JUST FINISHED: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.
Kestrel is the only child of Valoria’s most distinguished general, and as such, she is expected to go far in her country’s military, but she’s always preferred to fight her battles through subtler means: politics and influence; reading people, and effecting their reactions. Arin is a Herrani slave, bought impulsively by Kestrel when she recognises – and identifies with – a defiant streak in him. In purchasing Arin, however, she may have brought the winner’s curse upon herself, paying more than she ever intended, or even imagined was possible.
Before picking this up, I’d heard some pretty rave reviews, but passed them over, since nothing in the book’s description really grabbed me, and I’ve definitely been burned a few times before by the hype machine. That said, I’m really glad that I finally did decide to pick up The Winner’s Curse, because it was fantastic. I expected to find that the story was all about Kestrel’s conflict over the inevitable choice that she’d have to make between marrying a man she doesn’t love (the man she does love being a slave, and therefore not a viable marriage option) or joining the army, but while there was an aspect of that, the plot was mainly composed of building social tension in the first half, and really interesting demonstrations of the different ways to fight a war in the second (after a climax that came much sooner than I was expecting).
The slow-build in this book is something that I really appreciated, as it gave ample time for character development and world-building – the two things I value most in stories – as well as an interesting and engaging plotline. And both of these were done incredibly well. I really loved both Kestrel and Arin, and the almost-but-not-quite friendship they managed to build up in the first half of the book made for an incredibly dramatic second half (in the best possible way). In terms of world-building, Rutkoski did a great job of creating an absorbing, believable setting, without resorting to massive info-dumps, and while this book took place almost entirely in one city, its ending left me with a great deal of hope that we’ll be able to explore the wider empire in the next two books – something I look forward to immensely.
I’ve seen this book compared a lot to series like Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, but the comparison that really struck me while I was reading was to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (probably one of my favourite reads of the year), and I feel that fans of that book will definitely like this one, and vice versa.
CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Ready for bed, but I’ll definitely be taking my next book – Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes – to work with me tomorrow. 😉
Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 359
Challenges Completed: 0/4