Writing Grimdark Fantasy with R.F. Kuang, author of THE POPPY WAR
R.F. Kuang immigrated to the US from Guangzhou, China, in 2000. She has a BA in International History from Georgetown, where her research focused on Chinese military strategy, collective trauma, and war memorials. She’s a 2018 Marshall Scholar, and is attending University of Cambridge for a MPhil in Chinese Studies.
She graduated from Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016 and attended the CSSF Novel Writing Workshop in 2017. Her debut novel, The Poppy War (Harper Voyager), is the first installment in a trilogy that grapples with drugs, shamanism, and China’s bloody twentieth century.
Rebecca loves corgis, drinking nice wines she knows nothing about, and rewatching The Office.
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About The Poppy War
She is a peasant. She is a student. She is a soldier. She is a goddess.
When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to study 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 always thought they’d be able to marry Rin off to further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was now 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 the Nikara Empire—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Rin is targeted from the outset by rival classmates because of her color, poverty, and gender. Driven to desperation, she 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 her powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For even though the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied the Nikara Empire for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people in the Empire would rather forget their painful history, 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 who has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her her humanity.
And it may already be too late.
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