Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Winner's Curse
Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publication date: March 4th 2014
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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.
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for review-

I was quite nervous going into The Winner’s Curse.  It was one that I was quick to request solely on that gorgeous cover, but upon getting it and looking into what it was about I didn’t think it would be for me.  I am happy to report that it worked incredibly well for me and ended up being a book that I was actually angry at for ending.  Fantasy is most definitely not my thing, especially when you mix that with a historical-like society, but this book was AWESOME.

The world of The Winner’s Curse isn’t the most upbeat of worlds.  There is a war that is leading to the Valorian people taking over most of the world.  Where we meet our MC Kestral is in the land that once belonged to the Herrani people but has since been taken over by the Valorian’s who force the natives of the land to be their slaves. What struck me as a stand out point of the novel is the world building.  I was completely immersed in this world and it’s history.  Through scenes where Kestral is reading, or ones where she is talking war strategy with her father we get a very clearly painted picture of the history of this land and how the pecking order came to be.  What’s great about the reader’s exploration of Rutkoski’s world is that the pacing doesn’t suffer at all from the information we get.  I actually felt in the final quarter of the novel that things were moving a bit too fast for my liking.  I would be in one scene, turn the page and BAM an attack was beginning just when I wasn’t expecting it.  I can forgive most of that rushed feeling of the end because other parts of the novel never felt rushed at all, which was perfect (more on that later.)

What sealed the deal on my love for this story is the characters and the romance.  Kestral was such a strong girl, she wasn’t afraid to do what she thought was right and she was quite cunning in finding ways to achieve her goals.  I liked that she didn’t bow down to what society wanted of her and she held her head high even when she was being knocked down. One of the ways that Rutkoski enforced this side of Kestral was with her playing of the game Bite and Sting, this game seemed to me like the poker of this world and Kestral excelled at it.  She would play with the boys and take their money almost every time, these parts of the novel were so exciting to me!  The game also serves as a sort of vehicle for Kestral and Arin opening up to one another, which made the games that much more intense.

Arin is a Herrani slave that Kestral purchases at the beginning of the novel at an auction. It becomes clear to the reader early on that Arin is really planted into Kestral’s house, or more accurately the house of the Valorian General (Kestral’s father), to put into motion some sort of Herrani uprising.  It was interesting to me that despite Arin’s ulterior motives he was still someone that I wanted to see Kestral fall in love with so badly.  I think this feeling came from the great development of the story, I could see both of their motives and understood them.  Their romance is slow burn at it’s best, (no rushed feeling here, folks) they feel each other out with questions here and there and don’t really start having a romance for quite a while. The lengths that these two go to for one another and how what they feel for one another is never really proclaimed in a cheesy way, made this romance perfect for me.

The ending was one that had me flipping and hoping to find more pages of the story hidden behind the Author’s Note at the end and yet it did still feel very conclusive for the story.  I want more and I want to see where Arin and Kestral go from here in this new world that they carved out, but at the same time I feel like I read a whole story and am satisfied with the note it left off on.  That probably makes no sense at all, but it does in my head and I am sticking to it! Marie Rutkoski has hit a home run with The Winner’s Curse, I don’t think it’s one that anybody should miss, believe the pretty cover here people!

5 Stars
5 Hot Espressos

35 Responses to “Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’ve been hearing so much about this book from everyone, Jenni. I wish I had requested an ARC myself, but I’m most definitely going to buy a copy when it comes out. The romance sounds like the kind of romance I enjoy in books.
    Lovely review.

  2. Pili

    I’m simply dying to read this one! That beautiful cover was enough to make me want to read it, and reviews like yours are making the wait till my hardcover arrives very tough!
    I read the first 5 chapters on my kindle for free and wow, the writing is amazing!!y

  3. Rashika

    I actually know Arin’s identity because I read the novella that came out a while ago but the idea of an implant is making me really excited. There is so much buzz surrounding this book and I am really worried that the hype will burn me but at the same time it doesn’t really matter because the premises and the cover of this book reel you right in and there is no point trying to fight that draw. 😛

    I am really glad you enjoyed this book Jenni and I am glad that you weren’t let down!

