The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Skinny: 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. – From Goodreads
BFF?: I actually really liked Kestrel and, despite a few things, felt like I connected with her on some level. As the daughter of a general, she’s expected to join the army and be a top notch soldier like her father. But she’s not; she’s unskilled, uncoordinated, and weak. However, her strengths lie in her brain. She’s a skilled strategist, often working with her father on different battle strategies. It’s always nice to see a mentally strong female MC. But I think Kestrel, like any child of a powerful parent, struggles with the decision to follow in their parent’s footsteps or go her own way. I loved seeing her inner battle between duty and self, which made me take a look at my own inner battle. She had a fierce nature yet was completely vulnerable at times. It was a good balance getting to see both sides of her.
Readability: This is some solid writing. Everything just felt natural, lush and beautiful without being too poetic and fluffy. I was a fan of just how hooked the writing kept me and I think that’s what really made this book special to me.
Crush Level: 5
Arin was super hard to like and is probably only getting a 5 because I think he’s hunky. He was very stand-offish, cold, and occasionally hot-headed. I know that underneath the rough exterior was a deeper soul, but I just wasn’t a fan of the rough exterior. I thought he was rough almost to the point of cruel at times. I know I’m making him sound terrible; he wasn’t, but I found him almost too difficult to like. There were a few moments when he seemed to let his guard down and I got to see a glimpse into his heart, and I liked what I saw.
I’ve wanted to play the piano since I was a little girl, so I feel a strong connection to characters who do play. I love how lost they get in the music and how moved they are by it. I think that’s why I want to learn to play. There’s nothing quite like being lost and moved by something that you’ve created (the sound coming from the instrument).
Obviously I’m not “woo! slavery!” because I’m not an asshole, but I thought the whole premise behind it was kind of brilliant. Here we have a cultured people who are defeated and enslaved by non-cultured people, who then adopt said cultured people’s culture. It created an extremely interesting dynamic between the two people and made me, as a reader, question which side I was on and what I believed to be right and/or wrong.
Commencement Speech: Ask anyone what their first thought is of The Winner’s Curse and they’ll say “it was really hyped up.” Yeah, it was. Apparently I live under a rock though because I didn’t really get any of the hype until AFTER I read it and saw everyone talking about how much hype there was about this book. I’d first heard of it last August at the Decatur Book Festival when a) they were passing out ARCs (and I didn’t feel right throwing an elbow at the 13 year olds they were giving them too) and b) Marie Rutkoski was part of a panel and spoke of it. It sounded really interesting and I wanted to check it out.
I think since I missed the hype on this one I went into it with a clean mind and no high expectations. For that I think I was rewarded because I really enjoyed this one. It was imaginative and beautiful but at the same time feeling extremely familiar. I think one thing I found interesting was that there were no magical/fantastical elements to this book, but it was still very much fantasy. It gave it an interesting twist.
There are also several thought-provoking themes running throughout the book which I appreciated. I love a book that not only brings up these topics but gives me food for thought about them, challenging what I know and encouraging me to learn more about what I do not. Overall, The Winner’s Curse was one of those books that takes you in an odd direction. It’s not a standard plot or love story or fantasy; it gives you so much more.
Yearbook Quote: ““Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”
Superlatives – Best example of how you shouldn’t pick up guys
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