Ah yes, another YA recent release with a boatload of hype and plenty of raving fans.
To put it in perspective, The Winner’s Curse has garnered an impressive 4.07 star /5 star rating on Goodreads, the average of 25,779 reviews. It’s got a 4.6 star rating at Barnes and Noble, and you can find a slew of video reviews over on Booktube and in the blogosphere praising this novel.
But does this first installment to The Winner’s Trilogy stack up to the hype?
What It’s About
(The following is the official book description from Goodreads. Those people are just really good at explaining things.)
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.
What I Thought
When I heard what this book was about, I admit I kind of sighed to myself. Oh god, another forbidden love book. And though this is classified as fantasy, it’s still at its core a romance novel. Not really my cup of tea. Then I heard it was a fantasy novel that didn’t involve magic. Now, I’m all for magic in YA books but I thought that was a unique idea, so I figured why not find out what everyone is talking about.
So, I told myself to keep reading. The library did too, because it was due with no renewals on July 30th. So, as soon as I finished working, I took the book off the shelf and sat there until I finished it. I was already halfway through it, and I wasn’t going to return a half-finished book. I’m really glad I finished it.
The second half was in my opinion much better than the first half. Not that it was slow in the beginning, but I feel like the story really picked up speed after some point.So if you too are part of the way through and doing a little dance about whether to keep reading, trek on you courageous soul. It gets better.
I will add that I didn’t agree with the views of Kestrel. I didn’t relate to her in the way I like to in other books. But I guess you can’t always relate to every protagonist. I’m just a normal person! Books would be boring if they were all about people like me. The characters had dimension, thanks to the author’s writing skill.
The Winner’s Curse is dramatic, thrilling, and satisfying in terms of the ending at the same time. The writer Marie Rutkoski is clearly quite talented. She’s even built us a fantasy world that feels like something from the past at the same time as something from an alternate universe. I’m excited to get the next book and finish the trilogy.
The frustrating thing about hyped books is you dive in expecting something to knock your socks off. Now in my experience, I’ve never had a book take my socks off my feet and toss them across the room, and I praise the heavens every day for this. While The Winner’s Curse did not touch my feet at all, it did impress me.
Now, about those ratings. I think I’ll give The Winner’s Curse 3.75 stars. I know what you’re thinking; just give the book the dang quarter star! But I think it’s more of a taste thing. The next book I’m going to review is a sci-fi novel, which I devoured. The Winner’s Curse was just a tad out of my reading zone. I was expecting something like Throne of Glass, aka badassery 5.0, and while I think there are a couple similar elements between the two books, The Winner’s Curse is just a different book and shouldn’t be compared with other series’. If you’re a sucker for romance, some old-fashioned action and a beautifully built world, I think The Winner’s Curse might be the book you’re looking for.
But if it is, watch your socks. You never know.