The Winner's Curse
By: Marie Rutkoski
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
All the great things I heard about this book did not lead me astray. This book was so fantastic and unique. The writing is gorgeous and extremely immersive. I guess to summarize I would just say that the book is just as gorgeous as the cover would lead you to believe. (And with a cover like that, that means the world).
If I didn't connect to the characters as much as I wish I did, it wasn't for lack of understanding them. It wasn't for a lack of genuinely great characterization or for my feeling compassion for them. I can't say why I don't feel as though I connected with them. But I can say that these characters are well-written, unique, and I did feel for them and their situation.
I love the way that music was worked into their story. I love the struggle for and against power over one another. I think the relationships in this book were so strange and wonderful. The political landscape created the opportunity for a lot of aspects of their relationships to be fleshed out in a natural way, both between Kestrel and her father, between Kestrel and Arin, and between Kestrel and Ronan and Jess.
I am genuinely excited about where the book left the characters as I think this series will turn into something even more unique and interesting. The power now shifted and balanced on the characters differently than it was at the start of this book.
The plot progression of this book is so great. I particularly noticed that the timing is fantastic. You have enough to time to fully understand how the characters' lives feel with each shift in the plot. But at the same time you don't stay in one place so long that you get bored with the story.
Like I mentioned in the character section, the placement of power is one of the most interesting things in this book. It asks important questions about conscience and social position and choices while also presenting an engaging story for the reader to experience.
The language in this book is rich and evocative, as well as beautiful. So many times I went back to reread passages because they explained so well what the character was feeling without directly telling you what they were feeling. Marie Rutkoski knows how to mix exposition with dialogue beautifully, as well.
The cultures shown in this book are so interesting. The way they interact with each other even more so. I think this book gives you a good sense of the world you've been thrust into early on so that it can spend the rest of its time changing and rearranging the political landscape same world. Advantages were gained and lost on both sides, there were changes of heart, and loyalties testes against each other. Honestly there was so much going on in this world and the ending left it open for even further expansion.
"But in the eyes of Valorian society, music was a pleasure to be taken, not made, and it didn't occur to many that the making and the taking could be the same."
"It was bliss not to think, not to remember the cold orange grove, and what she had said and done and asked and wanted."
"She would have stopped him. She would have wished herself deaf, blind, made of unfeeling smoke. She would have stopped his words out of terror, longing. The way terror and longing had become indistinguishable."
"A rich emotion played across his features, offered itself, and asked to be called by its name. Hope."