‘The Poppy War’ trilogy by R.F. Kuang perhaps now my favourite fantasy young adult book series; as a fan of high fantasy media, it does a brilliant job of interweaving fantasy with real historical politics.

Kuang is perhaps the writer who taught me through her writing style how to write in order to prove a point utilising gripping and engaging fiction: at the beginning the first book, the 15 year old war-orphan protagonist, Runin “Rin” Fang, is forced between marrying a man more than twice her age, or taking the Keju (a national exam) in which she has to take first place in order for her to enter Sinegard Academy.

Sinegard Academy is a prestigious military academy within the Nikan Empire, and there Rin has to face large amounts of prejudice as a result of her social class, her gender, and her skintone.

While warfare is the main theme of the trilogy, following Rin as she attempts to navigate the complex political forces of Nikan, Kuang never specifically determines that any of these parties are right or wrong; this is particularly what I love so much about the books, as they break down navigates difficult issues such as prejudice, religious oppression, and conflict, as well as exploring Rin’s, and other character’s struggle with substance abuse. It looks upon complicated topics - such as genocide - from two entirely different perspectives; Kuang based Rin on Mao Zedong, one of history’s most controversial figures, and makes a point to make every choice that Rin makes seem justified from her perspective, never making her desperation and urgency seem out of character.

The trilogy is certainly not for the feint of heart, but it is something so incredibly gripping and well written that I would highly recommend for anyone to read - it is one of those few series that I found myself stalling to finish so I can continue the engaging gripping tale. Being so obviously written to prove arguments upon reflection is so effective as it allows us to ponder on it’s existence, and how other things may have played out if Rin wasn't forced into fighting for her life at ever turn of the series.