    Lovely Review! 🙂

  4. Tina

    This sounds so good! I’ve been removed from fantasy lately (besides some random dystopian that wasn’t really fantastical) and I’ve been having a hard time finding any that sounds interesting (sometimes they seem too lame). I love that the main girl is a badass because that is something that is important to me in books. I also love that this is a series because I usually get more attached to characters that way, especially when it’s a fantasy series. Great review!

  5. Candace

    I’m glad you loved this! I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I had a really hard time with the first half. It didn’t hold my attention at all. It might have been my mood though. I did love the second half and am anxious to see what happens next!

  6. Kelsey

    I can’t wait to read this, and seeing that you liked it so much makes me want it even more! I have to wait until I move, and then see if my new library has it though. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long waiting list lol oh well.
    Thanks for reviewing!

  7. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    All these positive reviews are making me really anxious for it to come out in March. I seriously haven’t read ONE negative review for this one and I love the idea of the romance between Kestrel and Arin. I’ve been hearing many compliments on the overall romance and how it’s a slow burn that really builds the chemistry between the two. Glad you loved this one, Jenni, and fantastic review! <33

  8. Henrietta

    I know you seldom read fantasies and seeing the 5 Hot Espressos in your review makes me wanna hop out and pre-order this right now – I like the sound of the world setting. And the romance sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Jenni!

  9. Christy

    Bah! I’m so mad at myself for not requesting this book. I honestly didn’t think I’d like it, but it has been scoring some rave reviews. I’ve read 3 other reviews recently for this book, and like you, they rated it a 5. I am so going to snag it when it comes out!

  10. kimbacaffeinate

    I just pre-ordered this from audible and I cannot wait. Beautiful, beautiful review Jenni and so glad it delivered for you. Always thrilling when a drop dead gorgeous cover isn’t filled with fluff.

  11. czai

    beautiful cover, great world, great characters, and great romance? count me in please! Now I’m finitely adding this to my tbr list.

  12. Megan

    So glad you enjoyed this one Jenni! I enjoyed it as well. I liked that Kestrel was a smart, capable heroine and I enjoyed the romance and world building as well. All-around a great book!

  13. Joy @ Thoughts By J

    This is my WOW book, and I’m crossing both my fingers and toes that an Australian publisher (*nudges Macmillan*) will pick it up soon so I can grab a copy from the book store. So many wonderful reviews coming through for this one – I honestly can’t wait to read it!

  14. Alice

    Whoooooo! Always exciting to see a five star review. I know that heaps of bloggers have been raving about this one…and not to mention that COVER. *strokes* I’m so going to be getting hold of this one sometime. I so need to meet these characters. The fact that you loved it despite it being a genre you’re not a big fan of….eeeep! Will be rushing to get this one asap.

  15. Melliane

    I’m so happy you loved it as well, I was so surprised, it was really really awesome! I love her, I love Arin, I love Ronan. Well you know, I love everything. The workd was also unique and I can’t wait to read more. lovely review!

  16. Millie Dixon

    I feel the same way right now as you did right before starting the book. I’m seeing all these glowing reviews for the book, but the premise of it doesn’t sound like something that I’d be crazy about. Although, after reading this review, I’m definitely excited about reading this book once it comes out. Fabulous review!

  17. Alexa

    This book sounds right up my alley. I do love fantasy and historical settings so I think I will enjoy this one. If you did like the mix of fantasy and historical in this one I would suggest reading The Pledge series by Kimberly Derting because it as a mix of those two genres as well and does it really well.

    Thanks for the great review so glad you enjoyed this one!

  18. Lauren

    What a fantastic review! I totally 100% agree, this is a home run. I also thought the story was complete and it could totally end where it is, but I’m still dying to find out what happens next! Kestrel was awesome and the romance was so beautifully handled. I agree, I want everyone to read this and not be put off by the overly gorgeous cover and the hype. 🙂 Brilliant review Jenni!

  19. Pamela D

    I have a bad habit of requesting books because of their covers and then discover that the books aren’t for me. I’m glad that this was not the case for you! 🙂

  20. Bonnie

    So glad you loved this one! It’s one of my favorites of the year but that ending was a jaw dropper. What a way to end it! Book 2 needs to be out SOON.