The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1), by Marie Rutkoski
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan
Format: paperback, gifted
Genre: young adult fantasy
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Rating: 5 STARS
(Synopsis) 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.
"The Winner's Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price."
Goodness, but this book was brilliant.
If I'm going to read YA, I prefer it to be YA fantasy. There's something amazing about how authors create something out of nothing. These worlds, their customs and rules, the characters' names - they're mostly all born in the author's head, and it just astounds me the creativity that is required to not only dream them up and have them make sense, but to draw a reader in and make it all seem completely and totally real.
The Winner's Curse was like that.
It takes place in a war-torn world where the Valorians have fought, defeated, and subsequently enslaved the Herrani people and taken over their land. In the beginning, 17-year-old Kestrel, who happens to be the General's daughter, pays a very high price at auction for a strapping 19-year-old Herrani boy. Thus begins a very Romeo-and-Juliet-esque relationship between two kids who are on very opposite ends of a war that is not quite as over as everyone thinks.
Once again I find myself gripped by a story with a seemingly impossible happily ever after. While those types of stories definitely frustrate me to the point of distraction, they make for incredibly engrossing reads. The biggest question running through my mind was, Who is going to give first? Kestrel and Arin are on opposite sides of a war. In order for them to even think about being together, one of them has to betray their people. So, who would it be?
Marie Rutowski did an amazing job making this world and the characters' stories come to life. For as much as I loved this book, I did have to step away from it for a day or so in the middle. I was so involved in the story and in the characters lives and choices that I became really freaking angry over some of them. I felt everything they did, and when the events of the book threatened to overwhelm them, I felt that too. The break I took served me well, and when I dove back in, there was no stopping me until I was finished.
Kestrel was a great character. On the surface, she seems too high brow to have any kind of real strength. But, like many characters in this book, that's just a facade. She is able to shift personas depending on who she is with - her strict father, her stuck-up best friend, her newly bought slave. She does what she has to in order to survive and remain true to herself, and those choices are most certainly not always easy.
Arin is another character that seemed to be one thing at first, and then turned out to be something else entirely. Perhaps he and Kestrel are drawn together like they are because he too is willing to do whatever he has to in order to survive. Perhaps it's the fact that Arin has an incredible sense of loyalty, which ultimately, is what causes him more problems than he ever bargained for. He is very loyal to his people, but he also becomes loyal to Kestrel, and they stand on two very opposite sides of a wide chasm.
Before I was even halfway done with The Winner's Curse, I found myself ordering the last two books in this series. I knew I couldn't wait to see how their story ends. And I have a sneaking suspicion that it will get worse before it gets better.