Spolierish complaints about The Poppy War.
There's some weird borrowings from real-world events and stories that kind of take me out of the story. For example, the "steal the enemies arrows using decoy boats" is straight-up lifted from Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Of the hundred or so people to survive the massacre at Golyn Niis, TWO are from Rin's year group at school? (Kitay and Nezha) what are the odds? Didn't it say there were half a million residents? Nezha survives for precisely one scene where she details yet more Federation brutality. And then is never heard from again. Or was nezha the name of the enemies-to-friends-to-maybe-lovers-no-wait-he's-dead character? Anyway, the other girl from Rin's year who gets forced into a horrible brothel.
As soon as the Golyn Niis massacre description started, I immediately knew that this was for the purpose of making whatever terrible thing Rin ends up doing look justified. And blowing up an entire island of civilians still doesn't feel justified. The atrocities at Golyn Niis just seem so so cartoonishly, one-dimensionally evil that I couldn't really take it seriously. It's an uncomfortable read, but it's so obviously in the service of excusing Rin's destruction of the entire federation.
The Federation army just... leave Golyn Niis completely un-garrisoned? And they head off... somewhere else? It's never explained where they're going or what they're doing. They've captured the capital (Sinegard) and the wartime capital of Golyn Niis, and they're winning the fight for the important costal city of (whatever that was called), so what is the army doing? And is there nothing more urgent that the Cike could be doing apart from tidying up Golyn Niis? Could they not got back to the coast to help out? Could they not follow the Federation army?
Rin's loyalties are kind of weird. She's loyal to the Empire, for some reason, but also really buys in to being Speerly once that's revealed. But that doesn't seem to make her question her loyalty to the Empire, even though she's pretty sure the Empire threw Speer under the bus when it suited them.