Fantasy Playlist – The Poppy War (R.F. Kuang)
Novel Playlists from Fantasy Novelists treats each fantasy novel like a feature film and encourages the author to put together their own dream soundtrack. Blasting upon the scene with her debut novel, The Poppy War, an epic/ military fantasy tale blending 20th century China with the Song Dynasty, R.F. Kuang’s playlist is no less eclectic than her inspirations. Or awesome. Listen to it in Spotify 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…
Arsonist’s Lullabye – Hozier
Rin literally, but also existentially, is an arsonist.
I Am A God – Kanye West
Megalomania and self-deification are very much Rin’s aesthetíque. Also Kanye, because Kanye.
Happy Little Pill – Troye Sivan
This song is a bop. It’s about opiates and being suffocated by addiction which sums up the entire book and also most of the characters.
Dirty Gold – Angel Haze
Look, Angel Haze is perfect. This song is also a heart-wrenching rap ode to a fallen idol which sums up well the relationship between Rin and Altan.
Way Down We Go – Kaleo
I’ve liked this ever since I heard it in the trailer for “Logan.” It’s dark, kind of depressing, but determined in a gritty way. Way down Rin and company go. So very far down.
Blood / / Water – grandson
I resonate with this song because there is a lot of blood in the water in The Poppy War. So much blood. The river is clogged up with corpses. Everyone is dead.
Be Together – Major Lazer
I’m weak and Rin and Nezha deserve at least one song about their maybe-maybe-not romantic relationship.
Play With Fire (ft. Yacht Money) – Sam Tinnesz
Maybe Rin wouldn’t have all these problems if she didn’t keep playing with fire.
Wicked Moon – Angel Haze
Angel Haze again because I love her? This is a song about being unable to escape the influence of someone truly awful and demonic which is Rin and Altan in a nutshell.
Young God – Halsey
This song is an adolescent power trip that’s about to burn to the end of its fuse and explode.
Serpents – Grieves
This song is slow-moving, seductive, deceptive, and murderous. It’s a waltz with your killer. It’s Su Daji’s song.
Modern Jesus – Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man are true poets and the lyrics here are amazing. “Who cares if hell awaits/we’re having drinks at heaven’s gates.”
Guns and Ships – Hamilton Soundtrack (Lin Manuel Miranda)
We’re ending this playlist on a song from Hamilton, because frankly the entire and mixtape are perfect writing fuel. “Guns and Ships” is my underrated favorite.
R.F. Kuang makes her exciting debut with The Poppy War, an epic historical military fantasy inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century. Available May 1st from Harper Voyager.