So instead of reviewing these individually (mainly because doing so would seriously spoil a few major things that happen) I decided that I would do a series review. Now, I have read all three of these books in close succession, reading The Winner’s Curse at the end of May, and both The Winner’s Crime and The Winner’s Kiss at the beginning of June. Marie Rutkoski is an amazing writer, especially if you love complex strategy and politics, elements I find are often lacking in other YA reads where the characters are in similar situations (in key positions during war, in high positions in Court…) but I feel that Marie really nailed it on the head with this trilogy!
When I went into this series, I knew that it was a hit on Booktube but other than that I really didn’t know much about it. Only really what was written on the blurb of The Winner’s Curse, which in summary was that a General’s daughter wins a slave in an auction; something that has always pained her before, but then trouble ensues as the slave is more than she bargained for. So you know from the onset that this is a rebellion story (like a lot of YA at the moment) but there are complexities and realities of war that are really considered, espionage and backstabbing are done really well.
So the first book was a hit with me, the plot was relatively fast paced and although I didn’t read it in one sitting, I did want to spread it out a little (okay, it was in the same day but broken up). The second book, in comparison, was slightly slower, taking two days to but it was worth it. The story was more complex and there were higher stakes and then the ending came and cliff-hanger… the first book for me didn’t end on that dramatic cliff-hanger that most first books end with, more of a curiosity of what is going to happen next, but The Winner’s Crime, I was on holiday (150 miles away from the final book) and I just needed the next book (it took my mom and dad buying me other books to stop be buying another copy just to read while away). The final book, like I have heard of many others, I found to be slower at the beginning but then had a kick-ass ending!
Now there are two main characters, well there are some really really close secondary characters (hello, Prince) but throughout you get the perspective of Kestrel (the General’s daughter) and Arin (the slave). Kestrel has a naturally strategic mind, something that you see from the start and although the strengths are really well played, you definitely see the strain that it has on Kestrel. Kestrel resides in a society that has conquered Arin’s, enslaving it’s people and their land; as she is coming of age she has to make a choice, either enlist and serve in the Emperor’s army or marry and produce future soldiers for the war-faring people.
I loved Kestrel, I loved her attitude to different situations and different people, and I definitely loved how you got to see how she rationalised and not just, ooo I think I am going to do this now (another thing you see in a lot of YA fiction at the moment). Another thing that I greatly admired, was that you don’t just see how she is this military woman with a head for strategic planning, but also someone who loves music and how both of those were nurtured very differently; strategy through games (and how that game becomes so important to the overall storyline) and her music through the need to stay connected to her mother and the need to escape her own mind and the strategic manner of it. Overall I think that Kestrel is a great character, well developed, rounded and believable.
Arin, oh Arin, I loved Arin’s voice and the way his culture is so engrained in him that through it all you see his connection to the Gods and to his society, even after that society was almost demolished. Arin of course plays a key role throughout the plot, he isn’t all that Kestrel or majority of other people, believe him to be. I could go into huge amounts of detail about the things I love about Arin, but he is a character that you have to discover; you can’t just read a few sentences about how he behaves before reading these books because then you would see plot twists coming and your feelings for the first book in particular, would be greatly affected.
So, some ratings:
The Winner’s Curse:- 5 Stars
The Winner’s Crime:- 4.5 stars
The Winner’s Kiss:- 5 stars
I highly, highly recommend these books; and in all honesty, marathoning these books is the best way of reading them. I think I would have struggled to remember all of the details (especially considering the smaller plot points and court workings) if I had had to wait a year between reading each instalment.
Please, if you love politics in YA fantasy, please go and pick this up. Marie Rutkoski did a brilliant job and I love this series!