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So I was really, really looking forward to this book. Not only did the premise sound promising (and a bit unique) but I’d read so many good reviews on it. My anticipation for it was high. Unfortunately, it just didn’t resonate with me. The characters felt stilted and I wasn’t able to connect with them at all. Additionally, the romance aspect didn’t seem healthy nor did the story adequately deal with the suffering of slaves. It was a decent, if average, read but not a series I’m likely to continue with.
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.
Kestrel – Oh man… I hated her so much. This sounds exaggerative but I’m being honest here. I really wanted to like her as she seemed like a strong character. Her inability to think about how her actions affected others was something I just couldn’t get behind though. On the one hand she performed actions that made her seem like she was in support of a modicum of freedom and dignity for slaves but on the other hand she was so naive and insensitive in regard to the abuse they suffered daily. Case in point (and without revealing too many spoilers) when the tables were turned on her powerful status and her freedom was taken away, she was afforded much better care than she had provided her slaves and yet she still wouldn’t see how the Arin’s actions were justified. She seemed personally affronted that he might want freedom. How in the hell does that make sense to her? She honestly annoyed me so much and made me really dislike this book.
Arin – The only saving grace of this book. He was such a strong-willed character that had seen so much hardship, pain and abuse. The fact that he could still feel empathy, kindness and (misguided, in my opinion) loyalty to Kestrel was phenomenal. Rutkoski’s writing of him didn’t make this emotional growth seem unrealistic or trite though. Arin’s warring loyalty and guilt for his conflicted emotions was heart-breaking and made him the sole reason I kept reading. While I couldn’t understand how he could come to love a heartless gal like Kestrel, I still respected him for it.
Side characters –They were there. That’s all I can say. None of them appealed to me or seemed to add much to the story at all. They were under-developed and just seemed to drag out some chapters unnecessarily.
For me, the characters really let this book down. The world-building was decent and the history concerning the Valorian colonisation and oppression of the Herrani was interesting but it all just seemed like superficial information. Just enough to make the story-line between Kestrel and Arin make sense but nothing else was built on to this. I was also expecting a fantasy element… which was not there? It had the average dystopian feel to it though, so that provided some much needed tension and atmosphere to keep the story going.
While I’m not always a fan of the slave trope, I’m not opposed to a story that respectfully covers it. The romantic element in this story that dealt with the slave trope felt unhealthy and uncomfortable to read at times. Kestrel’s ability to ignore Arin until she wanted something tipped the power scale a bit too far, despite their slave-master relationship. Additionally, their lacklustre chemistry just didn’t justify how they came to fall in love. Around half-way through the book they were suddenly in love and all they’d done was play board games…??? This just didn’t make any sense to me.
// have you read this book? do you agree with my thoughts on it? //