A 911 dispatcher receives a call. It's her daughter. What would you do?
Writing: ★★★★ 1/2
Have you ever had a thriller where the writing was so good, so intense, that you enjoy yourself even as the plot takes off in odd directions? Yeah, that's Stolen Things.
Laurie is a 911 dispatcher. Her husband, Omid, is the local police chief. One day at work, the woman on the other end of the line isn't a stranger—it's Laurie's daughter, Jojo, and she's been drugged, assaulted, and left in an unknown location.
There is no force stronger than a determined woman with nothing to lose and everything to save.
Laurie, Omid, and the police team find Jojo quickly and discover that she's in the home of famously anti-police pro football player Kevin Leeds. Leeds' athletic trainer is found dead near Jojo. Jojo's friend, Harper Cunningham, is still missing. What happened?
Stolen Things takes off like a rocket. A woman on a mission, Laurie commits to finding the perpetrator and avenging her daughter's assault with a vengeance that was one of the reasons she voluntarily took herself of the police force—Laurie didn't trust herself to act rationally when it came down to the wire. Well, now it's down to the wire. And Laurie says f*** it.
One of the many things I loved about Stolen Things was its portrayal of motherhood as a source of strength, not weakness. Laurie was a strong character, and while some of her decisions where definitely questionable, I have to admit that I understood them. Her choices were bad or more bad, and she chose based on what would be the best for her family. There was a ruthlessness that I admired.
Things I didn't like:
The writing was killer, but the references to this exact place in time were numerous. As I was reading, I was able to resonate with certain cultural references, but at the same time it kept throwing me out of the story as I was reminded that this story was happening NOW, in 2019. I'm not sure these references will hold up in 5 years. I also struggled with the author's intense opinions shining through the mystery. Now, for the most part I was in agreement with the author's stance, but just because I agreed doesn't mean it wasn’t distracting—in my opinion, the mystery should have been the forefront.
Original notes: This was such an engaging read. I actually bit my nails while reading—call this an honest nail biter. Others have mentioned the heavy-handed beliefs of the author detracting from their reading experience, and I have feelings about that too. Review to come!
Thank you to Dutton via Netgalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
The Poppy War was good, this one is better
The Poppy War was brutal, this one is ruthless
The Poppy War enticed, this one demanded
The Poppy War sparked the war, this one incinerated the battlefield
There was nothing I did not love about The Dragon Republic.
Character growth: ★★★★★
War/Gore Factor: ★★★★★ (yeah it's still rough.)
The Dragon Republic is the explosive follow-up to R.F. Kuang's insanely talented debut novel, The Poppy War, and it does not disappoint—in fact, it packs double the punch. Haven't read the first book? Stop! Go find it! Read it! Love it! Then come back here! See if you agree with what I thought! Warning: it's going to spoil aspects of The Poppy War in order to cover its goodness.
Fang Runin (Rin) is not doing so well. At the end of The Poppy War, she's just watched her Cike commander/shaman/troubled love interest Altan sacrifice himself to the flames of the vengeful Phoenix god, and in her grief-torn rage she sets fire to an entire island. (An. Entire. Island.) She singlehandedly ended the Third Poppy War against the Mugunese...by killing an entire population in one swoop.
As we entire The Dragon Republic, Rin's struggling with the emotional backlash of that decision and sliding the slippery slope down to PTSD-inflicted opium addiction. She's shaky, hard to control, and hard to predict. The Phoenix is winning. Her characteristic ego is flailing. The last thing she wants is to be in control of the Cike, a small band of powerful shamans who are also held on the precipice of madness in order to commune with their gods and reap the supernatural powers. She's making poor decisions, and it shows. What can a soldier do when her commander abandons her?
She finds a new commander, a new war, and a new path toward vengeance. But is lending her war-ending powers to another puppeteer the answer to this game?
I can't say I was expecting this novel to unfold in this way it did—mainly due to the fact that the plot was impossible to predict. It had a lot more boats than I was expecting, and appealed to the inner pirate/adventurer in me. It introduced aspects of Western civilization-inflicted colonialism parallels that were disturbing to read and disturbing to reflect upon. In traditional Kuang style, it reflected aspects of China's history that will make your heart ache, and your conscience guilty. It reflected on female roles in the military, gender imbalances, and sexual violence as a result of war. I really appreciated these inclusions. It's not a pretty story, but it is a necessary one—and in the context of this fantasy world it has the potential for a glorious re-do. I can't wait for Rin to burn it down.
Also, the sheer amount of game-changing moments in this novel left me in a state of perpetual tension. Who will betray whom, and when, and how? Who will die next? How will Rin's characteristic impulsiveness react to this latest reveal? And where will Rin and Nezha's wonderful hate-to-maybe-more dynamic go as they dance around their lies and truths?
Like the first novel in the series, The Dragon Republic has a lot to say. It was brutal, it was vicious, it was nauseating. It took no prisoners and no one's life was sacred. But, it was also poignant, original, and absolutely thrilling. I can't wait to see where Kuang takes Rin next—it's going to be an explosive journey.
Thank you so much to Harper Collins - Harper Voyager via NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.