Title: The Winner’s Curse
Series: Book #1 in The Winner’s trilogy
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance, Dystopian
Format: Hardcover – Won in contest
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.
I have never been so conflicted about a rating on a book as I was with this one. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I was just kind of neutral about it.
The story starts out in an interesting way with a girl of high society out and about in the market with her friend when they come upon an auction for a slave and she buys him despite her better judgement. It then goes on about her desire to not become part of the military like her father wants, of not getting married too young if that’s the only other option, and of not falling for someone she knows she shouldn’t and can’t have.
I honestly thought that this story was meh at best. I wasn’t overly blown away by it, nor was I super invested in any of the characters. There was enough in there, though, that made me want to continue and find out what happens next, but it was just okay.
Kestrel is a very strategic person, always trying to think two steps ahead of everyone else. She leads her life a lot through logic and cleverness, and she isn’t afraid to stick up for herself and make decisions regarding her life or supporting the decisions she makes. I thought that she was kind of distant, though, like I couldn’t really connect to her or her situations. I thought that she was kind of bland and didn’t really show much emotion other than cleverness or annoyance/anger. I remember one time – maybe two – in the book where she laughed or smiled genuinely in a situation, and that’s just something I just find hard to believe. I thought she was an okay character and her real self really came out around Arin.
Arin is the slave that Kestrel buys and already he’s got a kind of wildness in his eyes when she buys him, a defiance that shouldn’t be there in a slave. I think that where Kestrel leads with logic, he leads more with emotions and allows himself to feel situations more than Kestrel does. I thought that he was the more interesting of the two, honestly. He seemed much more honest when we read from his point of view and not nearly as bland. I enjoyed reading about his backstory in the parts where it happened, and of his protective nature over Kestrel.
I think that my favorite parts were the romance parts because that was when both of the characters truly seemed to come alive. Both of them bounced off each other in ways that were beautiful and golden and I thought that it was rich and lively and wonderful.
Kestrel’s friendship with Jess and Ronan didn’t seem genuine in the least. I thought that through the majority of the book that Jess would betray Kestrel because that’s just the vibe I got from her. And then I could plainly see Ronan’s affections for Kestrel even if she wanted to deny them. They didn’t really seem like they were part of the story, but rather fillers for when it was needed.
And though I could understand Kestrel being angry at being kept as though she were a slave later on in the book, I think that she didn’t really take the time to understand that the people who had just captured her had been slaves for the last decade. I was waiting and hoping that she would have put herself in their shoes at least once, to understand where they were coming from and to understand why they were so upset with the Valorians, but she didn’t, and I think that was my greatest disappointment.
Some parts were entertaining and lot of it was kind of dragging. I don’t really know how I feel about the book; I wanted to love it, but ended up kind of being meh about it.
I will say, though, that despite my complaints that I am interested to see what happens next and how things are going to go from here. I hope that the second book gets better.
I rate this book 3/5 stars.
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