Book: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Kestrel is an aristocratic citizen of Valoria, a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers. Here, a girl like Kestrel has two choices: to join the military or to get married. Despite her skills in military strategy, Kestrel's real passion is music. Which is why she feels compelled to buy Arin, a slave sold as a singer, at auction. It's not long before he begins to change the way she sees everything . . . but he himself is not what he seems. Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for him is much higher than she ever could have imagined. The first novel in a brilliant new series,
The Winner's Curse tells of the star-crossed romance of Kestrel and Arin. It is a story of masters and slaves, spies, rebellion, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake. The gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart. -Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014.
I got this book as an advanced reader copy that was delivered to Barnes & Noble. It's taken me a while to finally get to it, but once I did, I devoured it. I finished it in three days and not just because the print was larger.
Kestrel is a not like your other noblewomen. While she is skilled at military strategy, she only wants to play music for the rest of her days. She buys Arin on the slave market on a whim, only because he is advertised as a singer. In doing so, she sets events in motion that overthrow her world and everything she knew.
I thought that the world Rutkoski built was very good, very interesting. It seems like there is more to be revealed in terms of the rules of the society - each culture has its own norms and rules. It also seems like there are other locations that will be revealed later. The history of Kestrel's people, while limited, is interesting as well. I'm looking forward to finding out more in the next two books.
Kestrel and Arin were fascinating characters as well. I enjoyed their relationship, as tumultuous as it was. They're definitely different from your typical teen romance. They're very hot and cold with each other and it's curious to see how they will overcome the challenges their relationship presents. Sometimes, it's frustrating watching them interact because it's clear that they care for each other very much, but they deliberately do things to hurt each other to show they're not affected by the other. It was subtle at first, but satisfying at the same time. We'll see how their relationship develops in the next two books.
The plot itself is good. It's not groundbreaking by any means, but it's different from other teen books I've read in the past. It builds the world and society while illustrating the main conflict that builds into the bigger conflict that will be resolved over the course of the next two books. It does its job and it does so well.
Overall, I give The Winner's Curse an A.
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