Friday, March 28, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Summary (from Goodreads):
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 don’t know why exactly that summary made me think this would be more of a dystopia than it was. I was surprised that it read more like historical fiction. I could easily see Kestrel’s world as my own, a couple hundred years ago. There were no scientific or fantastical elements to it. I kept waiting for these elements to come into play in the beginning, but eventually I just got so wrapped up the in the language that I completely forgot about what I was anticipating and just got lost in what was happening.
The idea of a slave rebellion is so beyond awesome to me. However, by the time serious stuff goes down in this book, I’m already loving the main character. Yes, she’s a slave-owner, but no I don’t want her to die. She sneaks piano lessons, buys slaves their freedom, and treats all those who work for her family equally. Though sometimes it’s hard to feel bad for her. Her problem is deciding between being a soldier for her dad and her country and being a wife. She keeps postponing figuring out her dilemma. So many people in her world would kill to have that as their major dilemma.
What Rutkoski does well is build. She builds this highly authentic world that revolves around war and freedom. She builds characters who were both heroic and seriously flawed, and she builds a romance between two very different souls. I felt like I was at the parties, and meetings with Kestrel’s friends myself. Rutkoski just had this way of making me literally feel as though I was there.
And the story is full of surprises. Just when I began to get comfortable in the direction it all was going in, bam, I get thrown for another loop. And I just loved Kestrel so much. She made decisions based upon what she needed to do, and was able to put important things first, above her romance. I’m so glad to have gotten to read about a main character that put her beliefs before her heart.
Has the love story been done before? Yes. But was the author able to accomplish something new with the classic star-crossed love story? Yes. This is a book of war, a book of slavery, and a book of bravery. I was sucked into the beautiful language and it was hard to ever put the book down. The relationship for the power couple was one that was built with a lot of time. There were plenty of games, guesses, and visits to town before either of them realized how they felt. And adventures, the mystery, and the death keep going till the very end.
Overall, I loved the writing style.  I thought there were some unique elements added to the classic love story. I was fascinated by the world these characters lived in. And at moments, I literally felt like I was in this world too. I grew to love the main character, though I never really understood her friendship with her best friend.  I give this a 9/10.

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