Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse

THE WINNER'S CURSE
Winner's Trilogy #1
Marie Rutkoski
Young Adult/Dystopian/Historical
355 pages
Farrar Straus Giroux
Available March 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
The Winner’s Curse is one of those stories we read with great speed, turning the pages as quickly as possible to see how everything plays out, but it’s the hours, days and weeks following the flip of the final page that make us realize just how thoroughly tangled we are in the lives of Kestrel and Arin. Despite the backdrop of war as an empire seeks to expand, this is a quieter tale, the words layered with meaning and heavy with feeling, set in a beautiful arrangement that has the romantic in us smiling wistfully while our hearts simultaneously bleed from a thousand small cuts stealthily delivered as the forbidden and the impossible dance to a dangerous tune.

The romance between Kestrel and Arin is not one of bold gestures and impassioned speeches; not one that has us using and discarding highlighters at an unprecedented pace for all the heartbreakingly gorgeous sentiments given life through words, instead it's one of fragile whispers and haunting possibility. The two of them are would-be lovers standing on opposite sides of a frozen lake, and with every step they take toward the other a crack in the ice beneath their feet widens, forcing them to stay apart and keep their weight distributed rather than give in to temptation, meet in the middle, and risk falling through. Their relationship is one that keeps us up at night, analyzing every small gesture and look given we know them both to be skilled in the art of deception, searching for the truth hiding in and between their lies. Often we see what we want to see rather than what’s actually there, but the beauty of the two of them is that every once in a while, out of the corner of our eyes, we could swear we see love trying to grow underneath the crushing weight of their opposing forces.

What is so intriguing about the story itself above and beyond the romance between Kestrel and Arin is the way Ms. Rutkoski is able to make us root for both sides equally, not wanting to see either group enslave the other but yet understanding the desire to rule as easily as we understand the need to fight back. The tide of power shifts and rolls like water in a roughened sea as this story progresses, and we are swept along with it, as fascinatingly conflicted as both Kestrel and Arin are by the constant flux in our emotional reaction. We can never truly choose a side and so we remain on edge throughout, both anticipating and fearing the moment when a clear winner might emerge and help us finally figure out on which side of the line we stand.

We’re left, not necessarily reeling per se, but with hearts bearing definitive finger-shaped bruises courtesy of the shared grip Arin and Kestrel have on them, their fate something we know we'll learn of only through an epic journey over an extended period of time. The ending of this series is no doubt one worth waiting for though, and this first installment is a book destined for the favorites shelf where it will never have time to collect dust for constantly being taken down and re-read.

Rating: 4.5/5


Find Marie:


*If you didn't get a chance yet, check out Marie's guest post where she talks about Kestrel's father and the research she did for the battle scenes!

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

47 comments:

  1. Oh man, I have a good feeling about this one and I really think I'm going to love it, as well! I'm totally okay with quiet stories and subtle romances, especially when they are so well written and the story remains with you long after you finish reading. Lovely review as always, Jenny!

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    1. I can't wait to see what you think Aylee! I really hope you love it:)

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  2. This is the type of romance where you register every glance and word and analyze it for hidden meanings! Love those type of romances for the build up they create. This story is getting so much praise, but I think I'll wait until the next one is out before trying it out. Lovely review, Jenny! :)

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    1. Yessss. I was in full-on analysis mode. I was reading into every gesture and word exchanged between the two of them and I loved it:)

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  3. This is a gorgeous review Jenny! My copy dispatched early so I honestly can't wait to shut myself away with this beautiful book. Kestrel and Arin both sound like wonderful characters and ones which I can't wait to meet! I have high hopes that I will end up loving this just as much as you did!

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    1. Thanks so much Jasprit! I really hope you love it as well, I can't wait to see where things go from here:)

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  4. Fantastic review, Jenny! I have been waiting to read your review of this one. The fact that it is going to be on your favorites shelf is so exciting to me. I am definitely going to get my hands on a copy. The book sounds brilliant.

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    1. I just loved Kesterl and Arin, and I loved that I couldn't fully pick a side. I was rooting for both of them the whole way through and that was fascinating for me:)

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  5. Beautiful review, Jenny. Everyone I know loves this book and I'm just so excited to get to it myself. The romance sounds so perfect. You know how much I love these quiet romances, so I'm dying to meet Kestrel and Arin.
    That's so interesting that the author makes you sympathize with both sides.
    Lovely review, Jenny!

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    1. I think you'll love this romance Nick. It's quiet for sure, but yet it still packs a punch. SO GOOD!

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  6. Oh, this review is perfection, Jenny. I can't say how much I loved the beauty of this novel and, like you, I was so wholeheartedly invested in these characters that I'm STILL thinking about this book. Wonderful review! I'm so glad you loved it, too!

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    1. YES! Most of the time I enjoy a book and then I move on, and after a couple months or so the details of it get a bit fuzzy. I remember this one perfectly though:)

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  7. YES! I like how the author makes us root for both sides, too. The balance isn't something I'm used to but I really appreciated it, especially as we were supposed to like Kestrel, despite her being a slave owner.

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    1. Exactly! I didn't want Kestrel to get overthrown, but I couldn't not support Arin in his fight to overthrow. Loved it:)

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  8. Beautiful review Jenny! I love a book that makes you think about it long long after you are done and you are still wondering about the characters and plot, that is always a great book!!

    Your review has me even more excited for this one than I already am!

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    1. Thanks Ali! I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on this one:)

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  9. Oh my, this sounds... brilliant and amazing. And that cover! That cover! That was a very insightful review, thank you :)

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    1. Isn't the cover gorgeous? I could just stare at it all day. And thankfully, the story inside is just as beautiful:)

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  10. I started this one and will finish it next week. Don't die of shock as both YA and Fantasy are outside my normal reading but this sounding so good! Glad to hear it lives up to the expectations.

