The post contains a review and a bookish manicure
The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Published April 10, 2014 by Bloomsbury AU
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: 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.
Last month it felt as if there were two super-hyped up books being featured on every YA book blog, those books were Half Bad and The Winner’s Curse. I wanted to read them both and I was sure I knew how I’d felt about them: I was going to like Half Bad and I was probably going to dislike The Winner’s Curse – this was mostly based on the cover and all the 5 star reviews. I was wrong, I disliked HB and ended up really, really impressed with The Winner’s Curse!
Marie has created a believable world in Herran. The Valorians took over ten years ago and enslaved the Herrani people. According to the author it’s very loosely based on when the Romans invaded Greece, but it’s also a world she created. The writing made it easy for me to picture the city, I was instantly transported to the streets of Herran and to the slave auction where our two main characters first meet.
Lady Kestral Trajan is the daughter of a Valorian general. Despite being seventeen, she has no desire to choose either of the two options a Valorian girl has: marriage or enlistment in the army. Her father attempts to pressure her into enlisting but she prefers spending time with her friends Jess and Ronan, and playing the piano – a skill taught to her before her mother passed away. Kestral has always believe in the strength of Valorians but over the course of the story, we see a lot of her preconceptions dissolve as she learns more about the world she lives in.
Arin, first introduced as a slave named Smith, is purchased by Kestral for an exorbitant amount, and is taken to live in her villa. From his perspective we learn of how the Herrani feel about their enslavement and he gives a different view of the Valorians, highlighting their cruelty.
Despite liking both characters and enjoying both perspectives, I never felt quite connected to them, this is probably due to the novel being written in third person. I adored the slow romance between them, but I’ve seen people say they cried over this book, yet it didn’t move me to tears and for me that means I wasn’t as emotionally involved as I like to be during a book.
A lot of the plot is predictable, but not in a negative way. When you’re dealing with a story of slavery, you come to expect certain things: violence, rebellion, betrayal; but there were moments where I was totally surprised and impressed with the choices the author made. I’d love to talk about them, but I don’t want to spoil anything, though I will say it’s nice to see a bad guy get killed, rather than escaping or being allowed to live and cause further trouble. I was also impressed with Arin, he never resorts to being controlling or aggressive with Kestral, and that was so nice to see when so many YA books employ nasty creeps as their male love interests.
The ending was well done, wrapping up the major events but leaving readers in suspense for what will happen next to Arin and Kestral. It also left me thinking about how these two could ever be together as I could feel their indecision and guilt. Each of them feels betrayed and lied to, how can they be loyal to their people but also love their enemy? Despite these issues, I really, really want them to be together.
Thank you to the wonderful people at Bloomsbury for my review copy via Netgalley.
Because I liked this story so much, I decided to do a manicure inspired by the cover. I started with 2 coats of Bloom Lucille.
Once dry I used Mode Cosmetics Fresh Melon to pain on some flowers.
When that dried I outlined the flowers with acrylic paint and stuck a small silver caviar bead in the centre of each one. I also used acrylic paint to do her knife.