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The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Subterranean Press - Lettered Edition

When this book went up for sale over a year ago, it sold out...very fast. This only built a greater sense of curiosity around what the production would actually look like. The only details that were given at the time were that it was bradel bound, which is almost always a plus for me personally. The use of three distinct parts of the binding allows the front and back boards to function as a kind of standalone canvas for whatever the artist/binder decides to create.

I spoke with the talented Geralyn Lance (who is the production manager at Subterranean Press and also happens to be a skilled binder in her own right) about some of the inspiration going into this particular project. She said, "One of the design considerations with The Poppy War was to make sure that it didn't look too delicate. A bold titling design and intense colors helps to create balance over the traycase and book as a whole. I wanted the focus to be on the marbled paper for the boards, and for the pattern to create a flow through the endpaper art to the first of the text." The traycase, as well as the black Italian leather spine of the book, are clean and minimal. They function to highlight, while not taking away anything from, the focal point of the production, which are the impressive boards.

For this lettered version of The Poppy War the marbled papers were created by Renato Crepaldi and the overall pattern and colors could not have represented the work any better. This is the first time Subterranean Press has used his work and it sounds like it will not be the last thankfully! On this production he used a waving non-pareil pattern with a color palette that fits wonderfully with the other art found within this book. It is difficult to capture in pictures, but Renato is able to weave in an extremely tight pattern with a multitude of vibrant colors without it becoming muddled, which is not an easy task.

Geralyn said that using his work "on a bradel bound edition was essential to allow the reader to experience as much of the pattern as possible." In person, there is also an intense sparkle that pictures only hint at.

The paper is a solid 70# bright white and the chapter headings, as well as other internal elements, are two-tone, using black and red to set the mood. It feels very appropriate for the dark and brutal tones that permeate the story and highlight the horrors of war.

The artist that contributed internal illustrations to this edition was AWANQI (Angela Wang), an artist I was not familiar with before this release, but someone I will certainly be following now. The first illustration (on left) may be one of my favorites in any Subterranean Press edition I own. My only complaint is that there are not more pieces throughout, as there are so many scenes that deserve to be represented by AWANQI. Major credit is due to Subterranean Press as they managed to keep the entire production consistent throughout and the coordination of the different artists involved was impeccable.

The dust jacket illustration (top) of the numbered edition was included in the lettered as a gatefold as well as an added illustration (bottom) printed on Rainbow's Kraft with felt embossing that served as the endsheets.

Overall, this was one of Subterranean's best productions to date and it seems like they plan to keep raising the bar with their lettered productions. It will be exciting to see how they tie in the other two books to the trilogy and how the design progresses with the story.

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Publisher: Subterranean Press

Marbler: Renato Crepaldi

Artist: AWANQI

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