Sunday, July 27, 2014

[Review] The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

(#1, The Winner's Trilogy)
The Winner's Curse | The Winner's Crime | Untitled

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 03/07/2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA (14+) - Fantasy

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating:
Bittersweet and engaging

My thoughts

I love that overarching concept: even when you win, you lose. That is the main idea of this book, and you see it in everything that happens. I only really appreciated the brilliance of it all once I'd flipped to that last page and everything kind of clicked. It's not my favourite of 2014 by far, however I am still eagerly anticipating the next book in this exciting new fantasy trilogy.

I was so wary of the romance in this book until near the end, when it had transformed from one tragedy to another. I can't get into too many details here, but I appreciated the slow-burning relationship that Kestrel and Arin form throughout the course of the novel. It never felt rushed or false. Rutkoski brings them together in so many different ways and they develop mutual understanding and companionship such that when the dynamic is, inevitably, destroyed the hopeless situation resonates within the reader. The romance is complicated and messy and tragic, which naturally meant that I would fall in love with it. (Also I love interracial/"interclass" romances.)

As for the characters themselves... I found Kestrel to be an extremely admirable and sympathetic character. It was easy to like her. She's bold, brave and rebellious, but also vulnerable and fiercely protective of the things that matter to her personally. She's competitive, cunning, intelligent, calculating. (Plus, she loves music and books!) She's also a victim of circumstance, kind of a loser either way. She's caught between two worlds and at war with herself and with others from start to finish; I loved following the tension rise within herself and among people around her. The father to daughter relationship and the massive power struggle that amasses between the two of them was extremely engrossing.

Arin is so so confusing. On the one hand I can understand him completely: he'd been a slave for 10 years; he was previously high class and his whole world crashed down on him when Kestrel's kind arrived. I think at that last scene the whole hopelessness of his OWN situation was also made clear to me. I can't wait to find out what happens next because Rutkoski left us with their lives completely screwed up.

The writing is pretty common for fantasy: third-person past perspective. No complaints from me: decent, consistent writing. Though... I would have liked more description. I can't imagine any of the characters or the places. Maybe that's my own fault though. (There are no maps!) I would love to know if anyone else had this problem or if it was just me.

I love the idea of "the things we love may be our downfall". This holds true for Kestrel (music and Arin) and Arin (Kestrel). Also there's the fact that Kestrel feels she MUST win, but ends up losing anyway. It instilled in me such a complex range of emotions as I was reading this book, especially nearing the end.

Rutkoski also managed to pack in quite a bit of politics and violence. The fighting scenes were done well enough, and the politics weren't too heavy that the reader wouldn't be able to follow it all. It was interwoven throughout and the pacing of the overall story was pretty standard for a fantasy novel.

Now that I've read The Winner's Curse I can definitely see why this debut novel had received so much buzz. There's a definite appeal to it-- the stunning cover, the forbidden/doomed romance, the politics and war aspects. It's all just really cool. And Rutkoski certainly delivered. I cannot wait to read on with the next book!


First line: She shouldn't have been tempted.

Favourite quotes:

"Her feelings were like banners in a storm, snapping at their ties. They tangled and wound around her. She focused, and when she spoke, she made her words disdainful. 'He is a slave.'
'He is a man, as I am.'
Kestrel slipped from her saddle, stood face-to-face with Ronan, and lied. 'He is nothing to me.'(154)

"If her heart were truly a scroll, she could burn it. It would become a tunnel of flame, a handful of ash. The secrets she had written inside herself would be gone. No one would know. (242)



AUSTRALIA: Angus and Robertson | Booktopia | QBD | Wordery

Check out:

The Bridge of Snow -- a companion short story to the trilogyRead the first 5 chapters!
The official The Winner's Curse website!

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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