Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review - The Winner's Curse

Source
The Winner's Curse
Marie Rutkoski
2014
Bloomsbury

3.5 out of 5 stars

Reading this was something of a nightmare. Not because the book was bad - far from it. No, it was a nightmare because the e-ARC file was insanely wonky, and as a result, every single screen of it had numerous lines where allthewordsweresmooshedtogetherintoonebigword. See?
And this was one of the better screens! 
It was like reading a never-ending hashtag, and it made my brain hurt. But don't let that colour your impression of the book, because I'm like 900% sure that the actual published editions won't suffer from wordsmooshsyndrome!

This is a really hard book to classify, genre-wise. It's not strictly fantasy - there are none of the typical fantasy elements like dragons or magic or supernatural beasties. And it's not technically historical fiction because it's set in a completely fictional world. Instead, it's somewhere between the two, set in a world clearly influenced by Greek and Roman history with added extras, like gunpowder (although as far as weaponry goes, we're talking cannons and swords, not small arms). It's a post-conquest setting, with slaves and villas and ballgowns aplenty.

Our two protagonists - Kestral and Arin - are from the conquering and conquered sides respectively. As a result, we get a fairly good understanding of both cultures, though what we learn about the conquered Herrani is more about their quest for freedom and revenge than their culture before the Valori invasion. I liked both of their characters. Kestral is strong without being a fighter. She's great at the strategy side of things, which shows through time and time again. Arin is sneaky, and not in a bad way. He's a natural leader who knows how to keep information to himself.

Basically, the writing was excellent (once I learnt to read wordsmooshsyndrome), the characters were great, and I'm really interested to see where the series goes from here. BUT. There are a couple of reasons why this didn't get five stars from me:
1. It was a bit on the slow side at times, and then the big climax felt rushed. And then dragged out. And then rushed again.
2. While Kestral and Arin were excellent characters individually, I struggled to deal with the idea of them as a couple. She spends an awful lot of time glancing at him from a distance and generally being intrigued by him. He spent an awful lot of time going "She's pretty and stuff. And she plays piano really well. And I feel protective about her. BUT SHE OWNS ME AND I AM NOT PROPERTY I HATE THIS." But we're meant to see it as this big epic love story? Um. Okay???

Final verdict? A well written story set in a brilliantly constructed world, populated by characters that I liked. However, the pacing was sometimes off, and the romance was a little meh for me.

Have you read it? What did you think? If not, does this sound like something you'd be interested in?

K xx

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The Winner's Curse is available now. 

1 comment:

  1. Agh, I hate it when e-ARCs are completely messed up. :| I had a LOT of trouble with Viral Nation. And I mean, I don't want it to, but it does end up affecting my view of the book, you know? I review on feelings. (N'aw, so sentimental of me.) and when my feelings of reading were frustrated? Bleh. It comes out in my review.
    But I read a physical copy of this and I STILL had issues! Like you mentioned, with them not-really-working-as-a-couple? Yes. Oh heck yes. I loved the individually and thought they were very strong and well-written and working towards their rebellious roles in life...buuuut, I couldn't see any attraction for them together anyway. *shrugs* I gave it a 3! I still think it was a cool read, just had some issues. ;)

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