Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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.




62 comments:

  1. Wow gorgeous recreation on your nails of the cover!

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  2. Love the nails! I cannot wait to see where this series goes!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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  3. The reviews for this one have really been staggering haven't they?! I was a bit skeptical but it seems like everyone is enjoying it so I must check it out soon :-D I'm thrilled you enjoyed this one too, despite not connecting to the characters as much. I've heard high praise for the writing style itself and you seem to agree on that point which is exciting! Awesome review ^^ can't wait to check this one out

    PS- LOVE the colours for this mani ♥ you're a true artist xx

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    1. I think you would really enjoy this, Mich! Thank you :)

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  4. Oh wow, I love your nails. So pretty! That's great you really liked this one. I'm quite curious to check it out!

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  5. I seriously have no idea how you do those nails. They're so pretty and perfect and intricate! I just love the dagger with all the pink and flowers. :)

    That hype-monster is pretty scary, right? You're so right about the writing really conveying the world and city well. It was so easy to imagine. And yes for bad guy death! Real repercussions for evil, instead of a slap on the wrist. :)

    Great review Mandee!

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    1. Thanks, Rach!

      And hype can be so off-putting, but I think it was spot on for this book!

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  6. perfect! beautiful flowers:)

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  7. I'm glad that the hype for this book didn't ruin it for you! I have this coming up soon and am very excited.

    Lovely nails! <33

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  8. You are right this is the book that got the most buzz last month and the one I still need to read. Half Bad is not one that I am planning on reading as the reviews were so varied, but most people seem to love this one.

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  9. I'm glad this book took you by surprise! This is probably my favorite read of the year so far <3 The author definitely excelled in creating a vivid new world. It's too bad you weren't able to fully connect with either main character. I normally don't like 3rd person as well as 1st, but in this case it didn't even phase me.

    Amanda @ Born Bookish

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  10. Like you, Mandee, I wasn't able to connect with the characters in this, though I enjoyed the world building immensely. I think the hype ruined aspects of this for me, but I'm glad to see you enjoyed it as much as you did. Wonderful review and gorgeous nails, dear! :)

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    1. I'm glad you did like some aspects of it, K! I think we can expect good things from the sequel.

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  11. I have seen so many people reviewing this book. I am glad that you liked it and it makes me want to pick it up. I love how you said that the book was wrapped up but it still make you want to read the next book! I love the flowers you did on your nails. It is neat to have a sparkle background and then a solid color for the flowers!

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    1. It was a good way to end a book, a nice change from the usual cliffhangers ;) Thanks, Angie!

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  12. Gorgeous manicure! The flowers are really cute... I really need to practice freehand more so i can improve my skills! I like the base color but I couldn't seem to find anything for it on google do you know where I can buy it?

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    1. It's an Aussie brand only sold in stores here, so I don't think you'll find it online, sorry! Try looking for a pink glitter base ;)

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  13. Now, it goes without saying that your nails look spectacular, but that detail is phenomenal! The flowers actually look like they rise above your nail, just incredible!

    I've yet to grab a copy of TWC or Half Bad, definitely both my most anticipated reads as well. The storyline sounds brilliant, I love dystopians and the world the author created sounds really lush and opulent. Reminds me a little of Masque of the Red Death. Finally, a book that kills off the bad guy instead of giving him a conscious halfway through so we all forgive him. I've so gotta read this, as soon as possible!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kel! You're too kind :)

      I haven't read The Masque.. but I will check it out!

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  14. You're nails look stunning Mands! Absolutely love the color. I've seen this book floating around on quiet a few blogs. That cover sure is pretty! And I have to say the story sounds pretty good! I am slowly getting into reading Dystopians so I really hope I like this one like you did! The relationship between Arin and Kestral sounds very complicated but so intriguing!

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    1. I think this is a book you'd enjoy, Bails! It's very much like a contemp/fantasy

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  15. I still can't get over how awesome your nails always are, Mands! If I attempted to do the little details that you put into them it'd probably end up looking disastrous.

    This one has me scared because, well, y'know hype. I think I'll get around to reading it at some point this year, though.

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    1. Thanks, Renu! And don't be too scared, I bet you'll enjoy this!

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  16. The flowers look great. The almost look 3-D. I have to read this as well as Half Bad. It's funny when we like books we don't think we will and vice versa. Glad you enjoyed this one, though. I am looking forward to it.

