Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Published March 4th, 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux.
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. (Goodreads)
After Fierce Reads announced the cover change for the trilogy and then the re-announcement after the fans took to Twitter (you can read my cover change post here) I knew I needed to read this book soon to decide if I was going to be picking up The Winner’s Crime in paperback or hardback. I think I’ll be reaching for the hardback. This story is so interesting but I can see why some people might be turned off and not like it. The writing is hard to describe. It’s sneaky and slow and there is always something brewing underneath the surface. It’s the quiet killer. This is also the first book that I felt plopped into the middle of a larger story rather than starting from the beginning. Sort of like how Throne of Glass was. You knew there was stuff that happened before, some stuff you would find out about and some stuff you wouldn’t but the start of the story was not the creation of the characters.
There are also two classes of people: the Valorian and the Herrani. The Valorian’s are the wealthy, in charge class and the Herrani for the most part, are their slaves. Right in the beginning, our female protagonist Kestrel buys a slave, Smith. The thing that you do not realize from the start is the Valorians are the barbarians and it wasn’t until the war that the Valorians start adopting some of the Herrani customs that enable them to seem more high society.
The characters of Kestrel and Arin are magnificent. I really liked that Kestrel didn’t have to be an assassin or killer to be powerful. It definitely makes sense seeing her in a dress on the cover. She wears several dresses throughout the story. She also plays the piano. Some people have said that Kestrel is distant, and everything is calculated in her favor, but I didn’t get that at all. Yes, she is calculated but in a different way than you would expect. I don’t believe she is distant as a character, I think that falls back to the writing. It was also said, “She spent the majority of the book in her villa and saw so little of the world.” but again as I said in the beginning, I think it has to do with how the story was written. If we would have gotten the book where Kestrel was born as a character rather than being plopped into a larger story I think we would have sensed the build up to who Kestrel is and why is she the way she is. I can say the same thing about Arin. I really had a love/hate relationship with Arin. He was the character I was looking for in The Darkling of the Grisha trilogy. He was a very complex character.
Since the story was slowly built the beginning did seem to drag a bit, but after reading the entire thing and becoming familiar with Rutoski’s writing, I realize it was her style. I appreciated the political concepts of slavery and war. I cared about the characters and their relationships to each other. I am 100% invested and want to see what happens next. By the end I was completely immersed in this world. I rated The Winner’s Curse 4 stars.