Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Review

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Genre: YA, Alternate Universe, Romance
Pages: 255
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

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3 Stars

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This is a book that I liked enough to wish I could give it a better rating.

It follows Kestral,  the daughter of a Valorian general. She lives in a society where, by the age of twenty, you either join the military or you get married. Kestral wishes to do neither. Slavery is very prevalent and when Kestral finds herself falling for a Herran slave she bought, it’s a problem. On top of that, her slave, Arin, has his own secret plans.

So, positives first. I really liked Kestral.

Usually, in YA, a strong female characters means some who is either good in physical fights, or someone who’s stubborn, reckless and downright annoying. Sometimes, they’re both (*cough* Sardothian *cough*). Kestral is refreshing because she’s smart, perceptive and very strategic. And considering this story is quite slow and character-driven, Kestral being interesting was important. She was refreshing and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. She made the book interesting. In fact, all the characters were fairly interesting.

That’s the only just-positive thing I have for this book. Others are a mix. Like Arin.

I didn’t think much of him in the beginning and though he grew on me since he was a really good guy, and fairly smart too, I still wish he didn’t so often let his emotions get the best of him. And I have a feeling that wish will be granted to some extent in the next book.

The romance was also very good. But sometimes, the intensity of their feeling was more that what made sense, from what we’d seen.

The writing was good and flowed well, but it was a bit pretentious at time. These line, for example:

He walked, thinking of the things he had learned in the parlor. his mind touched them, considering their shapes and sizes as if they were beads on a string.

And then:

Arin let this new information slip along the string in his mind, click against the other beads, and be silent.

It was a bit much.

For the negatives, I have two things. One was the fact that this book is being categorized as a fantasy when it isn’t a fantasy at all. It’s mainly a romance with class oppression and rebellions. If someone read this book looking for a fantasy, that person would be very disappointed, and kinda bored. Thankfully, I’d already heard that this was mostly a romance.

Lastly, there wasn’t much world-building. The book told us some stuff but not enough to paint a picture of the world. There wasn’t much information about the system (were there slaves everywhere or just in Herran? Was the entire empire Military based?), about the geography (what kind of terrain was the world, or even the Valorian empire?) or about social classes or castes (Valorian, Herran, barbarians and what else? What differentiates them?). I would have liked to have a clearer picture.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but very contained. I’m looking forward to the next book not just because of the story, but also because I think it will expand, and explain, the world it’s set in.

Whether I recommend the series depends on how much I like the next book.

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