Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrer Straus and Giroux on March 4, 2014
Genres: YA Fantasy
Source: For Review
I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!
The Winner’s Curse is set in completely fictional world where a people called the Valorians conquered the Herrani people who lived there before. They took over their land and turned them into slaves. Kestral, the daughter of a military general, lives a life of great wealth but her only two options as she becomes of age are to be married or enter the military — two things that aren’t exactly what she wants. As she and her friend Jess are out in the market one day she sees an auction taking place for a Herrani boy about her age who seems pretty defiant but Kestral impulsively decides to buy him as soon as the auctioneer says he can sing. As they begin to get to know each other more, Kestral begins to know her feelings for him aren’t something that society will be okay with. In those moments they share, she feels something that ignites her but she has no idea the secrets that lies behind Arin’s eyes.
I finally read The Winner’s Curse — perhaps one of the most talked about books of the season and I have to say, as soon as I closed this book, I had this insatiable need for the next installment. If you like stories where you get lost in the world, The Winner’s Curse will take you far, far away. It took me a little bit to get into, it’s a pretty slow build of the world and characters to start, but the storytelling will just dazzle you when you get into it.
1. OH MY HEART. This romance. The romantical element in Winner’s Curse was brilliant and refreshing. I have always loved forbidden romance type stories but they really need to have some real depth in them and consequences I can feel. This isn’t some predictable kind of love story but this forbidden slow dance that just leaves you breathless and your heart pounding especially at the end. It’s not simple or easy or even really a “romance” but more of these forbidden feelings that are just starting to really be explored before the SHIT HITS THE FAN. Arin is her slave, she bought him herself, but she feels something for him and she experiences these consequences on a small scale as rumors fly about them. I could feel this tension and I loved the slow burn feel to their story. It wasn’t an immediate sort of thing but these great small, scattered moments that were carefully weighed between the two of them. It become even more tense as the reader learns about Arin’s secrets & feelings. Aching, aching, aching <—— my heart.
2. The writing & storytelling was PERFECTION. I don’t have much to say about it but that. It’s just perfection. Everything is written so brilliantly. And while, initially it took me about 50 pages to really get into it, the way the story is told it’s just so hard not to be absorbed into this new world and its political structure, the character and the romance. And the plot just moved along at a great pace that kept me engaged and at times on the edge of my seat. Marie Rutkoski knows how to tell a good story!
3. Kestral is a fantastic heroine that really stood out to me: So many heroines I read these days are always so much of the ass-kicking variety (which I LOVE) but Kestral was admittedly an awful fighter. But Kestral is SMART. Very strategic and cunning and curious. I also love that she wasn’t really focused on romance but her curiosity is more what initiated her attraction to Arin. There was something in him that she sensed and she wanted to know. I think it’s because they both had this rebellious sort of kindred spirit thing going on but I equally loved Kestral and Arin and who they were and what they fought for.
4. HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS! This action got quite intense: The story starts a bit slow but like a good chess game the pieces are being moved in a subtle manner until SHIT HAPPENS and oh does it happen. I was gasping for breath when I realized what was going on and what it meant for our heroine and the story and then the action just kept coming at me and was relentless until the very emotional ending. I felt like an emotional piñata — the story just kept beating the hell out of me as all my emotions and FEELS (anger, sadness, shock, betrayal, triumph) exploded out. I was left empty and broken by the end and DYING for book 2 which I think is going to be even thrilling and exciting and political and things between Arin and Kestral will be even more tense.
5. It made me think differently of fantasy as a fantasy newb: As someone who is new to the fantasy genre I was pretty limited in my knowledge to what fantasy was. I was wondering WHERE ARE IS ALL THE MAGIC AND DRAGONS AND THINGS. I saw the completely made up world but I thought fantasy = fantastical elements always but alas after some googling, because I was curious why this had the label of fantasy, I was schooled on what fantasy is.
The Winner’s Curse is a book that really just has it all — great storytelling, absorbing writing, compelling characters, action, a political structure with much depth and a romance that isn’t predictable or flimsy. It’s a book that has this fantasy newb head over heels and anxious for the next installment because my EMOTIONS are a hot mess over that ending and I’m frazzled all my the various tensions (political, romance, etc). Somebody get me a margarita, stat!
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?