Monday, May 16, 2016
Series Review: The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
Title: The Winner's Curse (Book 1), The Winner's Crime (2), and The Winner's Kiss (3)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Overall Series Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
The Winner's Curse Goodreads synopsis:
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.
This post was originally going to be just a review on The Winner's Curse, the first book in The Winner's Trilogy, but because of the chaos that senior year brings a well as the laziness that my ass brings, I have waited so long to write my original review that I have been able to read the whole trilogy, so I have now decided to do an overall series review instead. Let's see how this goes.
Throughout the series we follow a Valorian girl named Kestrel, and a Herrani boy named Arin. The Valorian's are those who have conquered the Herrani and their country, Herran. The books follow Kestrel and Arin through their budding, but forbidden, romance and how their relationship causes turmoil for both of their countries. Their allegiances to each other and their countries will be put to the test, major swooning and heartbreak are guaranteed to ensue.
One thing I can confidently say about this trilogy, it gets better with each book. The characters get more complex and fleshed out as the books continue and you really get immersed into Arin and Kestrel's world. These books are categorized as fantasy and have no magic in them. This might be a turn-off for some fantasy readers, but for me it was intriguing and refreshing. The books may lack a magic system, but the political intrigue more than fills the void. Honestly, the politics in these books is off the charts. There is some action and fighting in the series, mostly in the last book, but most of the battling between characters is done through mind games and psychological warfare.
Kestrel is one of the most intelligent and perceptive main characters I have ever read about. In the first book I was conflicted because I thought she lacked depth, but as I mentioned before, as the trilogy continues her character becomes much more nuanced and fleshed out. Something I did like about her from the very beginning was that she never gets caught up in the pettiness of Valorian society and treats the Herrani, who are enslaved, as equals, unlike many of her peers. I absolutely loved reading about the relationship between Kestrel and her father. It was complex to begin with and gets even more nuanced and heartbreaking as the books progress. All she wants is her fathers approval and love, but because he is so traditional and set in his own ways, their relationship is strained and they cannot see eye to eye on how Kestrel should live her life. I also liked the fact that Kestrel isn't very good at combat. A lot of times in YA, a female character's strength is defined by her physical strength and fighting skills. There are many other qualities in a character that reveal strength.
Arin , our other main character, is a fighter. He is fiercely loyal to his country and Kestrel. This is an admirable trait, but it gets him into a into of trouble as well. I believe you don't learn about his backstory until the second or third book, but it's absolutely heartbreaking. I really came to care for Arin in the second book. He was so self doubting and mistrusting of others, he was like a lost puppy in the rain that I wanted to take inside and put in front of a warm fire. Kestrel's and Arin's relationship becomes very complex throughout the series, especially during the second book. They are so loyal to each other that they result to the classic "lie to the one I love to protect them" tactic. It can be quite frustrating at times, but it's the kind of frustration that keeps you wanting more and seeing if they can ever work things out. There are many things that tie them together but equally as many things threaten to tear them apart. It's honestly hard not to root for them.
All of the books in the trilogy aren't very fast paced, they aren't slow by any means, but due to the methodical nature and the political intrigue of the books, there isn't much action. But when there is action, the scenes are crafted with such detail that I occasionally had to pause reading and shudder from the gruesome images of war. The last book especially could be very gruesome, there were a lot of war scene painted in pretty graphic imagery. Rutkoski's writing is beautiful and again improves even more as the series progresses. I gave the first book 3/5 stars, being that it wasn't an amazing book, but a very strong first in a series, and it was obviously the book to lay out the groundwork for the books to come. My love for this trilogy really began to blossom in the second book, and the last two books overall are the reason why I give praise to the series. I cannot stress how much the trilogy improves after the first book. Honestly the second book took me on such a whirlwind of emotions that I had to set it down a few times to calm myself.
I really did not realize how invested I was into these characters and the world they live in until I finished the last book. I actually became teary eyed and experienced a little bit of a book hangover. I think what really got me was how much the main characters care for each other. It really reminded me of how Tessa, Jem, and Will care for each other in The Infernal Device's trilogy by Cassandra Clare. And honestly, anything that reminds me of TID will bring tears to my eyes. Anyways, The Winner's Trilogy is full of political intrigue, complex and heartbreaking relationships, and very loyal and intelligent characters. Highly highly recommend.