The first thing I appreciated was that even though it takes place in The Terror of Revolutionary France, the details that build the universe are all very personal to the characters.
We follow a group of bandits, who inadvertently get hijacked by a nun, Guet Imm. It is a fairly straight forward plot – going to delivery some good – with somethings going awry in the process.
The story itself was just very well woven, told through different artefacts (which again helped with the world building) that had belonged to the empress during her time in exile. Rabbit and Chih had very different personalities, alongside the Empress who we se through the eyes of Rabbit.
Confession time: I never read any Ursula Le Guin as a child or as a teenager. The first time I picked up a book by her was when reading/torturing myself with The List.
So. The plot is…difficult to describe. Essentially there are gods and realms. Then this guy shows up to the Border Keeper (like a really strong god) and asked for help. They have to traverse different realms and ask permission and weird shit happens.
There isn’t a lot of fighting in this novel, it’s more about intrigue like in A Memory Called Empire. In this case it is Eolo, aide to the Heir to Raven’s Lease, has to unravel a mystery – but one that has its foundations long before he was born.
The Poppy War uses the general frame of Chinese history in the 20th century, but reshapes it with its own fantasy elements. So there’s an invasion from an island nation (Japan), the influx of opium and heroin but then the fantasy elements of being able to call upon gods and become shamans are mixed in with all that.
The novel’s central premise is that there are doors between worlds, they appear in thin places between worlds and people can cross the Threshold and end up in another world. And in these words are vampires, witches, normal people, magic or terrible things.
We once again follow the exploits of our favourite humans and vampires (and occasionally some demons as well). Greta is filling in as medical director at a mummy wellness spa in France, where a strange phenomenon is making the mummies weak and dizzy. When the intrepid characters find out what is going on, it’s on a scale that no one can handle, not even all the denizens of Hell itself.
The story really centres on Muna and Sakti, who find themselves on Janda Baik (the island where Mak Genggang is from), but they don’t remember anything about themselves.