Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: Review

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's UK
Buy This Book: Amazon / Book Depository

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. (Goodreads summary.)

Look at the cover. Look at it! That cover is probably the number one reason why I was so eager to read this book. I can't explain it, it's the same as when I saw the cover for These Broken Stars. It's just absolutely stunning and instantly got my attention and made me take the time to read the blurb. The hype surrounding this book had been pretty huge and I'd been in a horrid reading slump where I'd felt let down by book hype, so I was a little apprehensive going in. I am so happy that this was the same as These Broken Stars, the beautiful cover was just as extraordinary as the wonderful story found within.


The whole time I was reading this book I was reminded of TV shows like Rome and Spartacus. I kept thinking of that time period because it had a lot of similarities. It's a fantasy but the world, at times, feels like it's taken straight out of the Greco-Roman world and I was not surprised to get to the end and have the author state that that's where she got her inspiration from. It's easy to see from the homes that these characters live in, to how they buy and use their slaves or the way the Valorians came to takeover Herran and it's people.


The Winner's Curse's title actually refers to a phenomenon that occurs in auctions and similar sales. It refers to when the winner of the bid has only one by paying a steeper price than anyone else was willing to do. So, they may have paid more than the item is even worth or more than they will be able to get for it. I had never heard of that before but it is very apt and I love how the author used the idea when creating her story. I loved how it came to be incorporated into this story.

Kestrel, the daughter of the highest ranking General in the Valorian army, has a passion for piano that is frowned upon in a world where music is for slaves and a Valorian's place should be in the army. Her father wants her to enlist but Kestrel has never wanted to fight, she's not a natural fighter. The only other option for her is to marry instead, but that's not what Kestrel desires either. One day, whilst at market, she stumbles across a slave sale and ends up bidding a large sum of money in order to buy Arin, a young man she sees and feels compelled to buy for reasons she can't quite explain to herself. She seems to sense in him that same quiet rebellion to his circumstances that is also inside of her and she feels a connection to him. As she gets to know him more she begins to have feelings for him, unaware of the secrets that Arin is hiding from her.  

Rutkoski is definitely a talented writer and she breathes life into all of her characters. I found Kestrel and Arin easy to relate to even thought their situations are starkly different from my own. I found Arin absolutely fascinating. He's such an angry character but his anger is completely understandable and I really felt for him. I wanted Arin to succeed, I wanted Arin to become more and I wanted so much more for him. He has so much anger for the Valorian people and you really feel it. 

I have so much love for this book and story, especially since it managed to get me out of my reading slump. All the different characters in this fascinated me and it was a pleasure getting to know Kestrel and Arin. Kestrel and Arin were both perfect characters to me because of how imperfect they are. Both of them have issues and troubles and they both struggle. They both know what they want in life and just how unobtainable that might be. 

I've seen some reviews that struggled with the romance in this. For the longest time Arin just acts like he'd quite happily slit Kestrel's throat as she's sleeping. It's not exactly the greatest start to any romance, but I loved it, loved it, loved it! I think watching programmes like Rome and Spartacus has helped me with dealing with that whole slave and owner relationship that we see in this book. I found Arin's actions and responses to be pretty realistic of his situation. Attraction is rather easy to shrug off but, once you get to know a person, feelings for them are a lot harder to ignore. I kind of liked his internal struggle with how he felt about Kestrel. She's part of a family and race of people who murdered his whole family, stole his home from him and then enslaved him; if he didn't seem like he wanted to kill her at least some of the time then I'd definitely question him. To me, it worked. This was one of the best slow building romances that I have come across in a long time. You could feel the chemistry and sexual tension between them, I kind of found myself shouting at my book wanting them to kiss already! I need book two!!! 

I have to admit that my only issue with the book was a piano. That sounds as odd as it is. It just felt out of place for me, in this world that reminds me so much of Ancient Greece. This is a fantasy world so the author can do what she likes, but it still felt strange to me. They were lacking so many other things and yet in this ancient style world they have pianos, something it took us till the 18th century to get. But, as I said, this is fantasy and you kind of just have to go along with it. 

This grabbed me and dragged me out of my reading slump. The setting in it is perfection, think villas, horseback rides, ball gowns, duels and slave quarters. I could see it all, imagine it all and felt like I was actually there. And, if I am honest, it made me want to go rewatch Rome and brought back all my love for that show. The writing was solid and I am very eager to get my hands on the next book. The ending intrigued me but I honestly have no idea where the story is going, I can't wait to find out though.


5/5 Butterflies

This brought back all my love for TV shows like Rome and Spartacus, with a setting that's inspired by the Greco-Roman world. I really enjoyed the slow building romance between Arin and Kestrel, to me it felt realistic of their situation. I am not certain of where the story will go in the next book but I am beyond eager to get my hands on it. I want to just gush at you all about this book but can't properly express the love I have for this. The setting was perfection, the romance was the slow-building, forbidden kind and the storyline kept me guessing. BOOK TWO NOW! 