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    1. I can't believe you're reading this Felicia! YAY! Hope you like it:)

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  11. Beautiful review, Jenny! The quiet romances are the best and I'm very intrigued by how the author recreates a fantasy Greco-Roman world. You made me even more excited to read this one. When I get a copy of the book, it's going directly to the top of my pile. I can't wait!

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    1. Thank you Rummanah! I so love the quiet romances and all the possibility in them. So good:)

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  12. So I really want to read your review, but I'll read it when I'm done with the book since it was shipped yesterday and I cannot wait to get my hands on this:) I see from your rating that you adored it which is awesome! Plus, I hear that there's great romance, the story is compelling, political intrigue, gorgeous dresses so what's not to like for you, eh? Seems like every element you love is, from what I heard back when the reviews started to surface, in this book :) So happy you enjoyed it!

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    1. *crosses fingers that you love it*

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  13. What's wrong with me? For some reason this one just isn't calling my name. Great review though!

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    1. It happens! No story is for everyone, though if you ever decide it might be calling your name after all, I hope you enjoy it:)

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  14. *shakes head in wonder*

    Are all of your reviews like this? Frozen lakes and finger-shaped bruises on my heart--I am enthralled.

    I've had this book pre-ordered for months, and it seems to be the epitome of what I most like to read, so Tuesday cannot get here quickly enough. Beautiful review!

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    1. Um. Some of them? I tend to wander off on tangents full of analogies and metaphors and can take a rather circuitous route to my actual point:) I try not to write all my reviews that way, but it's how they always seem to come out!

      I really hope you enjoy this one Jessica:)

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  15. I love how you describe the romance between the characters. It sounds refreshing compared to the over the top lovey dovey that I usually read with YA.
    On another note, on your blog roll, my WoW posted is listed as the most recent post. Is something wrong with your blog roll? I just checked my site and today's post is still up there. I've just spent an hour around Google trying to renew my domain registration. It's like they don't want me to pay them. So now I'm worried about things going wrong with my blog.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with my blog roll per se, some days it's just a little late in updating. Nothing I can do about it. Blogger does what it wants to do. It will sort itself out tomorrow probably:)

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  16. It was such a fantastic story!! And .. I loved the way you described their romance. So sweet and carefully developed. I loved the super slow way they grew to love each other, especially since it started from so much distrust and even hatred.

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    1. LOVED THIS BOOK DANNY! Yet another thoroughly "us" book:)

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  17. Amazing review. Can't wait to read this one.
    I would read it based upon that cover alone. Lol

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  18. I just scheduled this on my blog because I am continually reading astonishing reviews on it, I passed on it because I thought it was another gorgeous cover on a mediocre book... facepalm!

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  19. I'm almost done with this one and I can't agree more. I also love the way the romance is playing out as well as the world it inhabits. You do tend to root for both and yet you know both sides can't equally coexist within their societal boundaries. Yep, almost done! :D

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  20. Yet another fan! Phew! I'm thrilled you enjoyed this one, Jenny, and I'm hoping I wind up loving it too. With all the hype surrounding this novel, it has shot up to become one of my most anticipated reads this year, so I have hiiigh expectations. Let's hope this lives up to them! *fingers crossed* Absolutely lovely review, as always, dear! :)

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  21. I totally skimmed your review since I pre-ordered this for audio and cannot wait to listen!

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  22. I love reading your reviews, so elegant and evocative :D Can't wait to pick this up!

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  23. THIS Is a gorgeous review, lady. I LOVE your frozen lake analogy and that entire paragraph about Kestrel and Arin. I think they have potential to go down as one of the most epic romances. What makes the story so brilliant and also so heartbreaking is how truly PERFECT they are for each other. But also how WRONG because of who their parents and nations are. I also really like your comments on how we're rooting for both sides. Though I think Arin's people are winning my heart right now.

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  24. I 100% agree with your lovely review. This is especially beautiful "The two of them are would-be lovers standing on opposite sides of a frozen lake, and with every step they take toward the other a crack in the ice beneath their feet widens, forcing them to stay apart and keep their weight distributed rather than give in to temptation, meet in the middle, and risk falling through." LOVE! I'm so impressed by this book, and how I was rooting for both sides, not really wanting either one to win or lose. Gorgeous review Jenny!

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  25. Wooo! I am SO GLAD to hear that you enjoyed this one. TWC is one of my faves of the year, and I'm hoping it will be THE fave of the year. And yes! I definitely flipped the pages faster than I could read them, and it was only after setting it down that the full weight of the story was felt. AND DOUBLE YES on the whole 'I can't really root for either side'! I am stoked for the second, that's for sure. Fab review, Jenny!

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  26. "this is a quieter tale, the words layered with meaning and heavy with feeling" - this is exactly how I've been describing TWC to people. Such a lovely, unexpected, beautifully written story. I'm so glad you also enjoyed it!

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  27. The beginning was slow for me, but I think your description of it being quieter is pretty accurate. I also liked seeing both sides and just thinking about it all a bit different. While I didn't like it as much as you, I did enjoy it and am anxious to see what comes next!

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  28. YAY Jenny! So happy that you enjoyed this book. GAH! The ending was just ahhhhhhhhhh! Super excited for the next book.

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  29. Great review Jenny! I have only seen good things about this one. I absolutely loved it when I read it. The ending killed me. I honestly thought my egalley was missing a page (this was mostly wishful thinking).

    I love reading your review Jenny. They always say what I wished I would have thought of.

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