, beautiful bevy of bloody battles.

Sixteen-year-old Rin, a Poppy War orphan living in the poorest part of the Nikan Empire, did the impossible. She aced the Keju test which took her from her hopeless life and into the prestigious and highly acclaimed Academies in Sinegard. Unfortunately acceptance doesn’t remove the stain of being a poor southern orphan. She is shunned by her highborn classmates and some teachers. But she has something none of them have: a determination to succeed at all costs. She better pay attention, because ready or not, another Poppy War is coming. (HARPER VOYAGER, May, 544 pp., $26.99)

Reviewed by: 
Debbie Haupt