Friday, April 11, 2014

The Winner's Curse: review

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Winner's Curse #1)
Released: March 4th 2014
My rating: 5 stars
Goodreads summary: As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My thoughts:

The Winner's Curse is one of my favorite books this year so far. Especially after reading a handful of mediocre YA books lately, this book was able to get me out of my slump. I haven't read any of Rutkoski's books before, but her writing is very nice to read, so I will go track down my copy of The Shadow Society and read it asap. 

With a great opening line and eye-catching sideways page-numbers (because I notice these things) you can tell right away it's going to be a good book. Now, the story flows steadily, but there isn't much fighting-action for much of the book, so don't expect it. Kestrel plays the game of politics, which is her strength and natural talent. There's plenty of time for relationships to form, secrets to build, and people to manipulate, and there isn't a dull chapter in here. There is some actual action toward the end, but since Kestrel isn't an outstanding fighter or leader, she is not in the midst of war. Her independence annoyed me. As a character I mean. She kept making choices that, no matter how many times I yelled at her "Kestrel, you REALLY shouldn't do that" she chose to ignore me again and again. That, my friends, isn't a stupid character, it's a CONSISTENT one. I admire that she wasn't written to do things and made decisions just to please her readers. No, there will be some non-proud moments for her in there. That's awesome and makes her realistic, in my opinion.

This story is told in dual POVs, Kestrel, along with Arin. Normally I find this style annoying, but since it's also third person, and these two characters have a ton of secrets, I liked reading both a lot. Also, the voices are distinct, thank the gods. So I was never in doubt as to who we were reading about. Arin, unlike Kestrel, is a fighter (for himself and his people) so he's in the middle of whatever action/violence is happening at the moment. I like his history, learning it little by little, and see him as one of the most fleshed out counterparts I've read in a while. He isn't just "the guy", he's as much a part of the storyline as Kestrel is.

Kestrel and Arin are very different people, yes. They're also on opposites sides of a decade-ago won war. Kestrel is a Valdorian and her people are the rich once-savages who won the war and enslaved the Herrani, Arin's people. You can see why they're not immediately friends. But for some reason unknown to even Kestrel, she buys Arin at the auction and eventually, they become friends. Sort of. Neither is fond of the other for quite a good portion of the book, and neither trusts the other completely, and for good reason. For Kestrel and Arin each have their own ulterior motive in this so-called peace after wartime. 

I love the two languages are mentioned realistically with the Herrani and Valorian cultures meshing together. (While the book is written in English for all us non-fictional folks obviously, the mention of language switching/knowledge kept up well.) I would consider this book fantasy since all the places sounded made up, and not weirdly dystopian at all (frankly my dear, i've had enough of those lately) but a good and true fantasy, in my book, has maps. Maps of these lands we're learning about and seeing conquered. Maps for picturing out the strategies. If I had read an advanced copy I would assume immediately there would be maps included in the finished copy. Alas, there were not. But possibly some could be added to the second one? Unlikely, but I can hope?

Reading this book was surprising and interesting, I can't wait to see what's to come; I feel the story and world can only develop and get more interesting from here on out. And was that ending REALLY necessary? The one time I actually read a hype-book when it comes out…I have to wait anxiously for a whole year for the next one, along with every else. For any fans of Cashore's Graceling trilogy, or Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I can't recommend this book enough. This is your next fantasy read.



  1. I have been really intrigued about this one, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I am looking forward to reading The Winner's Curse, looks like fun :)

  2. I wasn't sure I would like this one, but I really did. I don't usually read these kinds of genres and I was surprised at how into this I got. Can't wait for the next one.

  3. I really loved this book too! That cliffhanger really killed me though... :(