Title: The Winner's Curse
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source: Gifted. Thank you!
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.
After hearing about this book for years, I finally gave in and decided to pick it up. Everyone I knew who has read it raves about the awesome world building and characters but for me something was just . . . missing. At least in the first half of the book. While I eventually enjoyed it and found the ending awesome, I struggled through the first three fourths of it.
One of my biggest issues with this book was the romance. Honestly I just . . . didn't feel it at all. Kestrel, to me, just seemed a little silly going after Arin when he so clearly seemed to despise her (in the beginning at least). I didn't understand how she felt pulled toward him romantically when he treated her pretty badly for the most part. Not to mention the secrets he'd been keeping and the plans he was working toward . . . I just can't realistically imagine her finding him attractive after that. When they inevitably did get together, it felt forced and out of nowhere, especially on Arin's part. I would have appreciated their relationship more if it had developed as a friendship before anything else. Individually, the characters were both really interesting and flawed in a way that made them feel more realistic. In the end, I would have liked to see them develop more as individuals are friends rather than romantic interests.
Other than their relationship, I found the story interesting but slow in parts. I really struggled through the beginning. There was a lot of world building and it felt like there were long breaks between action scenes. Still, I appreciated the details in the world. It was so refreshing to learn about the history of the countries and societies in this world, something find it often missing from other fantasy novels in YA.
I've already started reading the second book so I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes. Despite not totally rooting for the main couple and finding some of the plot slow, I enjoyed this book. I don't regret picking it up and I'm hoping the rest of the story picks up for me!
“The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”