Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publish Date: March, 4th, 2014
“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 Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski has had a lot of hype swirling around it since even before it's release. For me, hype can sometimes crush a book before I even give it a chance, but something about The Winner's Curse caught my attention and wouldn't let go. Maybe because I like fantasy and Ancient Rome, so a fantasy set in a world based on Ancient Rome had to be good, right? Yes, it did. And yes, it was.
In the case of The Winner's Curse, the hype was there for a reason. Something about Rutkoski's writing and story just pulls you in and makes you care desperately about her characters, even when they are acting a wee unlikable. Like Kestrel, the main character, who was strong and cunning, but also a bit of a hypocrite. And Arin, sweet and intelligent, but also quite mean to Kestrel at times. It didn't matter, Rutkoski writes them in a way that lets the reader understand why they act the way they do, even if some of their actions come off... abrupt.
Which was probably the only thing that put me off about the book. The abruptness of certain scenes. Sometimes Arin would turn cruel and angry so fast it was almost surreal. Like the moment would come completely out of nowhere and was over just as quickly. There were quite a few parts of the story that happened that way, including some of Kestrel's changes of heart. But it moved the plot along and didn't really take anything away from the soul of the story, it was just startlingly abrupt at times. Like, if you blinked you'd miss it.
One thing I was definitely not expecting was to like any of the parents in a book set in this type of society, but I really liked Kestrel's father, the General. He pressures Kestrel to join the military because she has a strategist's mind, but also because, in their world, women can only be "free" if they are soldiers. They either sign their lives away to their country or their husband. Kestrel's father seems strict, but he lets her do the things she wants and, even if they anger him, he never punishes her for them. He's a good parent in a strange world, but I really liked him, and can't wait to see what he thinks of Kestrel after that ending!
Honestly, I enjoyed this book so much I didn't even stop to take notes as I was reading, which is why I'm struggling to write this review. It was just so good and kept me up all night because I got so lost in the story. I enjoyed the conclusion (a bit of a cliffhanger, but one that wraps things up nicely... for now) and will definitely be picking up the rest of this series!
If you are a lover of fantasy, this one has more romance and revolution than fantasy elements, but it's still set in an engaging world that will feel familiar to you at the same time it feels foreign. It actually reminded me of the movie Pompeii as I was reading it (aristocratic girl falling for a slave boy), so if you liked that movie, definitely give The Winner's Curse a try. (Or vice versa if you haven't watch the movie yet!)
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