3 Books Like The Poppy War (By R F Kuang)

The Poppy War is the first novel in R F Kuang’s dark but exciting fantasy trilogy of the same name.

3 Books Like The Poppy War (By R F Kuang)

First published in 2018, The Poppy War and its sequels have cemented R F Kuang’s place as one of the fantasy genre’s best writers of all time – so it’s easy to see why so many people are eager to find similar stories now that the trilogy has ended.

The story is set in an alternative ancient China and follows the young, poor orphan Rin as she studies to get into an elite military academy.

Through the book, Rin develops a talent for shamanism – a practice that allows Rin to call upon the powers of gods – and Rin must decide whether winning the war is worth losing her humanity.

Despite being R F Kuang’s debut novel, The Poppy War is a deeply imaginative story with events pulled straight from Chinese history merged with fantastical elements and magic.

It’s also brutally violent with militaristic tones, making it a revolutionary addition to the fantasy genre.

If you enjoyed reading The Poppy War, then some other great books you may also like include The Sword Of Kaigen by M L Wang, Jade City by Fonda Lee, and the famous A Song Of Ice And Fire series by George R R Martin. Check out the list below!

Themes In The Poppy War

Themes In The Poppy War


From the title alone, it’s pretty easy to see that war is a major theme in this novel.

In the story, the Nikara Empire and the Federation of Mugen (two fictional nations in this universe, based on China and Japan respectively) are on the cusp of war once again after two previous ‘Poppy Wars’.

This means that the world our protagonist Rin occupies is one that already bears the scars of war and potentially faces more violence in the future.

The theme of war leaves its mark on nearly every aspect of the story and its characters, from driving the plot forward to shaping Rin’s own character and motives throughout the book.

Violence associated with war plays a key part in the story’s events.


The Poppy War: A Novel (The Poppy War, 1)

Another theme that goes hand in hand with the theme of war is vengeance.

The Poppy War is a brutal read filled with violence, self-harm, substance abuse, and abuse in general. As a result, a lot of the characters have their own grudges and want revenge on those who have wronged them.

This means that the book also touches on the cycle of abuse and revenge – and what it takes to break it.

Racism And Colorism

Rin is constantly targeted for the dark color of her skin and by doing this, Kuang has opened up the discussion into racism and colorism which affects most of our own world today.

In many parts of Asia, pale skin is revered and the skin bleaching market is worth billions – while those with dark skin are mistreated.


There’s a lot of clear inspiration from our real-world history in The Poppy War.

Kaung herself has stated that real-world events such as the Opium Wars, the Second-Sino Japanese War, and the Nanjing Massacre were the foundation of many happenings in the book.

Books Like The Poppy War

The Sword Of Kaigen By M L Wang

The Sword of Kaigen: A Theonite War Story

The Sword of Kaigen is a stand-alone novel from the Theonite sage, and is a militaristic Eastern Asian-inspired fantasy novel.

The story follows two characters as they each bear the burden of their own secrets and ambitions, while the threat of war hangs over the plot.

The world is a creative blend between fantasy, science fiction, and Asian history, which helps give it an incredibly interesting setting.

However, it could be better understood if you have read the rest of the Theonite saga, even though The Sword of Kaigen is a stand-alone novel.

The Sword of Kaigen also leans heavily on war to drive its plot and explores its impact on people, including themes of violence and vengeance throughout the story.

It’s also a coming of age story in the same way The Poppy War is for Rin, so the books share a lot of similarities.

Where to buy the book: The Sword of Kaigen by M L Wang.


  • The Sword of Kaigen shares a lot of themes with The Poppy War.
  • It’s a coming of age story with interesting yet conflicted characters.
  • The fantasy world is richly detailed and well built.


  • To understand a lot of Kaigen and the way the world works, you may want to read the rest of the Theonite saga first.

Themes: Violence, War, Magic, Coming-Of-Age, Vengeance, Identity

Jade City By Fonda Lee

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, 1)

This 2017 fantasy novel shares a lot of similarities to The Poppy War in terms of plot, themes, worldbuilding, and even character.

Jade City takes place in an Asian-inspired fantasy city, where a substance known as jade has the ability to give its wearer enhanced powers. The story follows four siblings as they battle rival clans in the Jade City.

The plot is filled with politics and magic, plus the occasional violence through martial arts. Although Jade City is not as militaristic as The Poppy War, it is also a story rife with conflict and takes inspiration from real-world events in our own history.

This makes the worldbuilding just as intricate and richly detailed.

Jade City is also the first novel in the Green Bone saga so if you are impressed with this first entry, then there are plenty more installments for you to enjoy.

Where to buy the book: Jade City by Fonda Lee.


  • Jade City is greatly inspired by Asian history, just like The Poppy War.
  • It’s a thrilling gangster-esque fantasy that is dark and gritty.
  • It’s the first in a series so there’s more to read.


  • The violence is less brutal and the conflicts are not as devastating or on a large scale like in The Poppy War

Themes: History, Magic, Violence

A Song Of Ice And Fire By George RR Martin

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (Song of Ice and Fire Series) (A Song of Ice and Fire)

George RR Martin’s immense epic fantasy series A Song Of Ice And Fire has taken the world by storm.

It’s a deeply political and violent series of novels about several noble houses in the fictional continent of Westeros as they fall into war.

Like with The Poppy War, George RR Martin has taken inspiration from many events and important figures in our own world’s history.

The Lannisters are said to be based on the infamous Borgias, the War of the Five Kings based on England’s The War of the Roses, and the Wall takes inspiration from both Hadrian’s Wall and the Great Wall of China.

Readers who enjoyed The Poppy War for its historical elements merged with dark fantasy will see a similar theme running through this series of books.

There are also plenty of mysteries to unravel, characters to root for, and twists and turns to gasp and awe at.

Where to buy the book: A Song Of Ice And Fire by George RR Martin.


  • A Song Of Ice And Fire is known for its in-depth worldbuilding and use of real-world history and mythology to influence characters and events, just like with The Poppy War.
  • It includes a wide range of morally gray characters, each well fleshed out with their own morals and goals
  • The story balances high fantasy and historical fantasy very well (If you like high fantasy, check out books like Eragon and other books like it here).


  • The multiple families, characters, and plot lines mean that A Song Of Ice And Fire is notoriously difficult to follow along for the first read.
  • The series is still ongoing, with the next installment being in the works for over ten years. Some fans believe the series will end unfinished.

Themes: War, History, Violence, Magic, Vengeance

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it – three amazing book series which share many similarities to R F Kuang’s The Poppy War.

Each series is dark and gritty, with fantastical elements balanced by realism and historical influences.

The end result is that each series and each novel shares the Poppy War’s realistic characters with questionable moralities, thrilling storylines filled with mystery and twists, and incredibly detailed world-building that will draw you in immediately.

Some share The Poppy War’s strong ties to Asian culture and history, while others like the A Song Of Ice And Fire series are more deeply rooted in European history.

All contain themes of violence, war, and revenge, which are central to The Poppy War’s story and success.

So, if you enjoyed the magic and thrills found within The Poppy War, then check out the recommendations above to find a similar story.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will There Be A 4Th Poppy War Book? 

The Poppy War is a part of a trilogy, meaning that there will be no more Poppy Wars books. The third and final installment in the series, The Burning God, was released back in November 2020. 

Is Poppy War Getting A Show?

Although it was announced in 2020 that Starlight Media will be adapting The Poppy War into a television series, there has been no recent news on the project as of 2023.

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Anna Davis