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    1. Thanks! And I know, it's so funny how our impressions of a book evolve.

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  17. Well that 's a bummer. This is one of my favorite books this year. I'm sorry you didn't connect with it. I have a few friends who felt that way though.

    Amazing nails. All those little details and flowers!

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    1. Despite the lack of a real connection, I really enjoyed the book Karen!!

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  18. I enjoyed this book pretty well, though I didn't love it. I didn't really connect with the characters either. I did like it enough to continue the series though, I think. LOVE the nails! I keep seeing your pics on instagram and thinking I NEED to get over here to read your reviews. Guess I've just been busy.

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    1. Busy, busy, busy - I know the feeling ;)

      And I'm glad you enjoyed this too, I think you should give the sequel a go!

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  19. I ended up enjoying this one considerably more than I thought I would, too. (It's a bummer you didn't like Half Bad. I'm going to hold off reading your review as I JUST snagged that one from the library.) BUT I didn't, like, adore it and it certainly didn't have me crying. I liked both the characters and agree that it was awesome when the baddie died. I'm very curious about where the story goes and would also like to see them together...although that probably won't happen until book 3. Lol. Great review!

    Those nails are gorgeous! I'm loving the texture of the flowers. So, so pretty!

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    1. It's good to hear from someone else that they didn't love it entirely, it's nice to know someone has a similar reaction. Still a great read, right?!

      Thanks!

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  20. Wow, you have quite a beautiful blog. I love the mix match of the posts - its very varied. I had to follow through GFC :)

    www.benishkhan.blogspot.com

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  21. I really, really want them to be together too, Mands! I loved the romance here, and although you weren't as emotionally connected to either characters as you usually like to be, I'm glad that you enjoyed it overall too. Your nails look stunning, as always. Thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. Hehe, I want them to get together asap and live happily ever after!

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  22. Once again your nails are fabulous!!! I haven't read this one but I have heard only amazing things about it. I'm so happy you enjoyed it and I'm glad that the romance was good. Great review, Mands :)

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    1. Thanks, T! I think you'll like this, so defo give it a go if you get the chance!

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  23. I just love your nails, you really nailed it with the colours! So beautiful! Great review as well, I can't wait to read this one. Now following on Bloglovin :)

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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  24. I totally feel you on not being as connected with the characters but I'm excited for the sequel! I thought this was a solid fantasy overall.

    NICE NAILS, DUH. :) X

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    1. Love that you feel the same way, Elena! And thanks, doll!

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  25. I'm pleased to see you liked this Mandee despite not connecting with the characters, I'm glad the predictability worked as well. I love the stunning cover but I have been hesitant to read it because of the hype so your review has prompted me to give it a go.

    Gorgeous nails!

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    1. Ignore the hype, Shaz, because I think you'll really like TWC!

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  26. So many rave reviews of this book! I really need to read it! I do really want to read Half Bad, too, but I have seen lots of mixed reviews for it. But The Winner's Curse seems like it's um, a winner. Lol. I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the fact that you couldn't quite connect with the characters. And I love the matching manicure! Great review!

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  27. amazing ! when i visit your blog i always think what will be the next ! i love this manicure ! those flowers are awesome, sword too, and texture polish is my favor for doing nails ! Happy Easter and have a lovely day!

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  28. I'm about to start this one...yeeeha!!! I'm SO excited! Both this and Fire & Flood were two of my majorly-hyped-for-2014. I ended up not so impressed with F&F, soo I'm a bit worried about TWC. STILL. Everyone so far I've heard has liked it. XD I do love the nails! And omg, isn't the cover just the most gorgeous thing?!!

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  29. Goodness those are gorgeous nails! I love the colors and the the dagger, so perfect alongside that beautiful cover. :-) I do think the third person inhibits a stronger connection with Kestrel and Arin, but I loved their romance. I didn't cry either but the ending definitely did a number on my emotions. Like you I can't see how they can be together given their positions and all the betrayals, but I still hope for it anyway. Lovely review!!

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    1. I hope they can be together despite their differences, I think I will cry if that doesn't happen ;) Thanks, Loz!

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  30. This doesn't really sounds like my usual read yet it sounds amazing! I actually really like the cover despite it being a bit much for my eyes. This is actually the first review I've seen for the Winner's Curse but you've convinced me to add it to the wish list :)

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    1. I think it's a great read, Sun, and that you'd probably like it!

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