The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Release Date: March 2014
Synopsis: 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.
Series Number: Book 1 of a trilogy
Review: I’m trying to cut down on my reviews’ length so here goes (I’ll try)… If you are looking for a good high fantasy novel (featuring magic and perilous quests) look elsewhere. If you are looking for high fantasy along the lines of A Game of Thrones, also look elsewhere. Basically, if you are looking for a fantasy at the fore front type of book, look elsewhere. This is fantasy lite with a heavy emphasis on romance. So… essentially this is a romance novel.
I did enjoy the book. Initially, I went into this book with high expectations because of all the outstanding reviews on Goodreads. That almost ruined the book for me. Into three chapters, this sense of dread spilled over me like iced water. Doom was coming (aka annoyance). I knew right away this was not a fantasy book for me because it was not fantasy much. It’s more of a “historical romance” that takes place in a make believe world and country that resembles (or influenced by) countries along the Mediterranean Sea. So I read it as a romance novel and it sat better with me and I was able to enjoy the book. Luckily, I was in a good mood or the transition from my expectation to that of the book’s heavy romance aspect would have not resulted and I would have disliked the book.
When I say heavy romance, I don’t mean bodice ripping type romance. The romance was built gradually and believably. No instant love here. Relationship wise I enjoyed both Kestrel and Arin. The plot was intriguing enough once the second half of the story began to take shape, and thus the relationship of the two begins to morph and change. When I say heavy romance, I mean the book focuses mostly on the relationship between Kestrel and Arin… there was no love letters, no pining, none of the “I can’t live without you” or “My heart aches for you because I haven’t seen you in an HOUR” stuff here. Well there was a little of that at the end, but it wasn’t roll my eyes, I should vomit my super acidic bile on the characters inducing.
Again, there is little fantasy in this novel. This could just well be a historical fiction. It reads like it and there isn’t anything in this book to make it otherwise “otherworldly.” Again, I must reiterate this not driven by the “fantasy world.” Those expecting such would be overly disappointed.
The concept was intriguing. Master and slave relationship. But… this was taken no where. Slaves were treated like well respected servants rather than slaves (read not at all like slaves…). The whole treatment of how the slaves went about to achieve their goals was a very large stretch. One I was reluctantly willing to accept though there will be those who won’t and will not be able to swallow the reasoning behind them (i.e. weapons, placement of slaves, etc).
Overall, hype did not meet the expectations. Different from what I expected, though I still enjoyed it. But not a “true” fantasy novel.
(Pictures are hyper-linked to the book’s Goodreads’ page)
Why the Recommendation: Another fantasy lite novel, this one also features a noble girl of sorts. Both are of the romance focused variety. Both protagonist are also girls who seemingly have good, decent, self thinking heads attached to their bodies. No swooning idiot girls here (for the most part – and it’s okay if there are idiot moments because we all have them… just not ALL THE TIME – please).
Why the Recommendation: This novel has more fantasy in it than the featured novel and the recommendation above, but this novel also focuses somewhat heavily on the romance with overtures and suggestions. Though there is more action in this novel, the action is pacified enough for readers of lite fantasy.
Why the Recommendation: Forbidden love in a time of slave and masters… okay… There isn’t slaves in this novel but the main character’s role seems and sounds like the life of a slave. Though the roles of the genders are flipped in this novel and to that of The Winner’s Curse, the romance will sweep in and save the day. Thank the heavens for love, right!? This novel is dystopian rather than fantasy but the overall plot themes are similar.