The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Curse, # 1)
By: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4th 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Kindle Library (On sale for $2.99)
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Goodreads description--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.
I love when I'm able to go into a book completely blind. You guys, I don't think I ever even read the description of this book...at all. I never read any reviews. I only know that I saw readers rating this book highly. And then right before I picked it up to read I had one or two people tell me that they didn't enjoy it as much as everyone else did. So I had literally zero expectations of this book. This so rarely happens. Then once I started reading I was hooked early (by at least 10%). That's something that's been happening so infrequently it seems.
Marie Rutkoski has created a brilliantly complex world in this series. Not only the countries and politics but histories and religion. Customs and stories. Each piece playing a part to create this elaborate setting for The Winner's Trilogy. In the recent history of this world, Valoria has conquered Herran. Herran had two options: fight and die or surrender and become slaves. Herran chose the latter. Kestrel is the daughter of the General of Valoria. The General's strategic mind is the reason why Valoria won the war, and he wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps. He's taught her about fighting and strategy her entire life. But a key factor also influences Kestrel. Since her mother passed when she was young, she's been raised by her Herrani nurse. She couldn't help but develop the love of a child toward the one who took care of her needs and raised her as her own since her father was more often off at war than at home. Whether it was the nurse's intention to instill a sense of the wrongness of slavery in Kestrel or not that's exactly what happened.
Kestrel never intended to end up at the slave auction that day. But she does. And hearing the auctioneer's description of Arin, seeing some unnameable quality in his expression, Kestrel decides to buy him. It wasn't her desire to own a slave, but since she's the General's daughter, nothing she does is secret. She has to act according to society's rules even though she's breaking those rules every chance she gets. Even if she doesn't say it out loud, Kestrel wants to be better than what she sees. She makes an odd decision to be honest with Arin. And honesty--especially when it is costly--binds together.
Arin is angry. He's a slave and slaves are rarely treated with common human decency. He can't seem to just obey without acting out in whatever ways he finds. He can't bring himself to believe that Kestrel, the daughter of the General who conquered his nation and forced his people into their current positions, could possibly not be the same as every other Valorian who's owned him before. He's done what he has to do to survive and he's going to do the same now. Yet he gets these glimpses of who Kestrel really is. And despite not wanting to be, he finds himself drawn to who she is and what she's done for him.
I really enjoyed Marie Rutkoski's writing style. The world building, the characters, the emotion, how quickly she had me invested in the story and the characters, how she didn't need to use cursing to write a fantastic book, the sentences every now and then that I found beautiful in and of themselves.
-"The Winner's Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price."
-...people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.
-"Everything in war hinges on what you know of your adversary's skills and assets," he said. "Yes, luck will play some part. The terrain will be crucial. Numbers are important. But how you negotiate the strengths of your opponent is more likely to decide the battle than anything else."
-A feeling flowed into Arin, something like sleep or the sudden absence of pain.
-Happiness depends on being free, Kestrel's father often said, and freedom depends on being courageous.
-There was a silence as long as a smile.
In the end The Winner's Curse gets 4.5 Stars from me. I was invested in what was going to happen. I felt for both characters. They were each in an impossible situation at times where I could only agree that each was making the only moves they could make. Yet those moves served both for and against what they wanted. The ending of The Winner's Curse had me using a long lost and recently found gift card to snatch up The Winner's Crime so that I could know what happens next. Have you read The Winner's Curse? What did you think? Let me know!