The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Digital Audiobook narrated by Justine Eyre
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on March 4, 2014
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 355 pages or 8 hours, 24 minutes
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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.
I have a really weird relationship with The Winner’s Curse.
I’m struggling here to find words to describe this book – I just… don’t know how I feel? Kestrel is fine, and Arin is fine, and the storyline is fine and the worldbuilding is fine, and I guess when it comes down to it, The Winner’s Curse is just fine. I enjoyed it enough, but I didn’t find it particularly memorable.
This novel is marketed as a fantasy, and I will give it that the world itself seems fantastical in its elements. There’s a Roman vibe to the world – from conversations about villas to military takeovers, but other than that, this doesn’t seem like fantasy. There’s no magic, no mythical creatures… the only thing that really makes this feel like fantasy is the fact it’s Romanesque.
I do objectively like the story here – the characters are driven and their responses are very logical to their situation. It’s hard to talk about this book without the twist? Which honestly didn’t feel like a twist, more like just the plot. I thought it was interesting and reminded me a bit of Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce, so I appreciated it, but I don’t feel overly excited by it.
Usually when a plot is just okay, the characters pull me through, but I have no emotional attachment to any of them. I just feel like I’m watching them through a two-way mirror, and I don’t feel the connection. They’re not flat, per se, just very methodical and focused. I’m not buying into the romance. I’m barely buying into the friendships.
The world-building is fine – as a reader you are immersed in the setting. I think that the action scenes are a bit quick, but you do get a feel for the world and the social/political castes, which I think can be a bit underdone in fantasy.
I honesty wish I liked this book more. I’m interested enough to continue on with the series, but I’m just not in love with it. And I want to me. I mean, look at the cover. Is that not totally gorgeous?