Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Notes: "The Winner's Curse", by Marie Rutkoski

"The Winner's Curse", by Marie Rutkoski is a YA fantasy: the story of  Kestrel, the daughter of an important general, and Arin, a slave who becomes a revolutionary.  The setting reminded me a bit of Sparta, with all the young people expected to either marry and produce children for the empire, or to sign up and become soldiers in order to spread the empire across yet more territories.

The title refers to the idea that winning can come at a steep - and unexpected - cost. Which is what Kestrel discovers when she wins Arin at a slave auction. That inadvertent victory changes her life and is the engine that starts the plot running through its paces.

I enjoyed this one. (I know: shocker! I pretty much only review books I enjoy - Twilight, you, as always, are the great exception.)

Kestrel made sense as a 17-year-old who is smart, but in over her head. I figured things out ahead of her, but that weirdly didn't bother me. Usually, running too far ahead of the main character is annoying in a book, but here, somehow, it just made Kestrel feel more real. I mean, how many times in real life have you looked back and thought, How in the world didn't I realize that sooner? In this book, the author was able to make Kestrel's slow realizations sympathetic, not annoying.

My favorite part was probably the setting: Kestrel's city used to belong to the people her general-father had a hand in conquering and the layering of the two cultures - conquered/rebelling and conquerer/defending - made for a fascinating world.

I appreciated that Rutkoski didn't gloss over the violence of the war as much as YA sometimes does. It's a sparkling, dream-like world, yes, but her characters' decisions have costs, and that makes for a good story.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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