Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review - The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series?: The Winner's Curse, book #1
Pages:  355 pages
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Dates read: December 17th to 22nd, 2014 (ebook)
Goodreads Synopsis:
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
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
**This review may contain spoilers**
I don’t know if I could ever express how much I adored The Winner’s Curse. I was weary at first, but I had absolutely no reason to. The story starts off with Kestrel, the lead character, unexpectedly going to a slave auction (something that is quite common in this world). She ends up buying a slave, named “Smith” (later we find out his name is Arin). I can’t say much more about the novel lest I give something away.

First of all, the world building was A+. The war between the Herrani and Valorian peoples, the way each culture lives, their traditions, etc. were well thought out and they felt like they could be a real cultures. I wouldn’t necessarily want to live under the rule of the Valorian empire because of its ruthlessness, but I definitely could see what living in that society could be like.

Kestrel is probably one of my favourite YA protagonists that I’ve read in a while. She didn’t completely reject the idea of being girly - she still went out into society with her friend Jess, wore dresses, etc… but she also kicked ass while doing it. She refused to obey her society’s “rules” about unmarried or unenlisted women going out without an escort (though in the end, she does go out with Arin as her escort). She also kept a very straight head throughout the story. Even when she was captured by the Herrani rebels, she didn’t lose her head or wait for someone to save her. She strategized and kept her eyes open for possible ways to escape all while trying to keep Arin alive. I actually admired her and there wasn’t one moment where I thought “what an idiot” - which actually happens often in YA novels.

Arin was also a great male lead. He was ruthless but still cared about Kestrel enough to try and save her from what he and the Herran rebels were planing. This is actually what I loved the most about The Winner’s Curse. The love story was very much secondary. It was there and it contributed to the story, but it didn’t smack you in the face and distracted you. Really, it’s what I wanted Legend by Marie Lu to be.

The story was also very interesting. I love anything with an uprising against various forms of government, so I was totally there for it. What also made me like it is that I didn’t expect the story to take that turn it did. I don’t know what I was expecting of it, but a full-scale rebellion starting roughly halfway through the novel was not it. But that’s also exactly what I loved about it. The pacing was good. It didn’t go by too fast or too slow. There was enough story to build up the world and the injustices and nuances present in that world. Just enough so that when the rebellion happens,you aren’t that surprised that it is happening.

The writing itself is very good. Marie Rutkoski definitely has talent. All the storylines and different characters’ interactions all fit together. There is a lot that happens in here for a first installement in a trilogy, but it didn’t feel crowded and jammed in. Everything happened where and when it was supposed to, and there was a reason for all of it.

The pacing may have been slow sometimes, but other than that, there honestly wasn't much that annoyed me about this book. For the life of me I can't think of anything wrong with this book.

The Winner’s Curse is a surprisingly interesting YA novel about love and war, and how the two interact with each other, especially since both people are on different sides of the conflict. That’s what makes TWC unique for me. It isn’t like anything I’ve ever read, and the rebellion takes up most of the novel where you would think the romance would - even though there is a nice enough amount of romantic action between Kestrel and Arin that is amazing and hot. I couldn’t stop reading it and I honestly cannot wait for the second novel, The Winner’s Crime to me released in March. I just wanna know what happens!

If you’re looking for a YA read that has great characters, an intriguing story line with a nice bit of romance woven through it, then you should definitely pick up The Winner’s Curse!

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