The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, received with muchos thanks as an ARC from the publisher (released March 2014)
“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.”
After feeling like I’ve read a truckload of contemporary, urban settings, it is with great relief that The Winner’s Curse was the next on my TBR list.
I think there is something a little misleading about the cover, and the title, it feels like it might have a dystopian vibe. Or something where there’s a game, similar to Panic or Hunger Games perhaps.
The Winner’s Curse is a clever piece of YA fantasy writing.
My ARC copy was a little warped, whichmeantsomeofthelinesdidn’thavespaces and made it difficult in places.
But that didn’t stop me loving this book.
And trust me, I loved it. Like EPIC love.
I’m going to put the mega feels aside for a moment and concentrate on some things that I found particularly interesting.
Yep, I think I can go ahead and call this story ‘post-colonial’, and it was thought provoking because of it. The Valarian have done what many Empires have done over time, and decided to occupy/conquer/acquiesce a country that is already populated. For the greater good though, eh? The Herrani peoples are made into slaves, forced to work in what was their previous homes, under strict masters.
But not for long.
And this is where I had to question myself:
Morally, I was ok with Kestrel keeping Arin as a slave (she was a kindly mistress after all) and even enjoying the prospects of them bucking the system somehow.
But then, when Arin, and his people, take back what is theirs, reverse the order of things, it didn’t feel right at all.
But why not?
Maybe it’s because I’m British. Colonisation is so ingrained in my history, in my culture, it can’t be ignored, but I think it does, even now in our ‘modern’ ways of thinking, shape how I react to colonisation.
Or maybe I was too invested in Kestrel as a character.
Inspiring Young Woman
Kestrel was a great protagonist. Early on we learn she isn’t much of a fighter. Adequate, yes, but she’s no solider. Similarly, she is no dutiful wife.
Her only options: Join up with her father’s army, or join up in marriage.
What Kestrel DOES have is wit. She’s a quick and clever strategist and wins her battles more with her brains than with her brawn. And this gal has real grit too. She’s a survivor.
The second half of this book is in exact opposition to the first half, for good reason too! And my gosh. The certainty, the stability, everything, is ripped away and I felt it all!
And then there’s ‘that’ moment between Kestrel and Arin (which one? Oh, you’ll know. With flour) which makes the ending even more bittersweet.
I couldn’t help but see glimmers of Yelena and Valek in this (Poison series, Maria V. Snyder), especially in where it leaves it hanging (and what.. I have to wait until 2015 for the next book?! SERIOUSLY!!!) and that can never be a bad comparison to make.
This book was me all over. Loved it. Simple, but complex. It’s a book full of contradictions, and I mean that in the best possible way. Easily, this gets a 5/5, a Behind on Books seal of approval! *stamps*