The Burning God – R.F. Kuang

The Burning God is the last in the Epic Fantasy trilogy starting with The Poppy War. Set is what is presumed to be an alternate China and incorporating many aspects of real history, this series is often gruesome and hard to read – content warnings abound, such as for sexual violence, genocide, torture and more. Still, it is one of the most compelling series out there right now and it is beloved by it’s fans. But does the conclusion live up to the expectations?

I’ve specifically not offered a star rating for this one as I feel the opinions I have don’t lend themselves to the system.

Many thanks to Harper Voyager and Edelweiss for the eARC. All opinions are my own.


SYNOPSIS: After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? (from Harper Voyager)

OPINIONS: The struggle was real with The Burning God. I’m not usually one to balk at violence in books or characters with murky moral alignments, but I had to take breaks while reading this one. Much more so that the first two installments of the series, I struggled a lot with Rin’s character here. Perhaps I noticed things less in the earlier books as I read them as audiobooks, where I’m more prone to miss details, but in The Burning God, it felt as if Rin went from selfish and morally gray over to uncaringly evil. And I can deal with killing when necessary, or battles or anything like that, but a protagonist coldly murdering people just because she wants to and… enjoying it, that I struggled a lot with.

For large parts of the book I didn’t know whether I was appalled or enthralled. I kept reading a couple of chapters, putting the book down because I couldn’t take it any more but then picking it up again a few minutes later because I needed to know what happened next and how the story ended. The thing is, R.F. Kuang is an excellent writer. She knows what she’s doing and I would think that it’s intentional. I am looking forward to reading a book by her that isn’t as tough to read as The Burning God or The Poppy War series as a whole.

All in all, The Burning God did work well as a conclusion to the series, it tied up most of the loose ends left by the earlier books, but destroyed much of Nikan in the process, just as it destroyed its readers. Do read it, but be prepared. Add The Burning God on Goodreads here, and order it from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

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