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Image credit: From author's website. Photo by Kobi C. Felton.

Serier

Værker af R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War (2018) 4,480 eksemplarer
Yellowface (2023) 2,003 eksemplarer
The Dragon Republic (2019) 1,762 eksemplarer
The Burning God (2020) 1,373 eksemplarer
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2023 (2023) — Redaktør — 63 eksemplarer
The Drowning Faith 35 eksemplarer
The Poppy War Collection (2021) 29 eksemplarer
Katabasis 2 eksemplarer
Against All Odds — Forfatter — 1 eksemplar
Katabasis: A Novel 1 eksemplar

Associated Works

The Book of Dragons: An Anthology (2020) — Bidragyder — 216 eksemplarer
A Summer Beyond Your Reach: Stories (2020) — Oversætter — 32 eksemplarer
Uncanny Magazine Issue 21: March/April 2018 (2018) — Bidragyder — 11 eksemplarer
The Writer's Book of Doubt (2019) — Bidragyder — 11 eksemplarer
New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction (2022) — Oversætter — 10 eksemplarer
Clarkesworld: Issue 158 (November 2019) (2019) — Oversætter, nogle udgaver4 eksemplarer
Uncanny Magazine: The Best of 2018 — Bidragyder, nogle udgaver2 eksemplarer

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The Poppy War is the first novel in the Poppy War trilogy by R.F. Kuang.

Content Note: rape, genocide

Plot:
Rin is a war orphan, living with an unkind foster family who sell opium and exploit her however they can. Now they are planning to sell her into marriage. Rin has only one chance to get out: take the Keju, a national academic test and hope to get placed so high she can get an education instead of a husband. Much to everybody’s surprise, Rin not only passes the test, she is one of only a handful of students to be accepted into the military academy in Sinegard, Nikan’s capital. With war between Nikan and Mugen always a possibility, Rin throws herself into her studies.

The Poppy War is rather exciting with its unusual setting. Despite some very familiar elements within that setting, I am curious to see where the story takes us in the next books. Probably nowhere good.

Read more on my blog: https://kalafudra.com/2024/03/13/the-poppy-war-r-f-kuang/
… (mere)
 
Markeret
kalafudra | 138 andre anmeldelser | Apr 20, 2024 |
Quizlit’s Book of the Month July 2023 is Yellowface by R.F. Kuang. It’s her fifth novel and the first outside the Fantasy Genre.

June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be rising stars of the literary world. However while Athena’s now a superstar, June Hayward’s first book flopped and there might not be a second.

After a night out together for a few drinks, they end up back at Athena’s luxury apartment. A drunken decision to make pancakes unfortunately leads to the freak choking death of Athena. While waiting for the emergency services, June finds Athena’s unfinished manuscript, a novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I. The temptation was too great….

June edits and finishes Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own. A new publisher rebrands her as Juniper Song complete with an ambiguous ethnic author photo. The book is a huge hit and June/Juniper is catapulted into the spotlight.

But June is haunted by Athena’s shadow, and as the secret emerges, it threatens to bring Juniper’s success down around her. As June races to cover her trail, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks is rightfully hers.

Yellowface tackles questions of racism and cultural appropriation, as well as the terrifying attention of social media. It also provides an insight into the ruthless world of publishing. R.F. Kuang’s novel is a brilliant satire, thrilling, spiky and thought-provoking.

You can read more about R.F Kuang on my book of the month article
https://quizlit.org/book-of-the-month-july-2023
… (mere)
 
Markeret
Quizlitbooks | 92 andre anmeldelser | Apr 20, 2024 |
This was like watching a car crash. I couldn’t look away. Almost every character involved was self-serving and driven by an absolute narcissistic desire for success, but the author was so good and you are so invested in what happens next. The whole plot is really digging at a deeper issue of cultural history and authorship. The ever present threat of social media’s ire gave it and added weight. Lived up to the hype for me.
 
Markeret
bookworm12 | 92 andre anmeldelser | Apr 19, 2024 |
My TL;DR, spoiler-free review: Inconsistent and often lazy world-building combined with a very unlikable main character make this a difficult read but the ending opens up the possibility of interesting character development for Rin and the magic system is unique and interesting. Given this is Kuang's first book and how young she was when she wrote this, there is potential that the other books in the series are better and so there's a chance I don't abandon the series just yet.

Time to delve deeper.

The lazy world-building: Fantasy novels are generally influenced and inspired by actual history and mythology, but there's being inspired by history and then there's lazily pulling from history in an inconsistent manner.

At Sinegard Academy Rin studies Principles of War by Sunzi (alternative spelling of Sun Tzu, the author of Art of War), she also reads Fuzi (alternative spelling of Confucious's given name) and Zhuangzi (alternative spelling of Chuang-Tzu, one of the founders of Daoism). In history class, Rin's teacher refers to the last 100 years as the Age of Humiliation (The last one hundred years of the Qing Dynasty was referred to as the Century of Humiliation by early 20th-century Chinese nationalists). There's nothing in the names or history of Nikkara (Manchurian for China, and Manchurians ruled China at this time in our history) that doesn't come directly from actual Chinese history, it's not so much inspired by China as it is taking China.

But then there are other parts of Chinese history that got left behind, the tactics proposed by Rin in her strategy class are ripped from Romance of the Three Kingdoms but are seen by her master as things she invented. So that didn't get transferred over. Jiang credits the invention of martial arts in that world to Bodhidharma, who in our world was a Buddhist monk (and early martial artist). But then there's nothing Buddhist related in any of the religions that Rin studies.

