May 15, 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

at 5/15/2015 12:09:00 AM
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 Review~*~

I was walking down the aisles in the Exhibit Hall with my book buddy Carey, we make out last pass through the publishers' booths. We sing by Macmillan's Kids booth and a lovely red head handed me a finished copy of Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse. First thing that caught my eyes was the beautiful cover. I'm a sucker for covers that feature beautiful dresses. With all of the Comic Con crazinesss, I didn't pick this book back up until recently; when I met Marie at a Fierce Reads signing. I'm certainly glad I read the book though. I gradually fell in love with the characters, the scenery, and the plot. Part dystopian/new world with a pinch of spy and espionage and a slice of forbidden romance. That sounds like my kind of story. :)

The story features Kestrel, the daughter of the highest ranking general in the Valorian army. Valorians, much like the Romans, conquered their surrounding territories and enslaves the people. The most recent conquered territory was Herrran and the underlying resentment can be felt within the first couple of pages. Kestrel was raised in a household where money was not an issue. She's only sixteen, but she's really mature for her age. As the general's daughter, her status among the upperclass, is mostly spotless, until she finds herself at a Herrani slave auction. A slave goes on the chopping block and Kestrel is drawn to him. She initiates a bidding war for the slave and wins. The slave, with his expressive eyes, reflect his resentment of Kestrel and all that she symbolizes. Despite the fact that she bought another human being, Kestrel is not a bad person. She has a good heart and had good intentions towards the slave, but that hardly seems to justify buying someone.

Over their initial awkwardness, The slave "Arin" and Kestrel become close. Arin becomes her confidante of sorts, he tells her the truth/opinions on things and she slowly starts to fall for him and he for her. Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy for the heroine. Rumors circle around that Kestrel and Arin are engaged in some sort of wild affair and Kestrel's reputation is shredded. To make matters worse, members of the General's militia are turning up dead or as traitors to the emperor. Something is going on underground (not literally) and the Herrani people are responsible. This goes unnoticed until the last third of the book, where a couple of big incidents occur. This part was highly anticipated and somehow still a shocking turn of events. 

I liked the relationship between Kestrel and Arin. Despite the fact that they're from two different backgrounds and live different lifestyles, each gradually developed feelings for the other over time. Their kiss right before all hell breaks loose was a perfect rendition of their feelings for each other. Too bad it didn't last.
******END SPOILERS*****

The book ends with a slight cliffhanger and segways nicely into the second book, The Winner's Crime, that was published this year. I really enjoyed this book. The world building is fantastic, the characters are appealing, but also partially flawed. I haven't started The Winner's Crime yet, but I will post a review soon. Marie mentioned that she wrote an mini novella/prequel to The Winner's Trilogy the features Arin and how he was like before the incursion. I think I'll track that down to read to tide me over until book three comes out.

4.5 stars!!!!!

~*~Buy Links~*~

~*~Get the Sequel~*~

Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

~*~Buy Links~*~

~*~The 3rd and last book, The Winner's Kiss~*~

[Not sure which cover is the final one for the US, but I love both of them!]

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.

But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?

~*~Pre-order Links~*~

~*~About Marie~*~

Marie Rutkoski is the author of several novels for children and young adults, including The Winner’s Curse (March 2014). She grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois as the oldest of four children and decided early on that she was Someone Who Loved Books.
After attending the University of Iowa and living in Moscow and Prague, she studied Shakespeare at Harvard University, where she honed her skill in referring to herself in the third person.
Marie is now a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance drama, children’s literature, and fiction writing. New York City is her home, and she thinks there must be birds of prey living in Washington Square Park; she can see large, wheeling wings from the window where she sits and writes. Marie has two small sons who try very hard to make friends with the family cat, only to be snubbed for the dark quiet of a closet. Marie can tie a double figure-eight knot with her eyes closed. She’s learning how to play the violin. She’s a sucker for fancy tea, and her favorite dessert is crème brulée. Or maybe sticky toffee pudding. Tough call.

~*~Follow Marie~*~

Website  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram


Prize: Autographed copy of The Winner's Curse (softcover paperback)

Rules: This giveaway is for the residents of the USA only. The giveaway runs from May 15th to May 30th PST. The winner will be chosen and annouced on May 31st. The winner also has 5 days to respond to my email; otherwise a new winner will be crowned.



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