I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski from the "Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop". The giveaway in particular was held by The Starry-Eyed Revue
and they provided me with a hard cover copy. The one thing I'd like to stress is that it is ever so beautifully printed! It is such a gorgeous book. The cover is great, the torn pages look incredible and even once the paper cover is removed, there's a beautiful engraving type of thing on the book. Anyway, I'm rambling a bit. Despite receiving a copy of this book for free, the opinions I post here are simply my honest thoughts and I hope no-one is offended by them.
The Winner's Curse features Kestrel, the daughter of a general in an empire. Being only seventeen years old, she is finding that she has two choices; she can join the military or get married. Neither option is particularly appealing to her. One day, she finds herself visiting a slave auction. One of the wares takes her eye, and her she bids for him. After she has won, she's found she's bid more than she expected. She takes him home and finds that his company is troubling. Not only that, but a building slave rebellion might just prove to be just as worrisome.
I think that all of the characters are great. Kestrel's personality has a lot of spark. I think that a lot of what drives her character is her youth. Because of the people around her making suggestions for her future (marriage, army, etc), it almost seems as if she is very timid in some ways and doesn't really know what to do with herself. Despite that, she also has a lot of strong qualities. She's very willful and much of her scenes are about what she wants at that particular moment. Due to her fiery personality, she can sometimes snap at people are reply with glib remarks. In that way, she's also very smart. Though not always good with a weapon, she has a good eye for battle plans and how an army might win in various circumstances. I liked her changes toward the end of the book. Though she didn't change entirely, Kestrel changed various portions about herself and made valuable decisions that might prove best for herself and the empire. Arin was a particularly good character as well. I particularly liked that we saw various portions of his life, such as hints of his youth and life before the war. It was also good to see what role he played in particular during the revolutions, especially the choices he had to make. I certainly appreciated that it wasn't terribly easy for him; that it gave him the opportunity to see tough situations and the solutions he required to fix each problem. As for his relationship with Kestrel, I enjoyed that it was here and there. Though I dislike that kind of pairing in many others stories, I thought it proved to be very valuable in this situation. It was pretty clear, to me, that there were more variables to their relationship than what we saw, which provided many reasons as to why they could, or could not, be together at any given time. The author did a very good job with this pairing and I was pleased about the (for now) conclusion to it at the end of the book. I thought it to be very suitable.
As for other characters, I felt that most fit in to the story very well. I liked Jess and Ronan were very important to the story, without overtaking the plot too much. I felt that they were very encouraging towards Kestrel, even though she didn't altogether appreciate their concerns. I enjoyed that Ronan was loving towards her, but didn't try to control her too much. The same with Jess; I felt that her encouragements fit the story properly and really helped the plot move along in some places. There are some characters that I didn't entirely think were necessary, though. I didn't necessarily think that the slave girl, who was meant to be in love with Arin, fit very well into the story. As I'm writing this, I don't believe I remember what happened to her in the end of the book. Subsequently, I just think she played a role that could easily have been ditched for some nameless alternative. The same can kind of be said for Kestrel's former nanny. I just felt that she didn't have a role which was completely important to the book. In some places, her role was to encourage Kestrel. However, at other points, it just seemed like she was just being mentioned for no reason at all.
To talk about the plot for the moment, I think that the overall story had a lot of important portions. I appreciated that the entire book wasn't about just one or two plots. It seemed quite fitting that multiple story lines were cast into the entirety. It was like looking at the book from various perspectives; from a military stand point, from the eyes of a slave, from the eyes of someone in high society, etc, etc. All that really helped tell the story and really made many of these positions clear; that we can understand each characters actions. I think the pacing felt right. Though, I do think that I would have liked to read a little more of the rebellion. I think there were plenty of points where these scenes might have been useful. I quite enjoyed the settings of the book as well. Though, I kind of think that some were under-utilized in places.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I think it was interesting to read into Kestrel's life. It was great to read about her and Arin's parts in the rebellion. I would recommend it to pretty much everyone. I do intend to read the next book in the series. I can't wait!