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The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy) Hardcover – March 4, 2014
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As 17-year-old Kestrel comes to know Arin, the Herrani slave she purchased on a whim, she puts both herself and him at risk. Arin, 19, also finds himself falling for this daughter of the Valorian general who conquered his homeland. A Herrani uprising briefly reverses their roles of owner and slave until the Valorian empire prevails, and a last-minute compromise by Kestrel may save Arin’s life—but it will make it impossible for them to be together. A refreshing change from supernatural and problem novels, this fantasy is pure romance (not sex) elevated above genre stereotypes by a talented author who understands pacing and satisfaction. Full-bodied characters explore issues of loyalty, class, and values (for example, arts versus military strengths), without sacrificing any of the relationship-related tension that is a hallmark of this kind of story. A tasty twist of an ending virtually locks readers in for subsequent entries in the series. Fans may want to revisit this one while they wait for future books; maybe get more than one copy? Grades 8-11. --Cindy Welch
“*[A] spellbinding first book in a trilogy about a pair of star-crossed lovers in a society marred by class warfare....Like any epic page-turner worth its salt, Rutkoski's richly imagined world is full of dynamic repartee, gruesome battle scenes, and shifting alliances. A high-stakes cliffhanger will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next book.” ―Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“*Rich characterization, exquisite worldbuilding and rock-solid storytelling make this a fantasy of unusual intelligence and depth...Precise details and elegant prose make this world fresh and vivid. The intricate and suspenseful plot, filled with politics, intrigue and even graphic violence, features neither heroes nor villains; every character displays a complex mixture of talents, flaws and motives...Breathtaking, tragic and true.” ―Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“*A forbidden romance. The romance is heartstoppingly lovely and admittedly steamy . . . but the raising of stakes and the reluctance of the couple to give up their respective cause, even as they confess their love for each other, lends their relationship a complexity not often seen in the genre . . . A last-minute compromise between the lovers secures a sequel, and fans of Kristin Cashore and Robin Lefevers will be pleased to have a new romance to follow.” ―BCCB, STARRED REVIEW
“Every line in The Winner's Curse is beautifully written. The story is masterfully plotted. The characters' dilemmas fascinated me and tore at my heart. This book gave me a rare and special reading experience: I never knew what was going to happen next. I loved it. I want more.” ―Kristin Cashore, New York Times bestselling author of the Graceling Realm books
“The Winner's Curse is breathtaking, a lyrical triumph in YA fantasy. Marie Rutkoski writes with tremendous power and has created an epic of fearless beauty. This book should not be missed.” ―Ann Aguirre, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of the Razorland trilogy
“The Winner's Curse is magnificent. Gorgeous writing graces every page, and the story of Kestrel and Arin unfolds with all the complexity and beauty of a sonata. I was completely transfixed by them and their world.” ―Sarah Beth Durst, author of Conjured
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Top Customer Reviews
Marie Rutkoski has created a brilliantly complex world in this series. Not only the countries and politics but histories and religion. Customs and stories. Each piece playing a part to create this elaborate setting for The Winner's Trilogy. In the recent history of this world, Valoria has conquered Herran. Herran had two options: fight and die or surrender and become slaves. Herran chose the latter. Kestrel is the daughter of the General of Valoria. The General's strategic mind is the reason why Valoria won the war, and he wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps. He's taught her about fighting and strategy her entire life. But a key factor also influences Kestrel. Since her mother passed when she was young, she's been raised by her Herrani nurse. She couldn't help but develop the love of a child toward the one who took care of her needs and raised her as her own since her father was more often off at war than at home. Whether it was the nurse's intention to instill a sense of the wrongness of slavery in Kestrel or not that's exactly what happened.
Kestrel never intended to end up at the slave auction that day. But she does. And hearing the auctioneer's description of Arin, seeing some unnameable quality in his expression, Kestrel decides to buy him. It wasn't her desire to own a slave, but since she's the General's daughter, nothing she does is secret. She has to act according to society's rules even though she's breaking those rules every chance she gets. Even if she doesn't say it out loud, Kestrel wants to be better than what she sees. She makes an odd decision to be honest with Arin. And honesty--especially when it is costly--binds together.
