The Winner's Curse
By Marie RutkoskiBlurb: 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.
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Dystopia
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Series: Winners Trilogy (Book 1)
My Rating: 4 stars
The Winner's Curse was like nothing I have ever read before; the world building was awesome, the romance was awesome, almost everything was awesome. (Okay, this review is starting to sound like the Lego Movie.) I am betting this book will become really popular as it becomes more well known, though technically you could say it already is, having 1500+ ratings on Goodreads after less than three weeks of being in bookstores.
Worldbuilding: huh. I went through half this book thinking of it as a Dystopian kind of setting, which is somewhat true, but not in the traditional sense, because this isn't really our world gone bad. It's a totally new world that was really well thought out and I loved that it was rooted in Greco-Roman history. It's just really wonderful, and even though I wouldn't want to live in this society, I loved to read about it.
Writing: The author knows how to use metaphors that don't seem over the top and describe characters so well that I felt like I actually knew Kestrel and Arin. I am definitely reading the rest of Marie Rutkoski's books after this literary delight, I can tell you that! But seriously, people, the metaphors. If this hadn't been a library book I probably would have highlighted some of them.
Characters: Can I just say I SHIP KESTREL AND ARIN. Which doesn't happen a lot--I am not someone who gets caught up in the shipping side of books.I will be "Team this" and "Team that", but really it's usually because I simply hate the other guy. When there isn't a love triangle and it's just one romantic interest? Well, sometimes I can get really passionate about the character's relationships (Day and June, guys, Day and June) but usually I simply just go along with it for plot's sake. This book? NO, THEY MUST BE TOGETHER OR I WILL CRY IN MY PILLOW FOR TWO WEEKS STRAIGHT. Arin and Kestrel are pretty much the perfect bookish couple.
Separately, I still love the characters. Kestrel is a kick-butt heroine who isn't afraid to take charge of the situation. She's super smart and good when it comes to strategy, not so good when it comes to fighting. (Yay, a protagonist who is nonathletic...though in Kestrel's case I suppose it isn't exactly non-athleticism, but I'll take what I can get.) Arin is an enigma. I love mysterious characters, they make the book automatically 23.55% more interesting. And that's TOTALLY an exact number, by the way. The fact that he has a sad past? Make that another 13.05% more interesting. ANOTHER really exact number. (Pssh, me just hitting random numbers on the keyboard? Pah-lease.) Both of them are well-developed and likeable. Two thumbs up from me!
The plot was amazing and unique. (This paragraph will probably seem a bit vague because I really want to keep you from learning anything that could spoil the book. You'll thank me later.) Partly, this was due to the world building, but honestly, it would have been a good story--possibly not great, but good--even if the worldbuilding had been lackluster, because the storyline was just that good. I needed to know what happened next. This book is nearly un-put-down-able; not exactly the greatest when you need to go to bed because you have to get up early the next day, but still, I admire that. The major thing I loved about the plot was that the romance didn't happen right away, and even when sparks finally started flying, things were 'complicated'. That just made the book more interesting.
So four stars? How could you give a book four stars if you seem to gush about it? Well. Honestly, the plot did slow down a bit for me nearer to the end. Also, I have extremely high standards for five stars; they have to basically be one of my favorite books, and The Winner's Curse, while great and probably a 2014 favorite, didn't live up to my most favorite books, though it was great and definitely a highlight of my recent reading choices. (This is probably why I gushed so much about it!) Still, it was really good, and I would definitely be recommending it.