When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn 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 believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was 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 Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin 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 those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, 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 that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
TW: rape, violence, self harm, genocide, war, drug abuse
~Things I Liked~
- I typically like a very violent fantasy. This book delivers that. And much more. This is not a light book to read. There isn’t a lot of violence in the beginning of the book. It builds up and the book seems to get more and more violent the more you read. Do keep in mind, this book is graphic and some of these scenes are not for everyone. Heck, this book isn’t for everyone.
- I love the friendship between Rin and Kitay. They’re complete opposites. Rin knows there is violence in war and understands that people die. Kitay seems to want to stay as far away from violence as possible. He doesn’t think that innocents should have to die. He has a heart, basically. I think he compliments Rin and think he’s going to end up being her saving grace in the next book.
- I love Rin’s ambition. She was a peasant who wasn’t even expected to test will in the Keju due to her social status. She studied her ass off. She hurt herself to keep herself awake just to make sure she could make it into Sinegard so she wouldn’t have to pay for tuition. When she got there, she realized that schooling is different there. It’s tougher and unforgiving. There she meets allies and foes. She grows a lot at school. She learns so much about herself.
- I loved Jiang. He was one character who had a lot of personality to him. He was funny most of the time. Making stupid jokes and acting a fool. It was nice reading about someone who can be so lighthearted even in a time where they know they could go to war at any moment.
- I like the idea of Shamans. I like that you can call to a God and they can enter your body and use it. It’s a crazy concept. One that I think will end up destroying Rin in the end of The Dragon Republic. Personally, I think she’s too weak to be able to have a God living inside her without going mad.
~Things I Didn’t Like~
- I feel like the schooling section took up a major chunk of this book. I thought most of the school scenes were quite boring. I was fighting to keep reading this book at times. I’m not a big fan of books that have schools in them. I was ready for the violence and all I got were a few skirmishes with Nezha.
- I did not like Altan. I know he was supposed to be hard on Rin to teach her. He’s just not someone I would ever like. At the beginning when he was first introduced, I wanted him to be a love interest for Rin. I wanted this book to have a little romance to offset the bad things that happen in this book. Of course, he was just a dick and not very likeable.
I thought this book was very slow moving. I wanted something fast paced. I didn’t want to spend so much time reading about Rin going to school and learning. I wanted to jump right into the wars! I wanted a bit of romance here and there. I just wanted a little more from this book. I didn’t hate it. I still enjoyed parts of this book. I can honestly say that I won’t be in a hurry to pick up the next book in the series. Not unless I know it’s not going to be as slow as this book. I loved the characters.