BOOK REVIEW: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)
by Marie Rutkoski
Publication date: 3 July 2014
Goodreads: 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.
Rutkoski’s writing was amazing. It was easy to read and everything flowed really well. Most importantly, the world building was great. There was no info-dumping and everything made sense. However, the first half was very slow. It just dragged on and felt like it was only there to take up time. The second half was amazing though, filled with politics and planning.
I was unsure about Kestrel at first. She’s your typical indecisive teenage girl who doesn’t know what she wants except that she doesn’t want to be what her father expects her to be. She’d rather play the piano than be a badass soldier. She’s a Valorian and therefore should be good fighting (which she isn’t) and she’s also a general’s daughter. She’s better with her mind than she is with her hands. She’s a brilliant strategist and that really comes across later on. Rutkoski does great job of communicating that there isn’t just one type of strong female character, that to have a strong character they don’t have to be strong physically. However, she could be considered weak in that she’s too gentle with her slaves. There’s a difference between being kind and being a pushover.
Arin was also a character that I didn’t fall in love with instantly but grew on me over the course of the book. He has his own plans from the get go however doesn’t seem to know how to be subtle about it. He’s lucky Kestrel didn’t pick up on it sooner. Arin is a slave that Kestrel bought however he isn’t treated like one. He’s given a lot of freedom and gets basically whatever he asks for. Kestrel even allows him to talk back to her and she even puts herself in danger for him.
The way that slavery is portrayed in the book makes it seem like it isn’t a big deal. But if you look at our real world history, you’d know that slavery is a big deal. And I know this is just a fantasy story but don’t stories often take from real life experiences and occurrences? Basically, I’m not too comfortable with the way that slavery is handled in the book. All for the sake of a romantic plot line.
In saying that, the romance in this was more believable than most YA novels. The development of Kestrel and Arin’s relationship was well handled. This is not an insta-love, THANK GOODNESS. But for someone who should be looking down on people that her own people enslaved, Kestrel was a little too quick to let Arin into her life on an intimate level. But when will the love triangles stop?!
AND ANOTHER THING, there was no map! What fantasy book doesn’t include a map?! Speaking of fantasy, the book comes across as more of a historical fiction because it didn’t have any of the usual fantasy elements like magic or the supernatural.
All in all, I enjoyed The Winner’s Curse and am curious to see what the rest of the series is like.