THE DRAGON REPUBLIC: Kuang's Epic Fantasy Gets Bigger and Better.
… But I've seen how power works. It's not about who you are, it's about how they see you. And once you're mud in this country, you're always mud."- Rin
Kuang wastes no time in launching her reader back into Nikara: ravaged by war, victorious over their enemies, but divided and heading for another confrontation. For victory does not ensure peace. Rin is still struggling to combat the Phoenix and exist with a small modicum of autonomy. But control seems to be slipping further from her grasp. Add in her complete reliance on opium, and we can see her inching towards incapacitation.
Kuang is also adding more players in this fight for the empire and it really elevates the world-building and complex character interactions. She also expands the military aspect of the narrative, taking us through plottings, maneuverings, alliances, and other military tactics that heightens the anticipation for the coming conflicts.
Whereas in The Poppy War we were dealing with a hierarchical and social status standing, in The Dragon Republic the Hesperians are introduced and their racist viewpoints are on full display. Rin discovers how her people are categorized and perceived based on physical appearance and physiological make-up. This is an amazing allegory for colonialistic powers setting their sites on a particular country and people, swooping in with the ultimate goal of experimentation, proselytizing, educating in such a way that diminishes and erases the culture of the colonized.
But as Rin learns more about the first and second Poppy Wars and about who pulled what strings, she begins to question the purpose to which she has been set and for who she is really fighting and whether the woman she has hated and labelled enemy is the true foe.