The Burning God: Book Review

Nothing Lasts – and sadly, that applies to R.F Kuang’s captivating and explosive Poppy War series, which concludes with an epic finale in The Burning God: out November 17th.  In a series that has continued to raise the stakes, delve into critical interrogations of colonization and racism, examine the destruction and fallout of war and trauma, and capture hearts with its compelling characters, The Burning God succeeds in both building upon the two previous books and concluding the series with gravitas.

At the conclusion of The Dragon Republic, Rin is left reeling from Nezha’s betrayal and realizations about Vaisra’s character and goals – and has few allies left by her side. After being ousted from the Republic and the deaths of the remaining Cike, Rin is on the run, licking her wounds and desperately regrouping as she anticipates war with both Nezha and the Hesperians as they seek to colonize Nikara. The Burning God picks back up with Rin dealing with this fallout and follows the questions she’s been asking herself for years now: after all she has lost, what is Rin willing to do to get her revenge and to save her country, and just how far will she go to achieve those goals?

The Burning God is a masterpiece in its complexities and expansive worldbuilding. Developing the themes of colonization, Western expansion, eugenics, and racism/colorism that were introduced in The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic, the novel digs deep into the mindset of colonialism and its affects on both peoples. Rin serves as a focal point as she grapples with her own learned racist thinking and struggles to define her own truth about her people – separate from that of the Hesperians’ colonialist and racist perceptions of her and her people. The Burning God is nuanced and unflinching as it examines the pervasive ways colonialist thinking has seeped into the Nikaran empire, as well as examining the colorism and racism that existed in Nikara prior to the Third Poppy War; Rin once again has to examine her own identity, her own understanding of her history and heritage, and confront her past actions when she worked so hard to distance herself from her identity as a Southerner. The Burning God is a stunning anti-colonialist novel, where Rin’s struggle is not romanticized, but speaks true and is representative of her and her people’s defiance and determination, as well as their realistic imperfections and their struggles with colorism and classism in the Nikaran empire.

In this epic conclusion, threads carefully woven through the series come together in explosive and terrifying fight scenes and emotionally fraught character-driven encounters. Rin and Nezha, enemies to allies to enemies once more – and who have served as foils for each other – will once again drive the plot along in The Burning God as their fight against each other becomes another Nikaran war, with the threat of Hesperian colonization looming in the horizon. Rin’s struggle with her thirst for power, desire for vengeance, and her ambition still haunt her throughout the book and she will have to decide once and for all how far she’ll go to save her country – and if there will be anyone left standing once her war is finally over. The Burning God is an incredible story that brings Rin’s journey to its end: the story of a poor, dark-skinned Southern girl who found power, and who used it to burn down the world in attempt to create something better. It’s up the readers to decide if, in the end, Rin succeeded – and if the price she and the world paid was worth it.

Link to buy The Burning God below:

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