The gods are all taken from actual Chinese gods, but some like Sanshengmu are given their actual names while others are just named after their animal spirit, like the monkey god. Half the characters are given actual Chinese names, but then the other half are fantasy-sounding names.

And it's the inconsistencies that break immersion. It doesn't feel like Kuang spent time building this world, but more wanted early 20th China but slightly different as the setting for her story.

The other countries too. Hesperia is Latin for Spain and a stand-in for the European colonial powers. Incidentally, Spain didn't really ever have a colonial presence in China, unlike Britain, France, Portugal, Russia, and Germany.

On Rin: I like to say I'm a fan of character development, but a character going from being driven and headstrong to the confused emotional wreck Rin is for half the book just isn't a character arc that makes an interesting read to me. I get that Rin is supposed to be the antagonist and that we're supposed to see Rin's slide towards amorality. I just don't like the way it was done.

Her story at the beginning is endearing. The first 1/6th of the story makes you like Rin. She's an underdog, she takes the Keju test in hopes that it will allow her to escape this potentially awful life, and thanks to her hard work and intelligence she scores well enough to get into the most elite academy in the empire. And there she's a serious underdog. She's a peasant, she's a girl, she's from the poorest province in the empire. Any of those facts would make it unlikely that she'd ever get into Sinegard, but the fact that she was able to overcome all three shows just how intelligent and hardworking Rin is when you realize just how much resources rich, aristocrats pour into helping their sons prepare for Sinegard.

Now immediately after getting into Sinegard, there's a slight flag raised early about what she's going to become when she turns to violence way too quickly in her first interaction with Nezha, but that interaction overall didn't really bother me, nothing wrong with a hotheaded main character, especially because her story remained endearing enough.

But getting into Sinegard isn't enough, she has to stay there, and she spends much of her first year coming close to flunking out due to the discrimination she faces from fellow students as well as teachers (as well as the superior resources and prep the aristocratic students had). Early on she makes an interesting choice, getting a hysterectomy to avoid getting periods, which was totally in keeping with her character showing how driven she is and how quickly she's prepared to sacrifice anything to achieve what she wants.

And so up till this point in the story, most readers really like and sympathize with Rin, she is driven by the need to survive and seems to be pretty intelligent and resourceful in order to succeed. But it's at this point that her motivation starts to change, many don't notice this change until much later, but I was bothered by it.

What made Rin endearing was her need to survive against overwhelming odds, but now she has relief, Jiang takes her as a disciple and at this point it's more or less guaranteed that she'll pass, but that's no longer good enough for her. Now it's about being as strong and powerful as possible.

When Jiang realizes how power-hungry she is, he ghosts her. That probably wasn't the right way to react but he was totally right to be disappointed in her there (and man will that same disappointment permeate going forward), but fortunately for Rin by this point it's too late, he's taught her just enough about her powers that when enraged enough she loses control, and now he has to keep teaching her, just in hopes she'll learn control. And he never succeeds, she frequently pushes boundaries, and wants to use the spiritualism Jiang is teaching her to make herself stronger, rather than for the spiritual reasons Jiang wants.

As a slight aside, I don't like that Rin's a speerly. Tearza's ghost really wanted to protect her from the Pheonix and failed. But I sorta liked that Rin chose the Pheonix over her lust for power despite all cautions against it, and I felt like her choosing the Pheonix because that's her people's 'God' takes away from that. In any case, that lust for power is present early, which sorta makes the supposed character arc Rin undergoes from then on a frustratingly pointless one.

So the war begins and Rin instantly becomes this mess of an emotional wreck. Her first actual combat, after being this well-trained tactical genius praised by the greatest military strategist alive, she's left a blubbering mess leading up to and during her first battle. I didn't like this change. I get why this was done, Kuang wanted to show that thinking you're prepared for war and actually being prepared are night and day, and also that the trauma of war changes people. I thought it was done too quickly, it wasn't the war that changed her it wasn't experiencing combat, the fear started before her first battle and it persisted all the way to the end of the novel.

I like to say I'm a fan of character development, and I've enjoyed stories about characters going down increasingly dark paths, but a huge problem I had with Rin's development was just how much it seesawed. Multiple times she went from wanting the power of the gods to fearing it and wanting to follow Jiang's teachings, to quickly wanting it again. And this seesawing stays right till the end of the book, when at one moment she happily justifies what she did, the next she's confused, and the next she's comfortable with it.

I think Kuang wanted to paint Rin as a confused teenager in over her head, but this characterization disappointed me given how different it is from the Rin we saw in part 1, especially given how much she had to overcome to get to where she was. It's also a break from actual history. Rin is loosely based on Mao Zedong, who was in his 30s to 50s during the events that inspired Rin's story. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if we're trying to explore how humans turn to evil, I'm not sure making the character a confused teenager is necessarily the best approach.

So overall, I get what the book was trying to do, and it's not a bad novel for a first-time author. I liked the magic system, which I didn't really talk about but you can see thousands of reviews praising that and other aspects of the book. But it's not enough to get immersed in the story and I can't overlook this book's flaws.

2/5
… (mere)
 
Markeret
Eutheria | 138 andre anmeldelser | Apr 18, 2024 |

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Værker
13
Also by
9
Medlemmer
14,280
Popularitet
#1,613
Vurdering
3.9
Anmeldelser
405
ISBN
134
Sprog
9
Udvalgt
12

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