Sunday, January 18, 2015

{Book Review} The Winner's Curse #1: Marie Rutkoski

Rating: 50%
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Genre: High Fantasy, Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult, Fiction, 
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Page Count: 359
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis: Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Fans of Pompeii/Ancient Rome, Political Intrigue, Legend (Marie Lu), Kiss of Deception (Mary E. Pearson)

Would I Buy It?
I already have.... the image of the book is from my Instagram -*shameless self-promo @sslluvsbooks & Marie Rutkoski RTed it on Twitter also @sslluvsbooks*- I bought it for $2.50 from BookOutlet's Boxing Day Sale. To my disappointment, I ended up not loving it and am glad I didn't splurge too much. From my peer book bloggers, this is either a love it or hate it novel, and I would advise borrowing a copy from the library or some other means of book obtaining unless you are CERTAIN you will love it, just in case you feel the same way I did.

Background & Backstory?
Spring 2014 was a HUGE new release season in publishing and The Winner's Curse was the most hyped, most anticipated Macmillan Series Debut. Even if you didn't know what this story was about, you head ALL of the bloggers rave about the gorgeous cover and it's even prettier insides.

I was one of those ravers. I was a baby blogger (still am, but at least I know more about upcoming releases) and if everyone else was raving.... it HAD to be good, right? I actually encouraged one of my greatest twitter BFF's Nath to read this book, and she ended up not loving it (for these reasons). I also borrowed The Winner's Curse from the library 50 billion times and I never read it and ended up returning it to the library ANOTHER 50 billion times.

Finally, I bought The Winner's Curse in eBook form when Fierce Reads was having their holiday eDeals AND I bought the hardcover off of BookOutlet. Can you say putting all of your eggs in one basket?

And now I shall proceed with telling you my unpopular opinion for this novel that everyone and their mothers seemed to adore. I hope I can show my face later on Twitter.

[I saw this video in my subscription feed a few days ago by Thoughts on Tomes about dealing with Hype and Disappointment and I HIGHLY recommend you check it out because she does a better job than I ever could with explaining my disappointment because of the Winner's Curse]

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Suspenseful ending! It tipped the rating to 3 stars, I want to read the sequel. But.... the overall story was a huge, boring disappointment ;(

Con | Political Intrigue Promises: *imagine I'm 2 years old for this sentence* I was promised political intrigue and I didn't get it! *stomps foot indignantly*

Yes there was political dealings with the military and Kestral's father was a general, but when I hear the two magic words, my expectations are sky rocketed to LEGEND status. Aka the queen of making politics actually sound like fun. We got a bit of an idea of how the military worked and the expectations for females in this world, but there weren’t any dirty dealings pertaining to a plague or swoon-worthy, well-meaning Elector’s sons who want to change the way things are run…. so I would say that this book did not fulfill that particular expectation.

Pro | Tacticians for the WIN!: While I disliked the two protagonists as characters themselves, I adored the characteristics the were given. Arin and Kestral have extremely intelligent minds built for leadership and the military. The book would have been awesome if the ENTIRE thing was the two of them being presented with various problems/battles and them attempting to find a solution together. I loved how they were quick-thinking, and witty at times, Arin knew he had to push to envelope, but knew how to do it in a way so that it would gain him respect and not a beating. In these aspects, they were a lot like June and Day…. my favorite power couple of all time. 

This is going to sound like one of the most unusual statements EVER for someone talking about The Winner's Curse but my favorite character in this novel was Kestral’s father. The intimidating, powerful, rich, and vicious general of the emperor’s army. This goes along with my borderline-unhealthy obsession with loving psychopaths in Young Adult literature. He reminded me immensely of the Commander (Warner’s father) in the Shatter Me Trilogy. I loved how ruthless and unapologetic he was, and the word “regret” wasn’t even in his vocabulary…. like every all-powerful, life-ruining psychotic leader should be. 

Con | Romance: A lot of people loved the way that the developed and cheered for Arin and Kestral whenever an external factor pushed them together. I’m not sure how this could scientifically happen (if book writing is in the least bit scientific), but even though nothing physically happened between them until around 60% of the book had passed, it felt entirely too rushed, insta-lovey, and out of no where. Of course I knew this book had romance in it…. that’s one of the biggest attractions for the reader. Of course I knew they would eventually fall in love and there would be chaos ensuing because slave/master love affairs are taboo. Yet, I could not wrap my head around them. There was no foreshadowing, in terms of chemistry and the dynamic between them. If anything, they seemed more suited to a parabati relationship than a romantic one. There was sincere mutual respect… that’s why Kestral purchased Arin in the first place. Yet, there were no electrifying touches, sarcastic remarks, or other indicators that proved they were attracted to each other or would make a good couple. 

Neutral | Would anyone like to explain to me the kind of world/genre are we in?: On the world subject, I felt as if I was reading a novel set in Ancient Rome, set in Pompeii. Yet, this was a completely made-up world. There were slaves, an emperor with generals and province-like locations. There was a strong focus on military and protection. Women were expected to marry or join the army at age 20 (that one was unusual). All of the usual parties, galas, and overall frivolity that comes with being rich was present. So let me break it down for you - I felt like we were in Ancient Rome (historical fiction), but the world was made up (high fantasy), and there was a somewhat corrupt government slaves were determined to overtake (dystopian). What does this mean? What genre do I classify this as? *cries and collapses from confusion*

Con | Pacing: *We resume Sofia’s two-year old rant with this statement* I was told this book was fast-paced! *sits on ground to pout* but I was able to tear myself away for the sake of twitter. A good book should NOT be able to let Twitter get in my way. The entire novel, I was thinking, “When are we getting to the big climatic scene?” Things started happening around the 60% point, but once they did, they weren’t able to hold my interest very well and I grew bored quickly. 

Pro | Writing Style: As an author trying to please Sofia Li, the number one thing you can do to boost your star rating is writing well. There isn’t a magic recipe or equation for greatness, but readers can just sense good writing when they read it. It wasn’t so much the way Rutkoski told THE story, but how she TOLD story. Her word choice was exquisite and (as odd as this may sound) the arrangement of her words was flawless. This mostly shone through with her descriptions/metaphors when painting a beautiful picture of minuscule details. She made exiting a room eloquent and playing a game lyrical.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
There is so much pre-publication hype from a ton of bloggers I know, love, and respect their opinions. I'm obviously not going to purchase the hardcover at full retail price, but I am considering borrowing it from the library because Rutkoski could have a wonderful sophmore novel in this series. But it is most definitely not at the top of my list. (On top of putting too much faith in hype, I keep coming back for more.... no wonder I'm not in a romantic relationship with anyone)

Conclusion:I let the hype surrounding this novel get the best of me and didn’t enjoy the story or romance as much as I could have, but the way it was told was exquisite.

Let's Discuss~
Did you read/enjoy The Winner's Curse?
Was your reading experience spoiled for you because of hype?
Who was your favorite character?
Did you think this novel was fast-paced?
Do you ship Kestral & Arin together?
What do you think will be in store for us in The Winner's Crime?  

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