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.
I’ve been very busy, mostly with Not Fun Stuff, this summer, so I haven’t had much time to read. Recently I found myself blessedly unoccupied on a train, but without a single book in my bag. Then I remembered that I have an e-reader and smacked my forehead.
The Winner’s Curse happened to be my last e-book purchase, so I started it, and I am so pleased to say that it took me out of my reading slump and was just a lovely, YA summer treat in a summer that’s been largely book-bleak.
I loved the writing. Marie Rutkoski chose to write dual POV (my favorite for romances), and one of her protagonists is a pianist. I think it’s brave for writers to take on musical characters, because music is one of those tricky things to write. But Rutkoski did it wonderfully, and I could almost hear the notes tumbling from the page.
For most of the book we’re in the head of a colonizer, a privileged young woman who’s directly profited from the suppression of another country. I love that we’re sympathetic to Kestrel as an individual even while hating her cause – we want liberation for the suppressed, but we also don’t want her to ‘lose,’ and that was a tense, tight spot to cram a reader into. I enjoyed being there!
I’m jealous of writers like C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince trilogy) and Rutkoski, who are so good at depicting strategizing characters, writing books full of unexpected political maneuvers, tricky dialogue, the subtleties of the calculating mind. Additionally I loved that Kestrel was a dress-wearing, fashion-loving girl who can’t fight worth a damn. I always roll my eyes when so-called “strong-heroines” in YA mock girls who like fashion (I’m looking at you, Queen of the Tearling), so I appreciated being in the head of a character who has to survive through her cunning alone.
I wish that the book had been longer; there was definitely room for more world building, but also just for more character descriptions. Unless I’m the worst reader ever, there was little description of the boy lead Arin, and I don’t know much about Kestrel’s looks except that she most definitely has blonde hair (this is mentioned about a dozen times). I hope to see more world building in the future books, too, but this book was well-painted enough for me to have faith in the author and the places where she wants to take us.
I can’t wait for more!