Friday, February 28, 2014

ARC Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

368 pages
Expected publication: March 4th, 2014 
Published by: Farrar Straus Giroux
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love. 
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. 
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Sweet. Baby. Jesus. My expectations were really high going into this novel but I was prepared for disappointment. I didn't need to be. If anything, The Winner's Curse was even better than I expected. While the summary and the {absolutely stunning} cover might scream romance, this gorgeous novel is so much more than that. It is elegant and fluid. It's like I stepped right into Rutkoski's world and became part of the story.  I don't ever want to leave. 

The world is one of the best one I've ever read--and I've read a lot of books. It is so incredibly rich. t takes your breath away in the most amazing way possible. I couldn't wrap my head around how imaginative and complex the world really is. Marie Rutkoski doesn't just tell us there was a war and moves on. She gives us detailed history of this stunning place, shows us a progressive view of the changes that took place in the ten year span since the Valorian overpowered the Herrani, and explains how the past shaped the rules the Valorian people implement in their daily lives. We learn that the Valorian people are soldiers and that the only alternative to the military service is marriage. There is a clear distinction of the Valorian world and that of the Herrani. Slavery is very much a part of the Herrani people and their history is nothing like their present. I love that every layer of this feud is peeled back slowly, that there is an element of vengeance, and that Rutkoski captured all of these elements in the best way possible. 

The characters are complex and have depth. They are flawed, complicated, and beautifully human. We first meet our main character, Kestrel, as a very typical society girl. However, there are layers upon layers to her personality. Kestrel is reminiscent of a Jane Austen character, regal yet ready to break the rules. Even though she is aware of her place in the world, she also rebels in small ways. Her love for music, which is considered beneath her, adds a warmness to her otherwise cold demeanor. Then, there's Arin. His ups and downs are both intriguing and frustrating. I love that nothing about him is either black nor white (and this can be said about every character in this book). He doesn't change for Kestrel or abandons his mission. There is an intensity to his character and his decision making that is very endearing. While I like them as a couple, I love them as individuals a lot more.

This book is wonderfully paced. I didn't feel like the story dragged at all. If anything, I wanted it to last for a little bit longer. Even though this one is the first in the trilogy, I am very impressed by the premise and its execution. It is very similar to the Under the Never Sky trilogy in that it is successful at incorporating many elements into the story. There is romance, history, action, drama, and everything in between. To me, that's the formula to an extraordinary series. If this one is just the setup, I can't even imagine what Marie Rutkoski has in store for us. 

Let me give you a warning: 

The Winner's Curse will definitely keep you on your toes. Every single time I felt like I knew where the story was going, Rutkoski threw a new twist that left me breathless. Do not start this novel until you A) have plenty of free time and B) feel like staying up all night to finish it. There is no way you'll be putting it down until you've read the entire thing. This novel is as captivating and beautifully written as they come. I'm aware March hasn't even started yet but mark my words: The Winner's Curse is one of the best novels of the year. You won't want to keep this one on your TBR pile for long.

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