book review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang



(The Poppy War #2)
Harper Voyager, August 6, 2019


I was never going to love The Dragon Republic as much as The Poppy War, so let’s get that out of the way; The Poppy War is a book of two halves, and I preferred the first. However, it was still a 5 star read for me (review here), and with Kuang’s assertions on Twitter that The Dragon Republic was an objectively superior book, I was still cautiously optimistic about the sequel. And I didn’t hate it, but I’m disappointed.

Pacing is an issue in both of these books; in The Poppy War, things happen too fast; it feels like two books crammed into one. But I really didn’t mind that – I read a lot of literary fiction, so when I venture into genre fiction it’s with entirely different expectations and needs to be met – I like a bit of nonstop action in my fantasy as long as it doesn’t get too overwhelming, which I don’t think it did. But with The Dragon Republic the issue is the exact opposite. Nothing – and I cannot stress this enough – happens for the first three quarters of this book. Where The Poppy War feels like two books for the price of one, The Dragon Republic feels like a novella stretched out thin across 500 pages. Things of course do happen, technically, but there is so much filler. Stakes feel low (a problem that The Poppy War certainly did not have), because for the major part of this book, it feels like you’re spinning your wheels and still waiting for the main players to enter the ring.

But let’s talk about what I did like: the characters and the setting are some of my favorites from any fantasy series that I have ever read. The returning characters are as complex, endearing, and frustrating as ever, and the new characters shine as well – Vaisra in particular is a brilliant creation. And if The Dragon Republic has one thing that’s superior to The Poppy War, it’s the world building and the magic system, which is infinitely more fleshed out here with some truly fascinating developments.

It took me three months to read this, but I want to stress that every time I did pick it up, I enjoyed it. The issue is that I just seldom reached for it. I really hope this is just second book syndrome, and I do think one thing that Kuang was able to achieve with this book was laying a really solid foundation for whatever is to come next (and with that ending, I can promise you that the third book is going to destroy me). But even though I would still recommend this series wholeheartedly, this just wasn’t as good as The Poppy War, much as it pains me to say it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

You can pick up a copy of The Poppy War here on Book Depository, and The Dragon Republic here.

17 thoughts on “book review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

    • The very opposite of your brand 😂I do really think you’d like the first book though, and even with this one I was never bored while I was actually reading, it just never really called to me after I set it down. So yes, still recommended! I hope I didn’t scare you off too badly.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ugh. I want to be done with this as well – but for this to happen I really need to pick it up, which I just never do.
    Wonderful review! Even if you are making me scared about the ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GOD I really hope I don’t struggle with this!! “Novella stretched into 500 pages” sounds like my absolute nightmare; you know me and my struggle with slow-paced books lmao!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My advice is to just power through?? Don’t do what I did and stretch it out for 3 months lmao – maybe if you have momentum it’ll be a more painless read and the (great) conclusion will hit you harder. By the time I got to the end I was just like GREAT I DON’T CARE I’M READY TO BE DONE. (I mean, I will care in the third book when shit gets real because she set something up that is going to DESTROY ME UGH!!!!) Anyway. Good luck, and lmk your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh, second book syndrome can be so disappointing.
    The Poppy War is on my “books to get to before the end of the year” list (I can’t believe it’s almost that time of year already!) but I know I do better with a slower middle book if I wait until the hype for the next book starts building up, so maybe I should wait with this one…
    I hope book 3 is more your speed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’ll really like The Poppy War!! And hopefully you like this one more than I did, if you decide to continue with the series – I’ve been telling people that I advise them just to plow through it and not drag out the reading experience for three months like I did. I mean, it was a perfectly fine book, and it did not need to take me that long. I’m sure I would have appreciated it more with more momentum.

      I hope so too, thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw this in a bookstore the other day and was tempted to get it, but I remembered it was taking you a while to get through so I held off. 500 page novella…………………….yikes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • IT’S LIKE…….. I still think you should read it at some point, especially as the third book promises to be so good (the conflict we’re left with at the end of TDR is….. a lot) but it’s hard to recommend since it was such a meh experience for me. I’d library book this one tbh.

      Liked by 1 person

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