BURN IT ALL DOWN- THE BURNING GOD by R. F. KUANG
-Let them think of us as dirt, Rin thought. She was dirt. She was dirt. Her army was dirt. But dirt was common, ubiquitous, patient, and necessary. The soil gave life to the country. And the earth always reclaimed what it was owed- Rin
The war for the heart, people, and continued existence of Nikan has only just begun and as Rin builds her resistance, she will need to change her tactics and adapt new, quick, deceptive ways of routing and fighting; using new knowledge and terrain to her advantage.
With just the right impetus, Rin is placed on the path to realizing a new kind of army, one that we have been approaching, but never quite certain it could be achieved and that they could be placed effectively on the board of war.
I love how Kuang threads the degradation of those who are inhabited by gods mentally through the narrative, how their very actions are tied to that presence and how it affects them; how Rin is able to dissect and evaluate those effects and yet still come to the conclusion that shamanism is the way to go. Traditional warfare is done.
This conclusion lays it all bare: the mounting cost of war, greed and colonial expansion; the lasting scars of occupation and untold violence and violations; the decimation of land and home; the eroding of self and the ultimate question of what happens when we break.
The Poppy War series has been an examination of the darkest parts of humanity, the utter willingness to subjugate and demean and tyrannize, to want to be more than what they say you are, to prove their racist concepts wrong, to crave freedom and to face all the ugly losses and sacrifices that come with it all.
Kuang propels her story forward by keeping the threads of her narrative in a formation that lends for seamless weaving and combination, making the anticipation peak and the culmination palpable.
Rin has grown from strength to strength across the series, but she has made and continues to make missteps, which at times makes her just barely tolerable. However, her sheer force of will and refusal to bow, bend, or break, even when at her lowest, endears and engenders respect for her to the reader. She is a soldier, a leader, a friend, and a vessel. And even with all her flaws, Rin is determined to wrest freedom for her country and keeps moving towards that goal for herself, her friends, her country.
This is a complex and heavy series that Kuang has developed and handled beautifully. I eagerly await whatever she has in store.