Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Bloomsbury on July, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Medieval
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Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.
As a generalâ€™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.
Arinâ€™s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys himâ€”with unexpected consequences. Itâ€™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 was somewhat disappointed by The Winnerâ€™s Curse, the debut novel from Marie Rutkoski. Disappointed because I had such high hopes for this book. The premise, the gorgeous cover and other stellar reviews really had me sold on the fact that I would LOVE this book. I guess Iâ€™m one of those in the minority that just didnâ€™t â€˜getâ€™ the hype with this one.
Â â€œHappiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.â€
I quite enjoyed the first half of the novel. The set-up of the world was fantastic and I really felt immersed in Kestrelâ€™s environment. While I didnâ€™t particularly like her life in terms of being social (her friendship with Jess was quite shallow and Ronan wasnâ€™t even the least bit interesting when it comes to a love interest) seeing the way in which the conquering Valorians had inserted themselves into the Herrani world was fascinating.
Kestrel herself as a main character was â€˜mehâ€™. I never really quite got a feel for her, nor could I picture her when I imagined a scene playing out. If you asked me what she looked like, all I could tell you was that she had long blonde hair. Nothing else particularly stands out in my memoryâ€¦ While she had her strengths (music and strategizing) and her weaknesses (fighting), I never really CARED about her or her endeavours. Her passion for music was meant to be her â€˜big thingâ€™, yet I didnâ€™t believe it. It felt a little one-tone.
â€œShe reminded herself bitterly that this was what curiosity had bought her: fifty keystones for a singer who refused to sing, a friend who wasn’t her friend, some one who was hers and yet would never be hers.â€
As for Arin, the Herrani slave and â€˜love interestâ€™ for Kestrel, he had the personality of a dead fish. Not once did I want to see them end up together and not once did even my pinky finger swoon over any of their romantic scenes. I have absolutely no idea why Kestrel was so entranced by him. He never showed an ounce of interest in her until their carriage kiss. Other than play Bite & Sting, they did not much else. Iâ€™ll chalk it up to Kestrel being completely bored of her life and bored of her only suitor, Ronan.
I can only hope that in The Winnerâ€™s Crime, weâ€™ll see Kestrelâ€™s supposed betrothed and heâ€™ll be infinitely better than Ronan or Arin.
â€œKestrel’s cruel calculation appalled her. This was part of what had made her resist the military: the fact that she could make decisions like this, that she did have a mind for strategy, that people could be so easily become pieces in a game she was determined to win…â€
Once the â€˜warâ€™ started in The Winnerâ€™s Curse, my interest in the book plummeted. I had no idea where anything was going. There were too many â€˜mini-plotsâ€™ within the one novel: Kestrel buying this slave, her duel with Irex and fighting the rumours that she had taken a slave loverâ€¦ and then the Herrani takeover. For a medium-length book, it felt like too much. I wanted a firmer grip on the characters or to at least see them evolve a little before anything major happened plot-wise.
The Kestrel we see in the final chapter is not the Kestrel weâ€™ve seen throughout 99% of the book. It was a weird feeling. While I was like â€˜okay, yes, sheâ€™s finally got some badass to herâ€™ I wanted to see this happen to her, and believe it. I didnâ€™t want the Kestrel that was constantly â€˜ummingâ€™ and â€˜ahhingâ€™ about whether she should betray her own people or the Herrani, and then feeling bad about her choice.
â€œThe god of lies must love you, you see things so clearly.â€
Itâ€™s with trepidation that I go into The Winnerâ€™s Crime. I am hoping for some of the Valorian capital and more of the Valorian way of life (that is the interesting part for me!) and way less Arin and the slave uprising. I want to see a blossoming relationship with Kestrel and this Emperorâ€™s son, and, if she does mingle with Arin again, I want to see some damned personality from him.
The Winnerâ€™s Curse was a shaky three-star rating, I wanted to give it only a two, but as the book had quite a strong start and sucked me in, I felt downgrading was a little unfair. If youâ€™re looking for a well-rounded â€˜medievalâ€™ type fantasy book, Iâ€™d suggest reading the Throne of Glass series over The Winnerâ€™s Curse. Hopefully things improve in book two!