Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Pages: 355
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Pub. Date: March 4, 2014
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."
Kestrel, a seventeen year old, is the general's daughter and she has two choices.  She can join the military, which is what her father wants, or get married.  Kestrel hates that her world is so limited and wants more for herself.  She lives in a world where there are slaves and while at a slave auction, a young male slave catches her eye.  She pays an exorbitant price for him, which raises many eyebrows. As they spend more time together, she realizes that she is starting to have feelings for him, which is definitely not allowed in her world.  Arin, the slave, has many secrets; secrets that could destroy Kestrel's world.  Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse is an imaginative novel that was slow out of the gate, but once half way through, I was glued to the pages.

Kestrel and Arin's relationship is a sllllloooooow burn.  It didn't bother me too much, but as I learned more about Arin's past, I thought that there was no way these two star crossed lovers will ever have a chance at love.  Things get more and more complicated in their world, but what I like about Kestrel is her determination.  She is a fun, gutsy, and dedicated heroine in The Winner's Curse and even though I rolled my eyes a few times at her choices, I thoroughly enjoyed her journey.

The Winner's Curse has a lot of action and strategizing regarding battle plans.  It reminded me a bit of Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns Cashore's Graceling and Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, which is high praise. The world-building in this novel is pretty great.  Also, Rutkoski's writing is elegant and almost lyrical at times.  I can see why many readers are a fan.

So, why didn't I give The Winner's Curse five stars?  For me, the book was SO slow in the beginning.  Plus, I felt really disconnected from Kestrel. I'm not sure why. I think it was the the third person point of view, which sometimes I struggle with.  Sometimes I felt very removed from the story instead of right in the thick of it with Kestrel.  So, for the first half of the book, I didn't feel very invested.  Then, all of a sudden, the story sucked me and I was hooked.  In the end, I was glad I stuck with The Winner's Curse.

So, if you are looking for a young adult fantasy that deals with forbidden love, revenge, and the notion of loyalty in an imaginative war-torn world, check out Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse. Fans of Kristin Cashore, Leigh Bardugo, and Rae Carson won't be disappointed….just make sure to give the story some time to unfold.



14 comments:

  1. I really liked this one but not because of the "romance". I think it was the world building, the twists and the military strategy that actually made it interesting for me. If you liked this one you might also like Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon. I am way overdue in writing a review for it but it is kind of similar to this as well as Diana Peterfreund's space series and These Broken Stars.

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    1. The world building and the twists were pretty great. I am definitely going to read book two. I loved These Broken Stars, too! Thanks for dropping by, Christina!

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  2. I agree Christina, the first half was a touch slow, but I'm glad you loved this one despite that! I was such a big fan of Kestrel and Arin, though I'm nervous at how things are going to progress. I feel like these two are definitely going to rip my heart out before all is said and done. Really lovely review!!!

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    1. I know, right?! Book two will definitely kill me. I'm glad you liked this one too. Thanks for visiting, Jenny!

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  3. I'm happy you liked this one, Christina. The romance in this was great and I loved Kestrel as a main character. Rutkoski is undoubtedly very talented when it comes to characterizations. I have to agree with you on the pace of the novel though. The beginning was incredibly slow and I was waiting for something to happen. Hopefully, the next book will be stronger in that department.
    Lovely review, Christina. :)

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    1. I'm glad we agree regarding the pacing in the beginning. I am so glad I stuck with it though and I'm glad you were a fan of this one, too! Thanks for dropping by, Nick!

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  4. I loved this one and while I didn't find it slow, I can see why you might have thought that. Very excited to see what happens next!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. Thanks, Jen! I am excited as well. I felt the first half was pretty slow, but then of course, things really picked up and I was hooked. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, too! Thanks for visiting!

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  5. I'm glad you enjoyed this for the most part. I ended up liking it quite a bit more than I thought I would--although it wasn't a five-star read for me either. I loved the world building and was surprised that it read more like historical fiction. Great review!

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    1. Yes, you are right! It definitely had a historical vibe too it, which I definitely liked. I felt the same way about this book--good, but not mind-blowing. I'm glad we agree. Thanks for dropping by and I got your message on Twitter. I will definitely write you back, Natalie!

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  6. I've heard good things about this one, and I do plan on checking it out at some point, but I have this strange feeling that I won't love it. Still, we'll see. I like the sound of the slow burn romance, although the pacing of the book overall feels like it might be a little slow for my tastes!

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    1. It is really slow in the beginning, Leanna, but if you stick with it, I think you will like it….you won't LOVE it, but you'll be entertained. Thanks for dropping by!

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  7. I'm glad you stuck with it! TWC is definitely slow (I almost gave up a couple times in the beginning), but worth reading in the end.

    Lovely review!

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    1. You are so right! I knew that I just had to stick with it after reading all those incredible reviews. I am definitely glad I did. Thanks for visiting, Lea!

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