The best way to describe this book is by saying it’s A LOT. Kuang has written something pretty epic here and kept me guessing the whole way through. The plot and writing style sucked me in, but I wouldn’t call this an easy read. It’s extremely grim and becomes progressively more disturbing as the narrative goes on. Well worth your time if you have the stomach for something that will repeatedly kick you in the face.
Rin is an orphan who comes from a fairly poor town in the backwaters of the Empire, from Rooster Province. She works incredibly hard, masochistically hard, and passes first in the national exam she needs to get into the best military school. Getting in turns out to be the easy part. At school, she is so far behind the other students and at risk for being flunked out. I don’t want to go too far into the plot because spoilers, but this isn’t exactly a straight “boarding school” type of book. It’s the type of book that starts you out in one place and then halfway through you look back amazed at where you’ve traveled from.
Seriously though, this book is incredibly dark. So dark that I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the sequels, though the writing is good and I loved the characters. If you read this, be prepared to have your heart broken so often you’ll lose track of how many times.
It’s been a while since I read this so the details are already starting to fade, but I’d assume trigger warnings for most things.