Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on March 4, 2014
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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.
I finished The Winner’s Curse six day ago and I’m just sitting down to write this review. I wanted to LOVE this book, the way almost all of my fellow bloggers did. And though I definitely enjoyed it, I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped to. I’m thinking it was more me than the book, though. I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life and I think that stuff just interfered with my enjoyment of reading for a small period of time — Case in point: I read 6-8 books/month in September, October and November… We’re half-way through December and I’m only on my second book of the month.
So I tried to put aside the issues I had while reading (I was bored and easily side-tracked; I went days without reading) and I decided that, if those things were me and not the book, then the book itself was actually pretty good. Marie Rutkoski is a gorgeous writer. She created a marvelous world with epic characters and plenty of twists and turns! The first half of the book was a bit slow, but it built up to a crazy second half of the book. It read like a stand-alone (meaning no major cliffhangers and though it’s part of a series, it can stand on its own just fine) and I was very satisfied with the ending. In fact, the ending made me even more excited for the second book!
I liked Kestrel a lot. She was stubborn and defiant, fighting against the two options her father selected for her future – become a soldier in the military or get married. Kestrel didn’t want anything to do with either of these potential futures; she wanted to map out her own life and do the things that made her happy. She was also very intelligent, yet reckless, at times. She did some pretty stupid things and she often did things without thinking through the consequences first. She was kind to those who didn’t deserve her kindness and she tried to treat the servants with some dignity.
I really, really wanted to like Arin. For the most part, I did; however, he definitely had his moments where he was cold and said some truly unforgivable things, especially to Kestrel. I definitely liked his rapport with her, though. They seemed to understand each other on a deeper level than could be possible, especially given how little time they spent together. It was like they could read each other. I didn’t really ship them in the beginning, though. I know everyone swooned over Arin and desperately wanted to see him and Kestrel together, but he was just too cruel in the first half of the story – not too mention all the hatred and lies that stood between them. Some of the revelations concerning Arin’s past were intriguing, though predictable.
I’m not sure how I feel about Ronan. I liked him enough to care about his fate in the end. But I just couldn’t see him as the third part in a love triangle. It was so obvious how that situation would end that I didn’t even bother giving him too much of a second glance. I really liked Jess and Benix, though neither of them was without their faults, especially Benix. Yet they didn’t deserve their fates. Enai was another character I adored. I would have liked to get to know her more and I found my feelings mirrored Kestrel’s on this one. I liked Sarsine and I hope we see more of her in book two. I’m torn with how I feel about General Trajan… Finally, for obvious reasons, I despised Lord Irex and Cheat.
I think the most fascinating thing about this book was the fact that we saw a revolution unfold before our eyes. Normally, YA books lead up to a revolution or take place several years after, not during. It was intriguing to see a different side of a revolution for once.
I LOVED the ending, though it felt slightly rushed, like the battle started and ended too quickly; however, it was still epic and crazy and insane and had SO MUCH political intrigue. I loved the ending so much that it basically made up for all my negative thoughts while reading. And the ending is the reason I rounded my rating up to 3.5 stars. It was THAT GOOD.
Overall, while I loved the characters, plot, world and writing, it did take me forever to read (11 days! That’s a lot for me..) and I felt a major disconnect with the book. As I mentioned earlier, I really think that was my own issue, not an issue with the book, so I’m letting it slide for now. I think The Winner’s Curse really sets things up nicely for the second book and I’m eager to read it and find out what happens next! I definitely recommend this book despite the issues I had because I seem to be in the minority with said issues. Marie Rutkoski is a fantastic author and I’m interested to see what she does next (outside of the final book in this trilogy).