Friday, July 15, 2016

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1)

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM

Age: Young Adult
Category: Romance, fantasy
Rating: 5 stars

Rosie Thinks: This book has been sitting on my kindle for a very long time. Fellow judge Melissa read it and adored it, so sent it on to me. That was almost a year ago, though - it just faded into the background, even though the summary was appealing. But due to general laziness on my part (ie, not being bothered to research and find a new book), I gave it a go. And, as you can probably guess from my 5/5 rating, I was blown away! This would be the best YA first-in-a-series book I've read in a really long time - maybe since The 5th Wave.

Kestrel is the daughter of the infamous General who conquered Herran ten long years ago. Since then, its people have been enslaved to the Volarians. The story starts with Kestrel buying Arin at a slave auction against her better knowledge, seeing a kindred spirit in him. The two are from completely different worlds: Kestrel, that of a high society lady, and Arin, that of a slave who's suffered through the worst horrors of colonisation. As is noted in the story, "the Winner's Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price". Accordingly, Kestrel soon learns just how steep the price she paid is.

Kestral has become one of my favourite leading ladies. From the very beginning, I could tell I was going to adore her. She sets herself apart from so many other main characters out there because she's so intelligent. She has a mind for strategy, and it is shown realistically time and time again. Nothing about her character was shoved in my face and it's been a while since I've enjoyed a character like this, one who I could never truly predict. She is incredibly self-aware and discerning. Despite her self-admitted poor combat skills, she can still defend herself, a lot of times using her mind alone. I can't even explain how much I love a heroine who is so sharp, especially one where we are shown rather than just told.

And, of course, Arin was a perfect accompaniment. He wasn't just the love interest with a few throwaway, cliche characteristics. He had an enthralling, still-mysterious backstory that's shaped the character we see in the book. He's strong and also a good enough strategist to keep up with and sometimes outwit Kestral. Despite the unequal dynamics in the entire story, personality-wise, the two are equals. The love between the two isn't instant (YES!) and is a complex thing that takes a while to build. That is not to say, however, that the book is focused on their romance. It is only a part of a whole. The plot moves fast and not once was it boring. The romance is intertwined with a complex set of events that kept me glued to my kindle. When I reached 50%, the twists were so thrilling that I had to double check to make sure I wasn't closer to the actual climax! After that it was just . . . woah. Once you read that ending, you'll understand!

When I began writing this review, I couldn't help but recall that Ursula Le Guin quote, "Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality". This story raised some serious questions about colonisation and its effects, both to the main characters and to me as a reader. It was hard to distinguish my views on it from the subjective views of the characters. I found this to be one of the best real-life commentaries that I've read in a while, especially coming from a YA book.

My friends on Goodreads seemed to either absolutely adore this book as much as I did, or find it not so special. I would love to know everyone else's opinion on it!


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