The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Published March 4, 2014
The Winner’s Curse was a topic of huge debate for my book club – majority of us absolutely loved it and there were a few who had absolutely hated it. Personally, I had enjoyed it until I went to the book club and a lot of topics were brought up so now I am on the fence. There were a lot of great things about this book yet at the same time; the group that hated it also brought up a lot of important details that made the book seem somewhat less. Was the relationship for Arin and Kestrel stemmed from guilt? How did Kestrel even end up with buying Arin if a, she never went to the auctions before and b, she had no possible need to purchase another slave? Is this book too similar to the Romans and the Greeks without all of the historical facts? And so on.
Arin and Kestrel’s relationship was out of the ordinary to say the least. A relationship between a slave and a master? A relationship between the conqueror and the conquered? That is essentially what defines their relationship from the get-go. The Valorian (Kestrel) army conquered the Herrani people (Arin) not too long ago and have basically made all Herrani their slaves. So, in my opinion, a relationship formed from that history is not of the norm at all. Why would anyone fall in love with someone who essentially stripped them of their basic freedom and rights? However, that is exactly what happened. Personally, I had a problem with their relationship not only because of the history that happened with their people but because their love for each other came out of nowhere.
Kestrel is considered as weak and indecisive to me – the only thing going for her is her mind for strategy and, possibly, her love for music. Other than that, she simply doesn’t know what she wants. She only knew that she did not want to be a soldier which is what her father wanted for her; however, she did not know what she wanted to do - she was essentially content to simply float around with no goal in mind. She was depicted as someone who did not particularly like going out to dances with her friends, not very good at fighting yet she was forced to learn, only enjoyed her music and playing that Bite and Sting game. Otherwise, there is nothing to her – she lacked substance. Therefore, I do not see how Arin could fall in love with a girl like that.
Arin was a little better. Even though he had a terrible personality in the beginning – moody, nitpicky, grouchy, just a general Debbie Downer; however, he actually had a goal in mind which was to free his people. Unfortunately, even though he had that goal, he was not subtle in the least. In fact, he got caught stealing a book from his childhood home – a spy is NOT supposed to get caught over something so frivolous. Granted, a piece of childhood is never frivolous; however, in the grand scheme of things, it was. Not only that but he was always so defiant of his mistress, always talking back to her and basically being a terrible slave which, in turn, made him a terrible spy. HOWEVER. No one suspected anything. Astounding.
The writing style was somewhat lacking - probably because I was too hyped up about it from reading previous reviews or because I had overestimated it. Nonetheless, I did not find the writing “lyrical” nor “beautiful.”
Overall, despite the fact that I nitpicked certain things in the book, I did enjoy the book as a whole. I’m curious to see what the second book will bring. Plus, on a side note, but I’m pretty sure Kestrel’s friend is a spy for the Herrani. Why? Because she was the one who led Kestrel to the auction in the first place and because she survived somewhat after being poisoned and rather than dying like the rest of the people at the ball, she was still alive and was brought back from the brink of the death after Kestrel had Arin find herbs to cure her. Maybe I’m just into conspiracies but who knows.