Review: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Posted 17 February, 2017 by Rinn in Review / 4 Comments

Review: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy
Published by Bloomsbury on 4th March 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 355
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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.

The Winner’s Curse is a tricky book to define – I honestly have no idea what genre to put it under. The setting doesn’t quite feel fantasy, but it also doesn’t quite feel science fiction. I suppose it could considered to be a dystopian novel, but in a very different way to other Young Adult dystopian such as The Hunger Games or Divergent. I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked it up – there are a lot of positive reviews on Goodreads – but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

The setting seemed a little odd. There was obvious Graeco-Roman inspiration, e.g. the empire, slaves, villas, names such as Trajan and soldiers with names ending in ‘x’, but there were plenty of names that didn’t fit. I suppose it doesn’t have to be inspired by one particular culture, if any at all, but it does make it feel more grounded and ‘real’, in a way. The world-building didn’t feel very strong. There was a vague sense of history – the Valorians enslaved the Herranis a while before the events of the book, but that was about it.

Kestrel, the protagonist, was a relief. She may have been from an aristocratic family, but she wasn’t amazing at everything, despite all the opportunities. She was clever, quick-witted and musical, but not a good fighter. She doesn’t mope about, there’s no talk of how she’s plain or any ‘special snowflake’ behaviour. And she has a genuine friendship with a female friend that doesn’t just revolve around the friend being a handy way for Kestrel to discuss her feelings – although it does seem that way at first, it is later shown that Jess is truly important to Kestrel. However, Arin felt quite flat. There was a little bit of his history, but I wasn’t able to get a real sense of his personality. It’s a possibility that he was meant to be mysterious and aloof, but it didn’t really come off that way.

I am writing this review a few weeks after reading the book, and I have to admit that if it weren’t for my notes, I’d have great difficulty writing this. Despite having read the book not that long ago, it took me a little while to recall all of the details. It may not be the most memorable of stories, but I do know that I really enjoyed it! And the best bit? No insta-love!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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4 responses to “Review: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

  1. I really enjoyed this book and the trilogy as a whole, though it’s not one of my all-time faves. To me the setting is definitely fantasy, just not in the way of knights and dragons and magic. If you continue with the other books I hope you enjoy them as well!

    • Yes I guess I would edge towards fantasy, but I’m still not entirely sure! I probably will continue if I find the books in the library or cheap second-hand 🙂

  2. I am officially the last person to read this! Hahaha. My biggest complaint in most YA fantasy is the world building, which sounds a bit off here, but I love the sound of Kestrel! And three cheers for no insta-love!

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