The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a headscratcher - and not in a "trying to solve a mystery" way - in a "I can't tell if I liked it or not" way.
"The Winner's Curse" was incredibly easy to read - it flowed well and the language was simple (but pretty). So, I managed to finish this book in less than two days. If you are looking for something short and sweet to read, I recommend this book!
The start of this novel troubled me. I felt that there was absolutely no introduction into Kestrel's world. We have only a few pages until the love interest is introduced and I felt that the author forced the romance way too early in the novel. I understand that whole "instant connection" thing, but surely Arin should have been a little less inclined to break bread with his enemy?
Near the end of the book however, once you suspend your disbelief about the circumstances surrounding their introduction/blossoming relationship, Kestrel and Arin grew on me. Though this brings me to another problem (and one that a lot of novels with romance as a main theme have)... Don't get the couple together, only to break them up and then physically separate them. If "The Winner's Crime" has Kestrel and Arin separated (geographically, I mean), I am going to find it very hard to cheer for them. In order for me to want them to get back together, I have to have enjoyed their relationship when they were together...
The political undertones of this book were it's saving grace. I enjoyed the reversal of power between the Valorian and Herrani people; it definitely allowed for commentary on revolutions and imperialism. I loved that women were encouraged to join the military as much as they were encouraged to marry! And Arin's leadership skills were pretty great (even if his leadership was obtained in a somewhat implausible fashion).
Overall, I think this novel had strong themes and characters, but that Rutkoski forced relationships and situations. She wanted a situation to occur so she just kind of made it happen... Without a second thought to the plausibility of such an event (think Kestrel and Arin's romance, Kestrel's engagement, Arin becoming the Herrani leader). The second novel will ultimately determine how I judge this series.
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