Written by Beth Winters
I really wanted to like "The Winner’s Curse" by Marie Rutkoski, but, alas, I could not seem to enjoy the plot, as I typically enjoy books with a certain type of romance between the two main characters. Here is why I was not impressed.
The story starts with Kestrel, the main female character, gambling. Initially, this start seems solid, but I was just not impressed with Kestrel. She is cocky and arrogant. Right off the bat, I was not a fan.
After winning all the available money from the gambling group, Kestrel and a friend go to a shop. There, the shopkeeper tries to sell her wares before being called out by Kestrel, as the shopkeeper tries to pass clear stone earrings off as precious topaz. I did not want to root for Kestrel because of how she refutes the shopkeeper so quickly and crudely. Though Kestrel does ultimately buy the earrings, she only does so to “save” the shopkeeper from lying to a Valorian (one of Kestrel’s people). If such a lie was told, the shopkeeper may suffer a very bad fate.
Did I mention that there is a conquered people who are treated like slaves? After buying the earrings from the shopkeeper, Kestrel and her friend wander the streets and happen upon a slave auction. They watch the auction, though Kestrel is uncomfortable… but she ends up buying a slave!
These events all happen within the first chapter. Needless to say, I was not enjoying the book much at this point—simply not my taste. I just could not root for Kestrel, a wealthy general’s daughter living in comfort who for some reason seems unhappy with her life.
The main male character, Arin, is not much better than Kestrel. I could not root for him, either. Though he is a slave, he plans a slave revolution! What really bugs me about Arin is that he knows all the revolution details ahead of time but only hints to Kestrel what to avoid and where to go. If he cares about Kestrel as much as his little parts in the book seem to show, he should have told her straight up.
Reading a book in which you do not like either of the main characters can be hard. I eventually made it through the whole thing, even though it took about 200 pages to get interesting. I am unsure if I want to continue this series, as I do not feel at all invested in Kestrel's and Arin’s stories. I guess I will have to read some reviews on the next book in the trilogy, "The Winner’s Crime," to see if I should just suck it up and continue reading.
"The Winner’s Curse" is a good read if you do not have much to do one weekend, or if you are going on vacation and want to try reading a new author. I had never heard of Rutkoski before reading this book, and since I am willing to read anything once, I gave this book a shot. And if you judge books by their covers… Well, let me just say, this one is gorgeous. Ultimately, I would say pick the book up at the library rather than purchase it.
I would recommend this book to readers interested YA fiction, readers who like books set in a created world or in the past, readers who like characters who are up against great odds, readers who read a book based on the cover art and readers who like reading series.
Title: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication date: March 4, 2014
Page count: 355
List price: $17.99
Nominations: 2014 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
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