Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy #1)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 355
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Reviews for book 2 & book 3

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.

I am almost ashamed to admit that The Winner's Curse sat on my shelf for over three months waiting to be read. To be honest, I really just wasn't sure what to expect from a book categorized as High Fantasty, Science Fiction, History, and Dystopia. I mean, how can a book be both historical AND dystopian? I really still don't know the answer to that question after reading it, but I am glad I took the plunge because this is one book that really lives up to the hype!

Kestrel is the main lady in the Winner's series and I loved her almost immediately. I loved that she went against the grain (what YA heroine doesn't though?). She's the general's daughter and is obviously in good social standing, but doesn't seem to let it go to her head. Her fighting skills aren't amazing, but she was just the right balance of awesome and "normal" for me to love her! I also really enjoyed getting to know Arin. There were things about him that I couldn't be sure of for most of the book and I really liked that. One of the things that really won me over was the romance between Kestrel and Arin.

First of all, NO love triangle! Not at all, not even a little bit. What a breath of fresh air! Not only that, but the romance was really slow and because of that it was believable. Kestrel was actually pretty indifferent towards Arin in the beginning, which made their eventual romance all the more satisfying. As the plot moves and things get more difficult, their relationship gets even better (better to read, at least).

Ahh, the plot... Who doesn't love a good conspiracy?! I loved the way what is happening in the book is slowly revealed to the reader in the same way it is to the characters. Sometimes it's nice to be completely in the know, but the way this book worked out was really fantastic! Seeing all the pieces of the bigger picture come together as more of the events unravel had me up late more than once because I couldn't put it down! The dynamics of the government that has been created and the long-past war and its outcomes were so detailed and...real. My one complaint is that it did seem to be a little slow in the middle, but it certainly picked up again in the last third of the book.

Oh, and when the synopsis says this book is "set in a richly imagined new world" it isn't joking! I'm about to move on to book two and I still can't figure out what cultures this is even based on. For a minute I was thinking maybe somewhere in Asia, then I thought Russia, but I think I've given up. This world is like nothing I've ever encountered before. It's complex and feels so real I almost feel like I could go there!

So anyway, welcome to another review where I just rant and rave about how awesome everything is. In case you couldn't tell, I loved this one! Yes, there was a little bit of lag in the for maybe the second third, but it definitely wasn't enough to detract from the story or its characters. The ending totally threw me for a loop! Definite cliffhanger alert!! I'm reading book two as soon as I can get my hands on it because now I have to know what happens next!