*I received a copy of this novel via the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review and received no monetary compensation for this review.

28 comments:

  1. Any book that can get you out of a reading slump is a book worth my time. ;)

    Wonderful review, I really loved this one as well.

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    1. Especially when you're in as bad a reading slump as I was in. I am so eager to get the second book now :)

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  2. The cover actually out me off, usually I find big dress covers have nothing to do with the story, but I too loved this book! Rutkoski is one talented lady and I can't wait for the sequel!

    Also, yay for breaking your reading slump!

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

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    1. That's how I felt but at least there actually was a ball and the need for a dress like that. Plus the dagger as well, I loved it! I can't wait for the sequel, the wait may kill me :)

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  3. Great review, lovely !! I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did :D

    Rachel

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    1. I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype but it definitely did! :)

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  4. I really like this book! I love the romance the most. Same with your thoughts that the sexual tension and burning chemistry made the romance more exciting and less cliche and cheesy. And that endingggg *bangs head on the wall* MUST. READ. BOOK. TWO.
    Great review! :D

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    1. Definitely, I didn't cringe at this romance at all which is usually what ends up happening with me. THAT ENDING!!! I need book two right about now! :) :) :)

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  5. I'm so excited for the day I get to read this one. I love that the society is all about military, and the story is as good as the cover. I never really thought about the piano thing, but I think I'll be able to just "go with it".

    Great review!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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    1. Yes, it took me a moment but then I just laughed at myself for being bothered by that detail - it's fantasy! I can go with everything in Harry Potter and then one piano got to me, haha. I hope you absolutely love it when you get to it! :)

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  6. I love the butterfly rating system! I'm glad to see you gave this book a high rating - I've been eyeballing it lately. I think the whole Roman feel actually makes me want to read it more. Great review! :)

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    1. The Roman feel was what made me fall so in love with this book, I loved that aspect of it and it really helped me imagine the world and get a feel of the story. I really hope you get to read it soon, I thought it was a brilliant read and had a romance that has me eager to see where it might go in book two.

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  7. I agree about the piano. It threw me...but then I DID make me double take, because I thought it was full blown just ancient Rome. And it made me research (although, it was hard to research because at the time of reading I had no internet. Typical). Soooo...yes, I liked it, but probably didn't love it. But I'm glad it got you out of your reading slump!! x) That's terrific!!

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    1. Luckily I knew going in that it wasn't set in Ancient Rome, but have to admit that I was imagining the world like that the whole time I was reading it. I love that it had that feel about it, really solidified my love for this book and the setting.

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  8. It sounds like an amazing story. Really different! I love books that drag you in. I never heard of this book before but I will definitely check it out.
    Loved your review. You write very passionately ;)

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    1. Haha, I definitely write passionately and just kind of go with it. Works well if I am gushing a little, works horribly if I didn't like the book. I hope you do get to check it out, it's a brilliant read.

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  9. So glad you enjoyed this one and that it got you out of your reading slump! I loved this one too and especially the slow-building forbidden romance. I loved the world that the author created as well. And the ending! Gah! These endings (when the next book isn't available) are killing me! Great review! ~Pam

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    1. The romance was probably my favourite part of this whole book. You felt it there and it was a big part of the story but it never felt like it took over the book. There was so much else going on that the romance doesn't feel like the most important part of the story. I KNOW!!! I need book two already, the wait may kill me.

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  10. I kind of got the impression that maybe the world was supposed to be Greco-Roman with some eighteenth-century advances. The dress styles were very eighteenth-century, as were the carriages and - as you pointed out - the piano. I'm glad you enjoyed this book; I thought it was a lot of fun, too. :)

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    1. That's kind of the impression I got when reading too. The carriages and ball gowns weren't Roman at all but the setting and way of fighting definitely felt like it. I am very excited to get my hands on book two.

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  11. Great review! I am definitely reading this. I'm a big fan of Spartacus!

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    1. It reminded me of that in a lot of ways. Definitely made me want to go and rewatch that.

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  12. Wow! I am so glad that you liked this one! I love the history around Rome and Greece too. It fascinates me and I actually find it interesting. Thanks so much for your honest review. I will definitely have to look at this one and maybe pick it up the next time I'm at the book store!

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    1. I definitely recommend, it has that kind of Rome/Greece feel to it and that really grabbed my interest. Such a brilliantly written book as well, loved the romance in this.

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  13. What a wonderful review! Since this got you out of your reading slump and inspired you so about the setting and culture, now I want to read this one! As if I need any more books! LOL

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    1. Haha, reading reviews does this to me too - I add far too much to my To Buy list. I hope you love it if and when you read it.

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  14. Thank you so much for the fantastic review, Charnell! I can't wait to read The Winner's Curse, I hope to read it later this month some time. :)

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