The time has come to talk about The Burning God and if it’s too early for you, it was to early for this series to be over and here we are. This year has definitely been The Poppy War year for me and since November is almost over, I can say that this series will definitely be in my top 3 of the year. I was anticipating The Burning God ever since I read The Poppy War and I am so glad to be here and to incoherently discuss this book (and some musings on the series as a whole in this review (is it a review if I just write sjadabjfb NEZHA, I am not sure, pls advise). Before you continue you can read more of my thoughts on The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic.
There will be spoilers for the first two books in here (in terms of context, nothing overly specific), but I will avoid spoilers for The Dragon Republic, so you are safe to experience my unhinged thoughts on this even if you have not read the book.
“Oh, but history moved in such vicious circles.”
Conclusions are so important. I think they make or break a series for me. If a series is strong throughout but doesn’t deliver in the finale, I tend to dislike a series as a whole. And after that scary intro I can tell you that The Burning God was an overall great ending. The Dragon Republic was a lot slower in pace and it had a lot of groundwork (something that I am actually a huge fan of but people like to call that the second book syndrome), and in The Burning God we see things starting to pick back up again. What I especially enjoyed in the way that the plot and the overall narrative are structured in this book is the way that this story is told in waves – we have a path and it seems clear cut and it seems like this is where the story is headed in a very linear way, but then that ends in a quite unexpected turn of events, and a new wave starts, bigger and more vicious than the last one. In those terms, I really do feel like R.F. Kuang’s craft and storytelling were elevated in this novel compared to the first two. This was as brutal, violent and as devastating as you’d expect from Kuang, but I do think that her writing really shined in this final installment.
“I am the force of creation, I am the end and the beginning. The world is a painting and I hold the brush. I am a god.”
While the story itself was so gripping and to me personally unpredictable and unexpected, the characters in here made so much sense. That does feel weird to say, but I think that R.F. Kuang’s characterization is impeccable and every single action the characters make, no matter how ridiculous it seems, makes a lot of sense for them as characters. Rin is definitely an antiheroine, and if you were paying attention to the historical inspiration of this novel, but also just these books in general, I think you have an idea who Rin is and where her story is going. But I think the journey that Kuang shows us is so well-written and every single facet of what constitutes Rin as a person, as a soldier, as a liberator, as a channel of the gods is really well explored. Rin is really complicated and complex and stirs those same feelings in me – I love her, but I also cannot stand her. But all of this stems from the deep understanding I have for her as a character and for this story as a whole. Same goes for Nezha. He is one of my favorite characters ever (I love a good angsty boy whose duty interferes with him being a good person and friend). Nezha harbors a lot of self-hate but he is also incredibly smart and incredibly competent and I think he as a ruler cares about the people, while also being really unaware of said people and detached from them in general. The contrast between him who is smart and I think would be a good ruler but is so deeply privileged with Rin as this incredibly destructive force but who comes from the south and who grew up a poor orphan and thus has an inherent understanding of the generational trauma of the people of Nikan is just done so incredibly well. And that is sort of the theme of this novel and it is a recurring theme throughout the triology. I love it. To mention Kitay briefly – I would lay down my life for him, no questions asked. I loved the new characters we got to meet and old ones we got to see again and get to know more deeply. I think that all of the characters that were introduced felt fleshed out and real, and as a reader for whom books hinge on characters I really appreciated that.
“There are never any new stories, just old ones told again and again as this universe moves through its cycles of civilization and crumbles into despair.”
You might have gauged by now that I am obsessed with this concept of time as a cycle and of history constantly repeating itself through generations (have you heard of the fact that one of my favorite series is The Raven Cycle?). I loved how R.F. Kuang played around with this idea of history and its repeating in cycles. I think it was a very powerful thematic tool and I enjoyed it immensely. This continues to explore themes of war, trauma and colonization really well. I said this in my review of book two, but I think the topic of colonization of cultural diversity and it being snuffed out by the west is really incredibly well done, and I think R.F. Kuang had a lot to say about that and said it in a way that to me felt really versatile and nuanced.
“This is a revolution. It’s not a fucking tea party.”
Briefly wanted to highlight that the action sequences and battle scenes in this book were so incredibly well done. Kuang is generally good at that, but I loved it especially in this last installment. I think her writing gets really evocative when she writes about the battlefield and I love how she mixes large scales battles with smaller one-on-one sequences that are happening all over said battlefield. I also just love reading about Rin and Nezha fighting each other, it’s really top tier. Especially since you have this element of gods but also element of Hesperian warfare that is advanced and then the brutish, regular sword-fighting of the Nikara. So there’s a lot of stuff that you can do on the battlefield and Kuang really exploits all of that.
“They would bury them with their bodies. They would drown them in their blood.”
I’d also like to briefly mention that as with the rest of trilogy, I was not that ecstatic about the pacing in here. As I mentioned, a lot of stuff in here happens in waves, but the culmination arrived a bit too quickly. For me, it happened around the 80 percent mark, that’s where I felt the whole story reached its destination. But then there’s a lot of book left. The last couple of chapters of the book are brilliant, especially the last one and the epilogue, but I felt quite detached from 80 percent to those chapters. I just felt like things reached its peak and the next wave did not have a lot of time to get developed, so it happened in a really fast and overwhelming way. But then the last two chapters happen and I was left A MESS, so I completely forgot about that part not entirely working for me. BECAUSE WHO CARES ABOUT MINOR DETAILS WHEN R.F. KUANG RUINED MY LIFE WITH THIS SERIES?
Also, not to spoil The Drowning Faith for you but I screeched and cried simultaneously.
This was a brilliant conclusion and I loved it, and this series firmly cements its place in my top 5 series of all time. Really Fang Runin and Yin Nezha will forever live in my mind rent free. Kitay won’t because he is too precious for that dark, cold place (I just love Kitay, okay).
I would love to hear from you! Tell me if you have read this already and what were your thoughts. I’d love to hear. And use the comments section to scream about how good this series is.
*I received a free eARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss. All unhinged opinions are my own.
In the meantime, happy reading
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