Hello friends! I’m finally here with the last
three two books I read for my five star predictions post, sharing if they’ve lived up to my expectations, or not. As you can see, I crossed out the number three there, and that is because I’m unsure when I’ll get to the final book – The Darkest Legacy – on my first star predictions list.
I’ve been putting off posting this recap for months and months, and I feel ridiculous about that at this point, so I decided to go ahead and post it as is, with only two mini reviews inside it. I swear I’ll get to The Darkest Legacy one day – hopefully later this year! – but as of right now, I really just want to mark this post series as (semi) complete, because I’m tired of seeing this post in my drafts, lmao.
On a side note, yes, this is an extra post, as I’m publishing it on Monday because (1) I have so many posts scheduled at this point and it’s a pain to rearrange them, (2) I’m publishing a new five star prediction post on Saturday, so stay tuned for that!
THE POPPY WAR BY R.F. KUANG
When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
If I’m being honest, I think I expected a little bit more from The Poppy War, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a masterful debut fantasy. From the first page, I was captivated; I loved reading about Rin’s journey and I found her character to be well-written and realistically flawed. I’ve seen some badly written portrayals of soldier or assassin schools – *cough cough* Nevernight – but Rin’s time at Sinegard kept me hooked. I loved reading about her progress, the challenges she faced, as well as about her classes.
My issues started with the supporting cast. While there were outstanding figures in there, overall, I was underwhelmed by most of the side characters; the main issue being that there are so many of them. We meet with a bunch of characters during Rin’s days at Sinegard.. just to then be given a new cast of characters later on. While some familiar faces appear from the past, the majority of the side characters are ones we haven’t or barely seen before, and between the war and Rin’s shamanic training, there’s no time for us to get truly acquainted with them. This is probably the reason why, even though I was sad to see the deaths of The Poppy War, I certainly wasn’t devastated by them.
Even so, The Poppy War is a solid novel – it kept me captivated for the most part (the middle dragged a bit, but other than that? I couldn’t put it down), and gave me an incredible new favorite in Rin. Since reading and reviewing The Poppy War, I was able to tackle both of its sequels and I found them worthy follow-ups to the first book.
WARBREAKER BY BRANDON SANDERSON
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.
Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.
By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.
Even though Warbreaker took me more than two months to finish, it wasn’t a bad book at all… even if it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. This is my fourth Brandon Sanderson book and I can confidently say that the man knows how to create an engaging, unique world. From the first page, I was intrigued and taken in by this fantasy world, and I loved that we got a combination of main characters who were already experienced and who were completely new to the magic system. This allowed me to slowly get acquainted with the world through the newbies’ perspective, while I also got to see the more complex sides of the system through the experienced characters’ eyes.
But high fantasy is more than just the world-building, and I think this is where Sanderson tends to stumble. While the plot is solid in Warbreaker, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the characters, and there was a main character I actively disliked for much of the novel. (Also, can we talk about the fact that Sanderson is not the best at writing female characters?) Here’s the thing – if I read a 600+ pages long book that has multiple likable characters, I should care deeply about some of them by the end. Well, I didn’t. There was one character death in particular that I believe should be able to hurt readers but.. I just didn’t care.
To sum it up, Warbreaker is a solid high fantasy novel – it has an exceptionally good world building, a fairly engaging plot, and alright characters. Thankfully, the first two managed to make up for the characters lacking something special that would have made me love them. In any case, I still enjoyed this book a lot, so I would recommend it, especially to readers who already like Sanderson’s books. Also, this may be a good introduction to high / epic fantasy for those new to the genre, as its world and magic system are explained fairly early and we learn about them alongside the characters.
In my previous reflection post, I rated 3 out of the 4 reviewed books five stars, which is better than rating two out of two books four stars, but nonetheless, I’m really-really happy I read these two books. Like I said, both of these were very solid books I’d recommend to people, especially to fans of high fantasy. I feel like the fact that both of these are super hyped novels made it a bit difficult for me not to build up unrealistically high expectations, which may have negative impacted my enjoyment of the books.
How good are you at predicting how much you’ll enjoy a book? What’s the last book you expected to LOVE and it ended up 1000% living up to those expectations? Have you read either of these books?