The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Review also found at: Goodreads
I have no idea how to classify this. It’s YA, but not fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, steampunk, paranormal, or any of that. If anything, it’s like an alternate history. The people ride horses and carriages and have to send “letters” by hand to relay messages. They have ships and cannons and archers and knives. So it takes place in some generic past, I think? The females wear dresses sort of like the Regency period, I guess? They have balls and fancy picnics and stuff.
The main character in this is a 17 year old girl born in privilege, the daughter of a famous general and warrior. The main male lead belongs to the “slave class.” One imperialistic people had invaded a more peaceful and artistic country and taken its citizens as slaves.
A lot of the book is about high society, politics, intrigue, and a rigid government based on war and the expansion of an empire. Kestral, the female, spends a lot of her time stressing out because she doesn’t want to join the military or fight. She’s not physically strong or able to learn to be. She’d rather be playing the piano.
She buys a slave on a whim, it seems, and he ends up becoming much more than a “slave.” She’s got a couple of rich friends, one to serve as the role of the superficial, yet loyal BFF, and one to serve as part of a love triangle. I actually liked Ronan a lot and he seemed to really like Kestral.
This was a “star-crossed” lovers kind of romance. The “society will never accept us” thing, which, I actually love. The romance (and even the love triangle) wasn’t annoying. What made this a 3-star book instead of a 4-star one is Kestral. I found her kind of annoying.
She was always fainting, it seemed like. I don’t require that every female heroine has to be a bad-ass, but she seemed overly weak to me. And not just weak, but devious and vindictive too. In one part, she was rude to a slave for no reason, just because she was frustrated. It also seemed like she had no backbone. She just goes along with a lot of things and acts brainwashed about her country. I guess I get it because her father has drilled the military into her since birth.
She freed a slave (her nurse who was like a second mom to her) and I guess that is supposed to make her sympathetic, but when the shit hit the fan, she didn’t follow through and did what a good citizen would do.
She also had two males of worth in love with her and acts like she likes them both at certain times, but rejects them both.
The ending was irritating too. Of course, it sets up the next book (including another love interest, sigh). I think fans of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy would like this. It kind of reminds me of that. That was a trilogy that annoyed me. I was the one with the unpopular opinion on that one.
Overall, this was a very quick read, uncomplicated…there’s nothing really original about it, yet it was engaging enough. I think I liked all the other characters more than Kestral. Maybe she has growth as the books continue. I might read the next one, but I’m not in any hurry to at the moment.
Wow, so many of my friends have read this. Eh, may as well add it to the pile.
Buddy read with the Saucy Wenches in January 2016.
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