The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Published by: Bloomsbury
Series: The Winner’s Crime (#2)
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon
First of all, the cover is beautiful. Whoever designed it deserves a medal. This book has been sat on my Kindle bookshelf for a while, and since it’s 2015, I thought I’d clear out my shelves and start reading books I bought six months ago. When I clicked on to ‘The Winner’s Curse’, I had no idea what to expect. What I got was an odd mixture of fantasy and historical fiction.
‘The Winner’s Curse’ is about a girl called Kestrel, who is the daughter of a general. In the first chapter, she buys a slave for a lot of money. (The way the girls dress and the whole slavery thing led me to believe this was 18th century fiction, expect the currency is ‘keystones’, hence fantasy.) It doesn’t take long for you to realise that Kestrel is going to fall in love with the slave, called Arin. But of course, that’s socially unacceptable.
Women must marry at the age of 20, or enlist in the army, so this world is not entirely patriarchal. It was definitely an odd blend of ideas, but it certainly was original. Kestrel doesn’t want to marry, or be part of the army, she wants to play the piano. But ‘the arts’ are reserved for slaves.
Because the book is told from a third person perspective, we get to read about both Kestrel and Arin. There’s a lot of dramatic irony when it comes to Arin, who’s been specifically placed in Kestrel’s household as a traitor, to gain information needed for a rebellion. The reader knows this, but Kestrel doesn’t, which leads to some tension.
Although Kestrel is interested in music, this doesn’t mean this isn’t capable on the battlefield. She offers to duel a man for the life of her slave and comes out with a victory, because of her cunning. Generally, Kestrel is a very strong character who is easy to sympathise with and read about.
The romance between the two is stunted by their social position, however, after 60% of the novel has progressed, the tables turn. Kestrel gets to experience what life as a slave is like (although I won’t tell you why, because…spoilers.)
So much happens in this novel, I was overwhelmed. As the world is such a mix of 18th century, and futuristic culture, it’s simple to understand. Not a lot of world building needs to occur. This book is more about relationships and the social implications. If you like period dramas, then this is for you. But, if you also like fast paced novels, then ‘The Winner’s Curse’ doesn’t fail to impress.
What I liked so much about this book is how much the title is relevant. With some YA books, you wonder how abstract the title is and what it means, but ‘The Winner’s Curse’ is explained within the first chapter.
Overall, I’d give this book 4 stars because I was very impressed with the plot, how quick it was to read and how well developed the characters were. The was an excellent debut to a trilogy, and I am in possession of ‘The Winner’s Crime’, the sequel, so stay turned to see if this trilogy continues a steak of goodness.