Released: April 10th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out if 5
Find it on Goodreads
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 thing that made me want to read The Winner's Curse most was the title. Before reading the book, I didn't even know what it meant, but it drew me in all the same. After reading the book, I spent some more time Googling to find out more about it, and I just love how it ties in with everything and ugh. I love it when titles are perfect for the book. Now, irrelevant preamble aside, let me tell you what I thought of the book itself!
It was easy to get engrossed in The Winner's Curse; the beginning definitely grabbed my attention. Kestrel was quite an interesting character. I didn't really understand her motives at the beginning, but as we found out more about her, and she started to learn more about things, I began to like her more. I really liked that even though she wasn't actually that good a fighter, she was still a highly sought after soldier because she was a great strategist (I'd really like to see her show her skills at some point too). It made a change from the whole "female characters are only worth anything if they fight well and beat people up a lot" thing that seems to be going on a lot these days. Don't get me wrong, I love heroines that can fight and kill and stuff but just because a character can't do those things, doesn't make them weak either. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss is equally awesome to Tris from Divergent in my opinion. Anyway, I liked Kestrel and I think she made realistic choices toward the end, fit for her character, and it was interesting to see her weigh up the choices of becoming or soldier or marrying; she was stuck with all these things she didn't want to do and had to choose in a short period of time and I just liked her thought process and narrator style in general.
I was wary of the romance at first but it was written better than I expected it to be. I liked that Arin spoke his mind (well only in front of Kestrel really) and that he didn't trust her completely - he was feeling more comfortable around her each day but not enough to tell her his life story, you know, and I liked that - it would be weird if he felt that safe around her. I did feel there was a bit of a 180 turnaround with the romance - they went from hate to love quite suddenly (not in an insta-love way, just their opinions of each other suddenly seemed to change). But after that initial switch, you could see more development and how Arin's opinion of Kestrel was changing. The whole forbidden romance thing took a very interesting turn at the end, adding a new twist to the story that I really enjoyed. I was kinda surprised that Arin didn't see right through what happened at the end, but then again, maybe he was just shocked and needed time to think. All in all I am curious to see what he'll do next.
Plot-wise, I enjoyed the first half slightly more than the second half, mostly because a lot was happening and I think I maybe read it too fast and didn't really retain as much as I should have. The world-building was a bit shaky - I didn't really understand how society became the way it was and what happened between the people to make it that way, but maybe it will be elaborated upon in book two. Arin's character changed a bit as well and while it was interesting to read about him in that position, the transition was slightly abrupt.
Overall, The Winner's Curse was a good start to a new series - one that I am looking forward to continuing. I had a few issues here and there and I think it's always good to take the hype with a pinch of salt, but I would definitely recommend this book if you like forbidden romances and fantasy settings.