After causing the fall of Mugen and the ending the Third Poppy War, Rin is on the run. Hiding from her vengeful god, who rises to wreak havoc, hiding from the Empress who sold out her country, while plotting her revenge. But the Cike is a only a few numbers and with no other options, Rin must join the Dragon Warlord, who plans to remove the Empress and establish a brand new Republic. Struggling to control her power, Rin throws herself into the democratic turmoil, learning that the Empress holds darker secrets than she first anticipated and the Dragon Warlord’s beliefs are not what she expected. She might have ended the Third War, but another is about to begin and Rin will do anything to exact her revenge.
I had put off reading The Dragon Republic for so long. After reading the emotional turmoil that was The Poppy War back in 2018, my anticipation for its sequel, The Dragon Republic, was sky high. Life got in the way and a pandemic finally gave me time to read its sequel in time for the finale. The Poppy War was a wild fire start, burning from the first page. We witnessed Rin grow from a young child, unaware of her past to a young adult, that quite literally lit the world on fire. The Dragon Republic continues straight from the aftermath of TPW, Rin is tired and confused, while also battling the literal god that resides within her. She had ended the Mugen Federation overnight, but now she must face the consequences, and prepare for her next move: killing the Empress. Which is hard enough when her band of friends are labelled enemies of the Nikan Empire, and Rin struggles to control herself without the use of opium.
If you’re expecting the same energy of TPW, you might be disappointed by the pacing of its sequel. TPW was more fast paced while The Dragon Republic takes its time, and for good reason. Rin has always had the mindset of a soldier, fight first, think later. So she’s certainly hits a wall when she joins the Dragon Warlord’s fight, and for the first time, having to think diplomatically, and to go up against seasoned soldiers and qualified warlords, who see her as nothing but a demon from the South.
Like TPW, its sequel is equally unique and stands out as a strong sequel and middle book. Kuang does not falter in her story, her characters, old and new, shine through each page. Each new chapter brings suspense and drama, and with an ending that I couldn’t even imagine, I have complete faith in Kuang to complete this trilogy with a bang. Like I mentioned before, the pacing is much slower, and this helped a lot because the playing field is much larger than TPW, where much of its story was contained within the Academy, now we follow Rin as she travels through most of Nikara, visiting locations that were only mentioned by name. And Kuang opens the world in such a vivid way, her writing is on point and consistent through the novel, leaving no dull moments in Rin’s journey.
One thing that Kuang does best is her characters. Each stands out on their own, and have grown remarkably from their first introduction. Rin, of course, has changed the most, now with a power that even she isn’t sure she can control. At first, I found myself quite frustrated with her actions, but then I had to realise this is a whole new ball park for her. Reeling from the loss of Altan, his presence remains throughout the novel in everyone as they realise that Rin is not Altan and she has to rise above her own expectations. Kitay, a personal favourite, remains headstrong but Rin’s actions have left him with conflicting feelings as everything Rin knows completely uproots his entire way of thought. The Cike, while also mourning the loss of their leader, rise to the forefront of this sequel. Chaghan tries his best to help Rin regain control of her power. His prophecies continues to confuse Rin, and creates even more tension as they fail to understand them again or refuse to admit to their truths. The Cike falter under new control, but Rin tries her hardest to live up to Altan’s leadership.
Overall, The Dragon Republic exceeded any and all expectations I had for a sequel. I intentionally missed out on some details that I adored on this review because it should be a surprise to the readers. What I loved the most was that Nikara gets an greater expansion in this sequel. We follow Rin and her crew all over, from the islands surrounding to the major city within. The worldbuilding is a crucial aspect for a series like this and Kuang does it well. We continue to learn more about the myths, prophecies, and general backstory to the history Nikara and how it ended up in the state that it’s in currently. The Empress, Su Daji, gets a great spotlight and in-depth backstory and when she inevitably clashes against Rin, it’s dangerous and thrilling. I have no idea what to expect in its finale, Burning God, but whatever the outcome, I know this series is already cemented as an all-time favourite.