I’ve done it again. I have read the sequel to a book before I can even get the review up. *Insert whiny voice* But this time, I really couldn’t help it! This book was so good and it left you on a cliffhanger. So naturally, I HAD to get the second one and breeze through that one the next day. Right?
I should probably tell you to which book I am referring. Perhaps you have heard of The Winner’s Curse, the first in the Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski? I picked it up since it was the February pick for the Forever Young Adult Book Club. I was nervous because one of my best friends, another member of the book club, had already read it and LOVED it, so I didn’t want to hate it. I had also already read so many good reviews about it (like the one at So Obsessed With). I was eager, but nervous. (Not to mention it had been awhile since I read something I enjoyed.) But alas! My fears ended up being nonsensical.
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.
Obviously I have stated that I loved this book. However, there are so many things that I loved! For one, the setting was great. Though it falls into the fantasy category, I would say it blends the fantasy world with our world. The Valorians remind me so much of the Romans – they set about conquering and building an empire they cannot afford, and then they adapt the habits and ways of the people they conquer and enslave.
In Kestrel we find a smart main character. Though she is supposed to decide to be either a warrior or a mother, she does not really want to be either. Instead, Kestrel just wants to play her piano. And despite the fact that she is not good at fighting, she is skilled at strategy. For her general father, this skill is incredibly valuable, and he wants nothing more than for Kestrel to join his army. Unlike her father, I found Kestrel’s lack of fighting abilities to be refreshing in the YA genre. We always read these characters who are physically and mentally adept – Katniss, Harry Potter, Tris, and the list could go on. Yet here we have Kestrel whose only strength is her fingers on keys, not on weapons. Yes, she is very strong mentally, but it is nice that if you met her in the real world, you probably wouldn’t feel the need to run the other way.
Stubborn, strong-willed, and talented at strategy as well, Kestrel meets her match in Arin. He is from the other side of the tracks, but his friendship with Kestrel slowly becomes something more. Though I personally am not into tales of romance, I will say that this is done so well. The main focus of The Winner’s Curse is not the romance – there is so much more going on. For me, the struggle between the history of the Valorians was just as important as the romance between Arin and Kestrel. Through Arin, we are given a view into what it is like to be on the losing side of a battle, which was very thought provoking! I couldn’t decide whose side I was on – Valorians’ or the Herrani’s, Kestrel’s or Arin’s?
Not only are the characters strong leads, but Rutkoski’s writing is fantastic! It is very easy to get lost in her style. She creates such an intriguing and believable society, then fills it with these vivid characters. Unlike many books with multiple points of view, Rutkoski gives Arin and Kestrel very distinct voices. And though the story is predictable in many ways (namely the romance), it still takes you for a ride and throws you for a loop at the end (which is, of course, the reason I immediately purchased The Winner’s Crime on my Kindle and scarfed it down).