The Poppy War


This was a recommendation from a ‘best’ list over at Goodreads. It sounded interesting, and there were comments about its similarities to The Name of the Wind, which is a book I enjoyed.

There’s a similarity in that the protagonist, Rin, goes to an academy, although that’s about it.

Despite being a fairly long book (500+ pages) the plot covers a long time period and so it still feels rushed. I was thankful it didn’t waste chapters covering the studying required by Rin to get into the school, but it then felt disjointed as it bounded through academic years and into the subsequent events.

While it sped through so much, one area it decided to linger for an inordinate amount of time was one of the massacres. The author seemed to revel in going into endless detail about how people had been tortured, murdered, raped and mutilated. After listening to ten minutes or so, I had to skip through a few minutes because it just didn’t end.

Although a fictional place, it’s clearly tied to the Japanese invasion during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The experimentation and tactics were taken straight from those used by Unit 731 — similar atrocities to the ones carried out by the Nazis in concentration camps.

This was completely over the top and needless. Coming across as some sort of bitter muckracking rather than a plot device.

** spoilers **

At its heart, there’s a conflict in the main character, with warnings about the power she can access, yet her desire to embrace it. The assumption is that she will resist and we will see why this was a good decision. It therefore fell flat when the reverse is true, doubly so when it turned out Rin could control her power and therefore she was actually the monster.

Overall, it’s both too long and too short. Either less time needed to be covered in more detail, or it needed to be longer. The plot is a mess, the character development static and the action both confusing and pointless. I was willing to put this down to a poor translation job, but it wasn’t translated.

The further I went, hoping there would be some part worth it, the more I simply wanted it to end.

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Reviewed: 7th October 2019