Tuesday, May 1, 2018

"The Poppy War"

Rebecca F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history. She has a BA from Georgetown University and is currently a graduate student in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship.

Kuang applied the Page 69 Test to The Poppy War, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Annoying as Venka was, Rin scarcely had the time or energy to pay much attention to her. They stopped snapping at each other after several days, but only because they were too exhausted to speak. When training sessions ended for the week, they straggled back to the dormitory, muscles aching so much they could barely walk. Without a word, they shed their uniforms and collapsed on their bunks.

They awoke almost immediately to a rapping at their door.

“Get up,” said Raban when Rin yanked the door open.

“What the—”
Raban peered over her shoulder at Venka and Niang, who were whining incoherently from their bunks. “You too. Hurry up.”

“What’s the matter?” Rin mumbled grumpily, rubbing at her eyes.

“We’ve got sweeping duty in six hours.”

“Just come.”

Still complaining, the girls wriggled into their tunics and met Raban outside, where the boys had already assembled.

“If this is some sort of first-year hazing thing, can I have permission to go back to bed?” asked Kitay. “Consider me bullied and intimidated, just let me sleep.”

“Shut up. Follow me.”

Without another word, Raban took off toward the forest.

Some context for this scene: Rin, our protagonist, is just getting settled into life at Sinegard Academy, and you can tell how awful and grueling the training is. But just when she thinks she has a handle on things, Raban comes along to introduce the trainees to something else: midnight martial arts grudge matches fought between the older students in the pits.

Though this scene is clearly a transition scene (if I could choose a different page number, I would!) I still like it because what follows immediately after is the first introduction to the darker side of Academy life, and of the book. It’s also where Kitay gets one of his many sassy lines in the novel, and because Kitay is by far my favorite, I’m always proud when he gets screen time.
Visit R. F. Kuang's website.

--Marshal Zeringue