Thursday, 26 March 2015

Book Review! The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1) by Marie Rutkoski
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.
The Winner's Curse is first and foremost a story of strength and determination and how people can use it to either help or hinder. The characters in this story use it for both.

In a vast empire that takes pleasure in war and the pride it brings, 17 year old Kestrel is to be married or enlist in the Valorian military. Being unhappy at the thought of either prospect, Kestrel spends a lot of time weighing the pros and cons. An unloving marriage and a lifetime of confinement or a life of near-death experiences and blood on her hands.
The Herrani have had everything taken from them, some of the children have never known life before slavery. Like puppets on the hands of the Valorians the Herrani work day after day and hope that no one important will notice them. They are happy being invisible. Well, except one; Arin.
Kestrel is surprised to find a kindred spirit in the slave on the auction block, the one with the bruised face and defiant attitude. Buying him sets off a chain reaction of gossip, rumors and hushed whispers but Kestrel holds her head high even when the winner's curse lays heavily on her shoulders.

The world that Marie Rutkoski created was equal parts beautiful and tragic. After reading both The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime I have become so enthralled with the world the author created. I want to walk in the market among the Herrani stalls and look at all of the crafted jewelry and goods being offered, I want to wander through the orange grove and get lost. I have never been so in to a book that I lost all sense of reality, it is one of the best feelings in the world. Second to sitting outside whilst it's pouring with rain and reading underneath a cover but that's beside the point.

Kestrel was a character I grew to love. At first she came off as strong and I admired her for not wanting to be confined within the choices her empire forced upon the Valorians but sometimes she would become rude and too stubborn for her own good. Her behavior became clearer after a while but there were still times when she would treat the Herrani slaves with minimal respect. I had to remind myself that she knew nothing else, she had been brought up as the higher class. She wasn't even just an ordinary, every day Valorian. She was the general's daughter, someone of very high standing and someone who needed to look and act the part of near royalty. Beyond that Kestrel was smart and used that to her advantage constantly throughout the book. She showed that she was compassionate and only willing to risk what was necessary to minimize casualties of both heart and body. Towards the end of the book this also became her downfall.

Arin was my favourite character. He proved himself time and time again and never accepted what the Valorians were doing simply because it would keep him out of harm's way. He showed no cowardice at times where others would have backed down and in to the shadows, he wanted to be something more and he wanted to bring his people with him in to the light. Like Kestrel he was stubborn and unwilling to compromise but it worked more for him - where Kestrel's stubbornness seemed to be simply habit of being brought up to be a warrior, Arin's came from a place of knowing what was right and longing for his life back. It brought him a sense of bravery and strength that many Herrani didn't possess. It made me like him more.

The secondary characters were sometimes just as important to the story as the main characters. They helped tell tales of loss and ultimate betrayal and they showed stories I thought I knew from different perspectives, usually harsher perspectives. I find that in most books there is one secondary character I really enjoy but I liked most of them in The Winner's Curse. They all had their roles and whether that role meant they had to die to get a point across or stand up for themselves to show how the empire's rules were unfair, each one was somewhat important to the overall story.

I cannot fault this book even as I sit here sifting through it's contents to make sure the pacing was constant and the rules of this new world had no flaws but I can't find one single thing that I didn't like or something I felt needed to be changed to make this experience better. I loved every string of words, every picture that every page created, but most of all I loved the raw feelings that last chapter left me with.

I said this in my small review for the second book yesterday and I'm going to put it here too; Lately it's been hard for books to become popular without the use of constant explicit scenes or bad language but here we have a wonderful book with neither. One I really enjoyed as did many others as you can tell from the huge success it became. The book is pretty clean for younger teens that wish to read YA with only a few kisses and some tension between the two main characters. There was no swearing, no sex and although I wont put an age rating here (I'm bad with those) I will say that parents should think about whether their child is mature enough to understand not only the feelings between Arin and Kestrel but the vast new world created at the hands of the author.

All in all, an incredible first book for The Winner's Trilogy. My review for The Winner's Crime will be up shortly! Thanks for reading lovelies :)

Favourite Quotes

“Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”

“Arin wondered if she would lift her eyes, but wasn’t worried he would be seen in the garden’s shadows.
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.” 

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.” 

“The truth can deceive as well as a lie.” 

“Survival isn't wrong. You can sell your honor in small ways, so long as you guard yourself. you can pour a glass of wine like it's meant to be poured, and watch a man drink, and plot your revenge.” 

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