The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R. F. Kuang
First Publication Date: November 17th 2020
Synopsis: After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?
The Burning God is an intense, explosive and heartbreaking ending to The Poppy War Trilogy, which has my heart since book 1. We see Rin at her most desperate, cruel, vengeful and powerful, revered by the Nikara people as a goddess and savior. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it concluded the series in a way that makes me want to start it all over again and see how we got here. Rin is at her most erratic and I constantly disagreed with her actions, but still wanted her to survive it all, to rule Nikan. Rin is an incredible character and one of my favorites in all fantasy. It’s truly a pleasure to read her, even when she makes stupid decisions and made me wonder if she was slowly turning from hero to villain. The decisions she makes in this installment put on focus the greyness of her character and I think this is where The Poppy War truly shines: in making all the characters feel so real. Kitay, Nezha, Venka, Daji and all others also felt well-rounded, complex, flawed and still so easy to love.
My main issue with The Burning God (which was also a complaint I made on The Dragon Republic) is that this felt so slow and long. This book is nearly 700 pages long and although I appreciate the thoroughness, and how the author tied as many knots as possible and gave us plenty, plenty of delicious revenge scenes, it felt a bit too indulgent and like it could have been 100 pages shorter, to the point where I more or less sped-read some parts.
Where The Dragon Republic was very strategy and military heavy, The Burning God is all military and revenge. The first half of the book goes by in a flurry of gore, fire and rage and it’s the best half in my opinion. Watching Rin become a symbol more than a person was incredible, and I felt that I, too, would have followed her anywhere.
This series is one of the best fantasies out there and I’m sad it is over, but also excited to re-read it and perhaps notice more the foreshadowing, the details, the history I missed out on the first time around. The world building is both complex and fascinating, a cruel and war-ravaged land where gods can be summoned, and each of the characters feels so incredibly real. I am very impressed by The Poppy War, thought The Burning God was a great finale, and look forward to reading more by the author!