Farrer, Straus & Giroux (an imprint of MacmillanTeen), 355 pages
US Release Date: March 4, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
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.
Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?
So I’ll amend it to: I have no worthy words for this book. The Winner’s Curse is brilliant and stunning, clever and cunning and sweet and intense. It made me hold my breathe, it made me close pages because I was feeling so much, it made me tear the book back open because I had to keep going. There are surprises everywhere, games and gambling and taking chances, and every single word and moment gets better than the last.
This is about the realest thing I can say: I stopped reading about 70 pages to the end because I had work the next day and needed to sleep. And I kid you not that my body woke me up at 3:30 AM thinking about it and needing to read…so I continued reading, because I could not leave it as I’d done.
I’ll talk about the components first, because that I can handle. There’s society and slaves, high culture and gritty realism. There’s lovely landscape and blood and gore. There is love, and relationships, and friendship at it’s best and most worthy; there is family at every angle, present and lost and lacking and disappointing. Absolutely everything I could ever think I wanted in a book is here at it’s best, with all the elements I never knew would make a novel better but has.
There’s so much depth to this novel. Every single person you meet, plot point you hit, is part of something else, leads to something even thicker and intense than you can originally see. You get buried in the plot and entirely consumed, and I barely remembered to breathe.
That said, the plot is never confusing or convoluted. Everything is there for a purpose, and it all makes sense in its build and movement. It is nicely linear, and it’s like everything you read just enhances the next moment rather than confuses it.
Kestral and Arin are breathtaking characters. They are so strong and so dimensional. And while I loved them individually for having the flaws and weaknesses and strength they do, I was so blown away every time they were together on the page. From the moment Kestral saw him at the slave market to…well. The end. Even when they weren’t at the same location, but thinking of the other or considering the other, I felt their connection. Their chemistry and tension and pure, raw emotion with the other.
Every review I’ve seen tells you to “clear your calendar” or “set aside hours to read this cover to cover” or some other variation, and I clearly echo that advice. This book is un-put-downable. Take it from me, who did put it down…only to have my mind and body wake me up craving to finish it at an ungodly hour. You cannot escape this novel, and nobody in his or her right mind would ever want to.
The Winner’s Curse is filled with tension and trials, fights and fancy parties. There’s even a duel! But what makes this so incredible is how every element is the best it could possibly be by itself, and together make something as beautiful as this tale. If ever a book to be 5 stars, it is The Winner’s Curse: for making your head and heart know they together love something wholeheartedly, but also battle as you find yourself tangled in the curses and games, too.
Read The Winner’s Curse. Just do it.