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Book Review: The Poppy War

Book Review: The Poppy War

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Series:  The Poppy War (Book 1)

Genre: Fantasy, military fantasy

First published: 1st May 2018 by Harper Voyager (US) & 3rd May 2018 by Harper Voyager (UK)


I wanted to love The Poppy War quite desperately given its inspiration (and gorgeous cover).

The Poppy War is firstly a welcome change to the standard western Europe medieval setting and secondly, it is an allegory to the history of China. The narrative casts a harsh light on the brutal history of early 20th century China, specifically the genocide of the Nanjing Massacre. The mythology and culture present in the story are also so closely depicted that the novel almost reads like historical fiction, albeit in a secondary world.

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Fire and Blood (A Targaryen History, #1)

Fire and Blood (A Targaryen History, #1)

Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good and unnecessary comprehensive historical overview of the Targaryen Kings.

The aesthetic of this book is gorgeous; easily one of the most beautiful books I own. I mean it, the cover art of both editions are stunning, the typography inside the book is beautiful, the font used (Centaur) was easy to read, and most of all, Doug Wheatley’s artworks were simply spectacular to look at. As for enjoyment factor, I really wouldn’t call this an enjoyable read, it was more like a homework reading that I gladly imposed upon myself on my own will. This book took me almost three weeks to read; that’s an extremely long time for me to spend reading on a single book. For a bit of comparison, I finished reading The Crippled God (385k words) in four days and Oathbringer (450k words) in six days.

Picture: King Aegon I On Balerion the Black Dread by Doug Wheatley

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The Perfect Assassin (The Chronicles of Ghadid, #1)

The Perfect Assassin (The Chronicles of Ghadid, #1)

I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

A decent debut, The Perfect Assassin impressed me most with its fascinating worldbuilding.

It is refreshing to see more and more fantasy releases of late not relying on the more traditional Europe-centric medieval setting for its worldbuilding. In The Perfect Assassin, the setting was decidedly Middle Eastern with an interesting twist. Ghadid was a city built hundreds of feet above sand dunes, made up of numerous connected platforms balanced on top of pylons. As the spirits of the deceased roam the sand dunes seeking for new bodies, such construction of the city was meant as a form of protection. The possession of such spirits can render a person mad, and sometimes even kill. My favourite element in the worldbuilding was the currency of water, which fit well into the desert scenario. The commodity was not only precious for sustaining life, it also powered miraculous healing and the magic needed to control the deadly spirits. As such, the deliberate act of wasting water can bring about a death sentence.

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Balam, Spring

Balam, Spring

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A serene and enjoyable slice-of-life fantasy with whodunit element.

When I was first offered Balam, Spring to review by the author, I wasn’t sure when I was going to read it. However, hearing that Final Fantasy IX (Final Fantasy is one of my top favorite gaming franchise of all time) was the main inspiration for this book, I immediately pushed this to become one of my priority read. Balam, Spring belongs heavily in the slice-of-life fantasy genre. For those of you who don’t know about this genre, you can search the meaning online but I usually relate slice of life to the depiction or exploration of characters normal life; most of them dealing with daily or uneventful activities. Although I’m quite a fan of this genre in anime format, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I attempted reading a slice of life novel. Because of this, I feel like the only way I can explain my feelings about this book properly is by dividing my review clearly into what worked and didn’t; by correlating my experience of reading/watching a slice-of-life story.

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A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Feast for Crows was quite good but it’s far below the incredible standard set by the previous three books.

I’ve mentioned in my previous review that A Storm of Swords could truly be the height of Martin’s writing career and I still stand by that statement confidently. Unfortunately, there’s a huge chance that this book will be the other way around by being the lowest point of the series. There’s a lot of circumstances to consider here. If I’ve waited 5 years before I read this book, I definitely would’ve hated it and give this at max 2 stars rating. If I haven’t received any warning on the odd structure of the story and character’s POV choices, I most likely would’ve disliked it more. If I haven’t watched the TV series, I probably would’ve enjoyed or disliked it more. And if I haven’t read A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms or in the midst of reading The World of Ice and Fire, again, I most likely will dislike this book even more. Putting all circumstances into consideration, my experience of reading A Feast for Crows wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it was truly a disappointment after the brilliance of the previous book.

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The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons, #1)

The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons, #1)

ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Convoluted and complex are probably understatements, but I don’t have any other words to describe the main attributes of this debut.

For those of you who don’t know, The Ruin of Kings have been the fantasy debut that Tor has been promoting heavily for several months now. This novel has been advertised as the debut of the year that’s targeted “For fans of George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss”. I’ll be completely honest here, if any publisher or author decides to put all of these giant, super high profile fantasy authors’ references into a debut work by an unknown author, it seriously better be a masterpiece. I’m one of those readers who had their interest for this book sparked by that bold claim, and I jumped at the chance of reading and reviewing it early; expecting it to be a debut that will go down into my ‘best of all time’ lists. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

“A hero who has never had a bad thing happen to him isn’t a hero—he’s just spoiled.”

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The Fall of Gondolin

The Fall of Gondolin

The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here it is, the third and final Great Tales of Middle-Earth in its full form. Not really.

This was my first time reading The Fall of Gondolin and I must say it reminded me of the Trojan War. I’ll be honest that I don’t have a lot of things to say regarding this book. I can seriously copy paste my Beren and Luthien review with a few tweaks and it would describe my thoughts on the book appropriately.

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Forge of Darkness (The Kharkanas Trilogy, #1)

Forge of Darkness (The Kharkanas Trilogy, #1)

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forge of Darkness displayed Erikson at the top of his prose but unfortunately, the book was bogged down by too much too much too much TOO MUCH philosophies.

Before I get to that though, let me just say that it’s quite baffling that there’s a list that recommends starting Malazan from Forge of Darkness instead of Gardens of the Moon. I’ve read and loved the main series but this novel took the cake for being the most difficult to get into. If I haven’t read the main series, this would be at best a 2 stars read. I’m not kidding, the saving grace of this novel was Erikson’s prose and the knowledge on what the characters will do in the future, this is only possible if the reader has read the main series, Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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War Cry

War Cry

Review copy provided by the publisher—Tor.com—in exchange for an honest review.

War Cry by Brian McClellan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

War Cry was good but in my opinion it would’ve worked so much better as a full novel.

Teado, a Changer, a shape-shifting military asset used for military purposes. He and his platoon have been stranded on the Bavares high plains for years. Desperate, he and his platoon jumped at the chance for a super risky resupply mission. This was a very quick read, not only the length of the novella is short, the story itself was very fast-paced and action-oriented; it took me approximately one hour to finish the book in one sitting.

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The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this book over a week ago. Why haven’t you reviewed it and moved on already, you may ask? Well, I have this compulsive thing about reviewing a book immediately, so I’ve just been totally ignoring the fact that I completed it. This delay is partly due to the fact that I’ve been insanely busy and too tired to read more than a handful of pages a day, much less having time to properly formulate a response to what I’ve read. But the other cause for the delay is that mediocre books are the hardest to review. And as much as I’ve been loving King the past few years and have enjoyed binge-reading his work every October, that’s what this book was for me: mediocre.

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