R.F. Kuang’s Epic Poppy War Series Is Headed to Television

This one is going to be big: Deadline reports that R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War and its two sequels, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God, are being developed for television. Starlight Media, the company that financed Crazy Rich Asians, has optioned the rights to Kuang’s trilogy.

The Poppy War, published in 2018, was a best book of the year everywhere from Bustle to the Washington Post, earned glowing reviews, and was a finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards (among others!). As the Post said, it’s “a study in every kind of violence … Kuang pulls from East Asian history, including the brutality of the Second Sino-Japanese war, to weave a wholly unique experience.”

Here’s the publisher’s summary of book one—you can also read an excerpt from it here!

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

The Poppy War trilogy concluded with this year’s The Burning God, which our reviewer called “one of the best epic fantasies of the past decade.” This series should be an absolute stunner on screen; we’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for casting and production news!

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