Arin is angry. He's a slave and slaves are rarely treated with common human decency. He can't seem to just obey without acting out in whatever ways he finds. He can't bring himself to believe that Kestrel, the daughter of the General who conquered his nation and forced his people into their current positions, could possibly not be the same as every other Valorian who's owned him before. He's done what he has to do to survive and he's going to do the same now. Yet he gets these glimpses of who Kestrel really is. And despite not wanting to be, he finds himself drawn to who she is and what she's done for him.
I really enjoyed Marie Rutkoski's writing style. The world building, the characters, the emotion, how quickly she had me invested in the story and the characters, how she didn't need to use cursing to write a fantastic book, the sentences every now and then that I found beautiful in and of themselves.
-"The Winner's Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price."
-...people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.
-"Everything in war hinges on what you know of your adversary's skills and assets," he said. "Yes, luck will play some part. The terrain will be crucial. Numbers are important. But how you negotiate the strengths of your opponent is more likely to decide the battle than anything else."
-A feeling flowed into Arin, something like sleep or the sudden absence of pain.
-Happiness depends on being free, Kestrel's father often said, and freedom depends on being courageous.
-There was a silence as long as a smile.
In the end The Winner's Curse gets 4.5 Stars from me. I was invested in what was going to happen. I felt for both characters. They were each in an impossible situation at times where I could only agree that each was making the only moves they could make. Yet those moves served both for and against what they wanted. The ending of The Winner's Curse had me using a long lost and recently found gift card to snatch up The Winner's Crime so that I could know what happens next. Have you read The Winner's Curse? What did you think? Let me know!
Stars I Gave:
1 Star - Arin
I really enjoyed reading about Arin, though his character does a 180 out of nowhere.
1 Star - The World Building
This book has some serious world building! I honestly don't think world building has ever been a "thing" for me, not to this degree, but nevertheless this book has some very good world building! I really feel like I know the lay of the Herrani and Valorian land!
Stars I Took Away:
1 Star - The Pacing
Sometimes this book is extremely slow and other times it's too fast. For example, the game Bite and Sting never made any sense to me. Why? Well, it was never explained. It was literally rushed through like it's checkers; like everyone knows how to play it.
1 Star - Kestrel
I really enjoyed Kestrel during the first 60% of the book, but then she (also) did a 180. She went from considerate, a little self-conscious, but strong, to completely annoying and condescending. Just, no.
1 Star - Should Be 50 Pages Shorter
The last 50 pages of this book are completely worthless. All the extra stuff they put in to stretch the book just made me start to hate it lol.
I do, however, recommend this book. I will be honest, though; it took me a day to read the last 50 pages of the book. I read the first 300 in a few hours. That's saying something.
The best thing I loved about the book is Kestrel herself. She is a dynamic character, and while her nature is not evident at the start, I soon grew to love her as a character. She is heroic, and pragmatic, not easily swayed by emotions and has a calculating mind. Despite her love for strategy, she prefers her music, something that is not generally common among the Valorians. Her relationship with her father was also interesting; I thought him to be cold and thinking she feels burdened by his expectations but it is also seen that they love each other immensely. About Arin, though, I am not so convinced as far as their relationship goes. He is a great character, full of life even in his despair, but his ambiguity about his feelings for Kestrel does add a touch of drama.
Moments I loved in the book were – her duel with Irex, the dream story (and what it means to the plot), Kestrel being such a good negotiator (!) and of course, the game she and Arin play. Their relationship is a slow burn, but honestly I am more interested in Kestrel’s journey, about the bargain she made at the end. The political scenario, the intrigue and the games – ah, I was definitely a fan of that. The writing was beautiful, and the story was certainly interesting, but overall, this book has been a little underwhelming for me. Maybe there was too much hype, but the pace was glacial around the middle, and was getting slightly repetitive. Overall, I would say, it is good and I am invested in the series.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book’s description had me intrigued enough to add it to my TBR list but the cover had me doubtful enough to put off seeking it out.Read more