Saturday, 7 March 2015

Review: 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. 
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.

I hate it when a blurb does not do a book justice. It happened with ‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie Stiefvater, and it has happened again here. You guys, this book is so good. It was everything I wanted, everything I didn’t dare to hope for, and everything that I had hoped for when I read ‘The Jewel’ by Amy Ewing, ‘Red Queen’ by Victoria Aveyard and even The Selection trilogy by Keira Cass. It took all of the elements that I loved and wanted to see properly in those books and created a wonderful, original and incredibly compelling tale.

The story is so beautifully handled, and so full of twists and turns. This isn’t your stereotypical YA romance, it is so much more than that. The characters are incredibly written, the story is wonderfully paced building up to a tense and climactic end and the prose is divine.

And let’s talk about that prose. I could gush about Rotkoski’s prose. It is a thing of beauty. She has a rare skill of being able to weave a tale and make it so incredibly realistic, to draw you in until you can feel the sun and see the villas. Everything becomes heightened and real, but in amongst that is a beautiful lyrical quality to the prose. It’s the sort of prose that made me fall in love with ‘The Night Circus’ but instead of wandering and relying on the imagery to do the work, this prose is a sharp and finely honed as a blade. It is exquisite to read and leaves you breathless to find out where the story will go.

I loved Kestrel. I loved how sharp and quick she was, how she saw so well the things people tried to hide, the way she put pieces together and was constantly looking for ways to manipulate situations, to read them, to win. All of these things could amount to an unlikeable heroine, but on the contrary I think Kestrel may be up in my favourite heroines now. She is brilliant and fierce, but not afraid to admit weakness and vulnerability. She grows and learns as a person and was just so wonderfully real. Her flaws only served to highlight that.

And Arin. Oh Arin, what can I say about him? That he is the perfect offset to Kestrel? Because he really truly is. Neither of these two are defined by their growing feelings for the other. They are people in their own right with beliefs and determinations and histories – and they continue to be individuals even as they spend time getting to know each other and learning and growing. I loved seeing them play off each other, two such brilliantly perceptive minds and their constant determination to win.

It is a wonderfully constructed world, with a fascinating setting and history. I cannot wait to learn more about the Empire outside Herran in the follow books. I felt as if I were there, experiencing it with them, and I raced through the book in a matter of hours and both of those things mark this as a truly excellent book. I could continue to gush about how wonderful this was and how you should put down whatever else you’re doing and read it now, but I feel that could get repetitive. Instead I’m just going to go and start book two in the trilogy ‘The Winner’s Crime’ and immerse myself back in Kestrel and Arin’s world.

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