The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

winners curse

Synopsis from Goodreads:  They were never meant to be together. As a general’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can’t help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other. Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Feelings: I read this book last year just before its sequel came out at the insistence of our school librarian. She raved about it and told me I would really enjoy it, and she’s usually right about such things. I think I read this book in a day, the first time I read it. Then I immediately got the sequel and devoured it, too. I wanted to read these books again because the third installment in this trilogy was coming out and I had it pre-ordered. I read so many books and get so engrossed in each one that over time, I completely forget what the previous books were about. So that’s what happened here.

And again…I read this book in a day. I love the world building that Rutkoski does – the history, the culture, the depth. I want more! There’s a long history of strife between these two people groups and you can almost tangibly feel it because of the way she writes it. What I hope for in the next two books is more on the history side. We know a little about a lot of things, at this point. I have some questions that I hope get answered!

Issues: I flipped back and forth between the print version and the audiobook a few times, but once I hit the halfway mark, I was so over the audio. The narrator was too pronouncey, you know what I mean? Like every word was emphasized and it was exhausting. I was distracted by it.

I really like the cover art for both the original hardback and the paperback editions. Now they’ve released a new cover and I don’t necessarily love it.

3 curse covers

(Left to right: 2014 hardcover, 2015 paperback, 2015 cover change)

On the one hand, they seem to fit Kestrel’s character a little bit more – she’s more of a fighting gear kind of girl, rather than a poofy dress one. On the other hand, the new covers feel a loootttt like the Throne of Glass books. Just saying.

I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. Kestrel is intelligent and strong, but she’s also proud and has a snobbish air about her. Arin is also intelligent and strong, but has secrets and a history that we don’t know, really, that much about. The minor characters were kind of come-and-go, so I wasn’t “around” them much to form an opinon on them. I feel kind of meh about both Kestrel and Arin. I was with them for nearly 400 pages and I still feel like I don’t truly know them. Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe the second book will hold some serious character development.

Characters: This book has been slated as Fantasy, but that’s really only because of the fact that it takes place in a made up world. There aren’t any magical elements or mythical creatures. This is a book about imperfect people and the choices they’re faced with. I found myself going back and forth between supporting the characters and then shaking my head at them. The two main characters were both so right and yet, so wrong at the same time. They were both driven by different and also similar things, causing them to act in ways that were both unforgivable and understandable, if that even makes sense.

The first time I read this, I remember feeling like the love interests were too I love you, I hate you, I can’t be with you, Love me forever but I didn’t really feel that way this time around. Maybe that happens a lot in the sequel…we’ll see because I’m just about ready to pick it up!

Final thoughts: Rutkoski’s writing is what kept me engaged and enthralled the whole time I was reading. I am really into this world and am curious about what will happen, but I know that the second book will either make it or break it for me. Stay tuned.

Pick this up if you liked:

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Goodreads rating: 4.06/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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