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.
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.