Winning what you want may cost you everything you love. 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.
The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy #1)Featured
A Real Winner
What I Liked:
Before The Winner’s Curse, I’ve never received a bound galley for review before, though I’d seen them in other people’s book hauls. Obviously, I’m grateful, because it does make me feel very special to have the book so far in advance, even despite the fact that bound galleys have HUGE font and are a bit unwieldy to actually read. Anyway, I know this review is ages in advance, but I’m of the mind that they wouldn’t give the books out if they didn’t want people to read them; I mean, bound galleys are useless as decoration. Macmillan will be pushing The Winner’s Curse really hard come winter 2014, and I can see why. Rutkoski’s prose is beautiful, her characters nuanced, and her world sophisticated.
The Valorians rule over the Herrani, having absorbed that country into their vast empire. Though once the Herrani considered the Valorians savages, the Herrani now must serve the Valorians as slaves. Racial tensions are central to The Winner’s Curse. Rutkoski humanizes both sides equally, and handles the subject so well. Into this background, Rutkoski places two star-crossed lovers, because what does fiction like more than forbidden love. The daughter of the Valorian general falls in love with her Herrani slave, who is a rebel no less. Predictable in concept, yes, but Rutkoski does wonderful things with it.
Lady Kestrel, our heroine, is a delight. She’s strong in that way that has very little to do with physical strength; in fact, her like of talent with weapons is a bit of a disappointment to her father, the general. However, Kestrel is possessed instead with something better: cleverness and strategy. In Valorian society, she has two choices now that she’s coming of age: to wed or to enter the military (women are respected as strong in this fantasy world – praise Hera!). Kestrel wants to do neither, and dreams of having the freedom to play her piano, musical talents not being respected by the practical-minded, militaristic Valorians. I admire Kestrel so much her ability to make difficult decisions and to plot her way out of corners. She’s feisty and wonderful. I also really love that she’s less apt to throw her life away for the sake of their romance than Arin is; men are not the more emotional party in fictional relationships enough.
The romance, though I was expecting it, sort of caught me off guard. The characters didn’t spend all that much time together and the feelings emerged as if from nowhere, though I certainly would not call this instalove or anything of that sort. The romantic arc is more like one might find in a classic, given the difference in social class and role between Arin and Kestrel. In those sorts of times, the opportunity for actual courting is limited and it’s the small moments that add up into an affection. At first I wasn’t really sure about them as a couple, but there are some really sweet moments that sold me on it in the end.
The plot consists of rebellion, duels, balls, and battles. Rutkoski’s plotting is fabulous, keeping me on my toes, never completely certain what would happen next. She does not shy away from hurting her characters or killing them off either. Plus, Rutkoski manages to start the story strong, building character and world at the same time, without the infodump slump that so often plagues the beginning of fantasy novels. Other than those facts, I want to leave you unspoiled to enjoy everything totally fresh, because the not knowing is part of the fun.
Speaking of the end, Rutkoski is fiendish and I love it. She wraps up the plot of this book neatly, while leaving loads of space for the next book in the series. There’s no cliffhanger or anything of that sort. Instead, she ends with a punch write to the feels. I love when authors do that, especially in YA, where it’s so rare to find a book that doesn’t end in an HEA.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I feel like the romance could have been better-developed. It came a little out of left field, without really building up that slow burn.
The Final Verdict:
The real downside of reading an awesome book like this early? The sequel will not come out for a year and a half at least. What have I done to myself? Friends, if you adore fantasy as much as I do, you’ll want to be putting this on your TBR pile.
Brilliant Start to a New High Fantasy Series!
Don't let the gorgeous cover or the summary fool you, The Winner's Curse is no light, swoony romance. It's a beautifully written, brilliantly crafted high fantasy story of love, betrayal, politics, and the fight for Independence. The romance between Kestrel and Arin is a slow burn, one that is both heart racing and frustrating. Plot twists and constant strategizing keep the story moving and it all leads up to an ending that left me clutching my heart and eager to read the next installment!
I just wish I didn't have to wait so long for it!
Kestrel is the general's daughter and she gets to live the high life because of the land her father stole during the war. Her people invaded and made slaves of the natives. It's the day that she buys her first and last slave that everything changes. She gets to to know this slave: Arin and finds she actually cares for him, truly cares, but she doesn't know of his plans for her or her people. He wants his freedom at all costs.
There is such a power on words in this novel, lies and truth. I've never quite read anything like it. It's really interesting. I will admit that it was very slow to start for me, it was pretty boring for a while but when it took off, it took off. It was such a ride, watching all these people play with secrets, using them for their own gain.
The romance is perfect, it is slow built and nothing close to insta-love, which I hate so much. It's so sad how hard they try not to fall for each other. I mean he is a slave and she the general's daughter, that just doesn't happen but no one can control love. The world building is top notch and the book is written perfectly, the flow of words seamless.
I do feel badly for Kestrel in the end. I mean that choice... to save your people and maybe get the one you love killed or stay with the man you love while your people die? That's not an easy choice, I mean no would should be a slave, ever but to just let your own people die?
So bottom line, beautiful storytelling, wonderful characters, and a very engaging plot. I can't believe I waited so long to start this series! I've been missing out and so are you if you haven't read this yet.
Great Book, But Ruined by the Hype
This is such an overly hyped book. Everyone is giving this book 5 glowing stars. And then there is me, giving this book a measly 3.7 stars.
The main reason as to why I didn't enjoy this book as much as everyone else is this: THE HYPE.
I was expecting a book that would be awesome beyond awesome, blow my mind, knock my socks off, and basically be amazing. That is to say, I had extremely high expectations for this book. These high expectations made me dislike the book. When the book was just great but didn't knock my socks off, I was disappointed and that disappointment grew into dislike and sometimes even boredom.
I am not saying that I didn't like this book, I actually enjoyed it, but not as much as I was expecting.
The story was great, the world-building was amazing, I liked the romance, I liked the book! Sure, the pacing was slow throughout half of the book, but the pacing picked up.
So, yes, I did enjoy the book, just not as much as I thought I would.
Due to the hype, I was expecting to read the best book of all time, but while I liked this book, I was disappointed to see that I didn't enjoy it as much as everyone else.
Yes, this is a great book, but please don't have extremely high expectations on the book because it will ruin the experience