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 have to state right away that The Winner's Curse must have been one of my favourite reads of 2014 along with Ready Player One and The Handmaid's Tale. The world was so imaginative and provoking that I kept thinking about it long after I had finished the book. The characters were so interesting and always evoked a feeling or another, and I just found myself devouring The Winner's Curse just in two days because I was so hungry for more! How can I wait almost a year for the second book? (And btw, I won a copy from Goodreads giveaway few weeks back, and I'm so happy about it!!)
I really, really enjoyed the opposition between Valerian and Herrani cultures. Valerian culture is all about wars and conquests where as the Herrani customs are a lot more softer and artistic orientated. Partly due to these reasons, Valerians have enslaved the Herrani people and now rule the lands which used to be Herrani's. I found this setting so incredibly interesting - there were political intrigue, a strong world establishment, cultural details, historical background, and all this was very original as I don't recall reading something similar (at least for a really long time). I really hope that Rutkoski is going to keep this element in the story line as strong because it was so intriguing and I was constantly in a need to know more about these two cultures and their positions in the world.
The beginning of the story was a tad bit slow and almost feels a bit detached from the rest of the story, but once you get over the first ~20%, the story seems to transform completely. The readers start to get more information about how Valerian and Herrani are the complete opposite cultures and how they became to have their social statuses in the society. The relationship of Aria and Kestrel also is a bit slow, but deliberate, which I really enjoyed as I'm not a fan of insta-love. Of course, it is so obvious that they will become romantically involved, but I just loved the way it happened. There were ups and downs which impacted on their relationship, but that only made me root more for them. I have to admit that they relationship is one of my favourites at the moment: the pacing was good, it wasn't too predictable, teasing, heart-warming and yet also heartbreaking - just the way I love my fictional relationships. Arin, will you marry me?
So like I already said, the beginning - a bit slow, but otherwise there were things that made me almost want to read the book while standing as I felt like sitting down was impossible. There were times when I saw somethings coming, but then something else happens and the story takes a completely different turn! It was kind of interesting as well that there were plenty of scenes which would have made good last scenes (and many authors would probably done it so), but Rutkoski decided to continue to story which made me so pleased as I could never trust my instinct while trying to predict the outcome. Some might even say that there were too many things included in the book, but I really enjoyed that all events were included - I was never bored as all the essential was there and no fillers.
And how about the ending.. So heart wrenching! I'm so frustrated at the moment, because I need to know right away what's going to happen to Aria and Kestrel. The story was left off in a such situation that I have no idea where the author is going with it. The ending was sort of tragic (just the way I like it) and I hope that this element of 'despair' will be present in the next books - there are nothing as good as young adults novels that make you cry like a little baby.
Ahh, everything is possible and impossible for the book 2, The Winner's Crime, which has a publication date March 3, 2015 - so far away. I have a theory about what the title of the book two is referring to, but I hope I'm wrong, otherwise I just might cry. I'm already so invested in these characters just like happened with Throne of Glass series. Throne of Glass and The Winner's Curse series are probably two of my favourite YA fantasy series at the moment. So freaking awesome! Actual rating 4.5.