Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Genres: YA | Fantasy | Romance
Published:  March 4th 2014
Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux
My rating:

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 Review
First of all, I must admit the whole pretty dress business going on in the cover made me a little dubious of the contents of this novel, and I like to think it's just because I have bad past experience. (It really is very pretty!) Even then, the thrilling synopsis and all the glowing reviews talking about the book's perfection heightened my expectations.

“Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”

I loved the writing. It was beautiful, and even in the worst of situations, it had a certain flow to it that just made me turn the pages. I finished this book in a matter of hours and I haven't done that in a long time, and all credits go to the lovely writing style.

I loved the politics-based part of the world building. The world building itself, for the most part, was great.  However, the world The Winner's Curse is set in felt more like a sketch than anything else. This being a High Fantasy I expected a lot of background information even if there is a sequel involved.

Where background information could have been, we are given excessive amounts of description. These were the moments where I barely restrained myself from skimming over the seemingly endless paragraphs. I might be contradicting myself since I did imply less information is not good either but I think it's all about balance.

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

The "deadly games" the synopsis speaks of was what I sought throughout the novel. Descriptions were there, world building was there to a certain level too, a good writing was there, romance was there but the action is what I found lacking the most. And sadly, that happens to be main thing I was looking forward to in the book. There was a lot of doing nothing and getting distracted by hot guy.

Kestrel, the daughter of General Trajan is our main lead.  I disliked her in the beginning due to reasons like the fact that she risked loosing her respect in the society purely based on something instinctive that was not properly justified. That wasn't her last thoughtless risk. Kestrel badly needs to get her priorities straight.

The good that comes out of her priorities being somewhat crooked? More Arin. Introduced as a slave, Arin was a character who slowly creeped into my heart and set up his own little corner in there. He was swoon-worthy, alright, but I admired his skills and the fact that he actually used his brains. Most of the time.

“People in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”

I really liked the romance. The one thing that bothered me was that I felt like it was crossing over with the main plot. Nevertheless, the chemistry between the two was evident and it had me wanting them to be a little more decisive and just get it over with.

All in all?
A pretty good beginning to a series, that ultimately, has a lot of things that could have been much, much better. Nevertheless, I do recommend you give it a try.