Monday, December 22, 2014

Top Ten YA Novels 2014 #9: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Day 2! This is not just one of the best books of the year. It's probably one of the greatest I've ever read. But like I said, this year is full of awesomeness. That's why it belongs to the ninth place.

And the ninth place belongs to

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski.


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.


Date Read: March 5, 2014

My Review:

Rating: 9/10


Top 3 reasons why I like it:

1. The name of the book and what it stands for

It's just that simple. The name is what first attracted me. The Winner's Curse. The name itself is extraordinarily beautiful. But the meaning is even more fascinating. There are two cases of winner's curse. The first is that the winning bid exceeds the value of the auctioned asset so that not only the winner doesn't have a net gain, he or she is actually worse off in absolute terms. The second is that the winner might still have a net gain but it's worse off than the winner's anticipated. The story is the perfect embodiment of one or both cases. The name is so precise that I can't even fathom how the author managed to do that (because I've seen a lot of cases where the author bends the definition). It's the perfect definition for the book

2. The presence of two cunning main pro/antagonists 

Oh, watch the sparks fly. Kestrel and Arin are either the best of all best friends, or the worse rivals. Both cunning and smart and observant, their tricks and strategies are simply mind-blowing. As I've said in the review, I actually think they are better off as rivals, rather than sort-of forbidden lovers. While tension might stack if they have that kind of complicated relationship (which they have, and I really appreciate that), they will not hesitate to break each other if they are just enemies. When both of the are deadly clever, the tricks will be even more amazing. No wonder people love this book so much. You really can't ask for much more from these two complex characters.

3. You can't predict what happens next

The Winner's Curse is set in a wildly imaginative world where pretty much every rule can be bent. That world is at war, two races despising each other and trying to take each other down. They will pretty much do anything to get what they want, at whatever costs. There's no way to guess how the two sides will strike, and what kind of casualties they will create. This book is not just simply wild and unpredictable. You will be surprised by what kind of consequences and crimes that the characters will have to endure and pay for. There's a good chance that the twists and turns will veer off our own track of mind and leads to a shocking end.


Why I recommend this book or series:

Oh, there are lots of reasons. How about I start with the fact that it's super tense? It's not just the wars. When Kestrel and Arin play the game Bite and Sting, the tension is already high. The way they try to outwit each other brings a smile to my face. And that's not even the whole of it. How about that times a million in the real war? Everything just get way more vicious and cruel. The romance is not one of those really mushy stuff either. They always put their country and honor above pretty much everything else, and even though they have less-than-normal feelings for each other, they will crush each other should the circumstances force them to. Definitely not your normal YA couple. And how about the fact that the world is simply gorgeous even without magic? That the concept of war and strategy and people willing to sacrifice for the "greater good" is terrifying as well as exotic? It's definitely an exciting ride of battle and making hard decisions. 


Do I like the cover?

Not necessarily. But it doesn't matter. The book is tightly-plotted and awe-inspiring. 


Top 3 favorite scenes: (Spoiler alert!)

1) The last scene of the book

The last scene is one of the first times I realize there's a lack of guarantee that there will be a happy ending for both sides. The uncertainty is pretty unsettling but also a relatively new experience to me. (And guess what, The Winner's Crime proved it multiple times. There's no way to previse a future that our characters won't have any regrets when treason is glaring right into our eyes)

2) The scene where Kestrel wins Arin in the auction

I actually don't know why I like this scene so much. Perhaps it's symbolic. It represents the hidden prize that Kestrel has to pay afterwards. The start of all the betrayal and treason.

3) The part where Kestrel escape from her enemies, near the end of the book.

I just like Kestrel so much. She's imperfect, of course. She's also allowed to make selfish decisions that normal people will make. But she's also a badass and very intelligent. Every time she frees herself, I'd be like "yeah, that's what I'm talking about!". 



None. (I told you Arin and Kestrel are better off as rivals, which is proved in the sequel)


Special stuff about The Winner's Crime:

I know I've written the review and post it. But there's no way I would stop here without talking a little bit about The Winner's Crime. While the misunderstanding between Arin and Kestrel breaks me, the fact that there are so many dark things between them is actually making the plot better and better. Like I said, there's no guarantee that there will be a good outcome, for one or both of them. The plot can pretty much veer off to somewhere we'll never expect. We also get to learn more about Kestrel's intelligence and frankly, sneakiness. I guess being a practitioner of deceit is a good character development and I actually have new-found respect for her cleverness.

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