Is it weird that I barely noticed the author has the same name as me? No? Okay, let’s move on shall we…I heard a lot about The Winner’s Curse, and, despite the fact that I am not a huge historical fiction fan, I decided to give it a try, for many reasons.
- Look at that GORGEOUS cover.
- Forbidden romance? YES, I am a marshmallow.
- Heart-pounding and great, lovable characters? OKAY I am in.
If I did expect all of these things in The Winner’s Curse, I admit that I felt a bit let-down by all of it at the end. Especially the latter point. Don’t get me wrong, it was GOOD. It just missed something for it to be absolutely perfect.
Two people, worlds apart…
“ She reminded herself bitterly that this was what curiosity had bought her: fifty keystones for a singer who refused to sing, a friend who wasn’t her friend, some one who was hers and yet would never be hers.”
Hearing about The Winner’s Curse before, and seeing where it’s shelved on Goodreads, I thought you could expect a fantasy world, lots of great world-building, heart-pounding action and everything. After all, A Gathering of Shadows is on that very same shelf, and have you read this book? Well, The Winner’s Curse didn’t feel pale, in comparison, it just felt like it didn’t really belong in that category. This is the story of Kestrel and Arin, two people living worlds apart, but unlikely meeting at an auction. Arin’s a slave, and Kestrel, on instinct, buys him for an atrocious amount of money. This is a story about a world torn between slaves on the one side, and the owners on the other side, people who took their country, their cities, their homes, years ago. This is the slow-building story of Kestrel and Arin meeting, growing feelings for each other, all the while war is at their door, ready to knock, and their worlds to be shattered.
…A slow-building story to a simple yet effective historical YA
The world building isn’t as complex as Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, or as developed, however, with just a few words and very few explanations and long descriptions, you’re immersed into a completely different place and time. Even if I am not into YA historical books so much, I could enjoy that story and that world, without falling in love with it – but this is probably because this is not what I am used to, as well.
Characters : a hard connection
“ Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not.”
If I found the beginning of that book slow, it is mainly because I had a hard time getting into each characters’ minds. Told from a dual POV, between Kestrel and Arin, we get each perspective and thourough the story, get to know them better. If I appreciated the fact that each character was well-built and full of complexities and flaws, I had a hard time actually connecting to each of them, thus my rating at the end. I could care, and even root a little bit for them, but my feelings weren’t as strong as they could be with other characters, in other books. Kestrel is definitely a strong character – is that a word we use too often? She wants to follow her instinct, she wants to let her fingers slide on the piano, she wants to get to know Arin better. She is strong-minded and definitely a badass character. On the other side, Arin is such a smart character, but he is so closed-off, and this is probably because he is hiding a secret, but it took me way more time to grow used to him and to actually like him.
…but interesting father/daughter relationship
Something I really enjoyed, however, was Kestrel’s relationship with her dad. Her mother passing, Kestrel grew up with her dad and obviously, in a world like that, he has some expectations from her and for the kind of life she is supposed to lead. On the other hand, Kestrel had her own views on her life, and that was definitely interesting to see their point of view colliding, hopefully promising something more complex and full of conflict in the next book.
…in a mostly character-driven story, filled with promises
“Arin wondered if she would lift her eyes, but wasn’t worried he would be seen in the garden’s shadows.
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”
If that wouldn’t have frustrated me so much in a fantasy book where the world-building was so different, complex and mind-blowing, there, it kind of let me down a bit, because The Winner’s Curse is mainly a character-driven book. There isn’t much happening at the beginning, and during the whole book except for the ending. All thourough the story, I was following Kestrel and Arin’s relationship evolve, slowly, while on the background, events unfold and let to an ending that was definitely way more interesting and promising for the rest of the series.
Despite all the hype around that series, I couldn’t get into it fully and had a hard time connecting to each of the characters. The ending, however, made up for the slow beginning and promises some interesting events and complexities happening, both between the characters and hopefully in the world and internal conflicts that will develop in the next books of the series. I am curious so I think I might get to it soon.
Final rating: 3 drops!
Did you read The Winner’s Curse? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it?
Did you enjoy the whole series? Should I read it? Share your thoughts in comments! 💬
Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Curse, Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 4th 2014.
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.