The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

*Warning* Spoilers ahead

After reading the prequel to The Hunger Games, I was in the mood to read a dystopian and this was the only dystopian book I had on my shelf, so I picked it up. I gave The Winner’s Curse 2.5 stars and my opinion of it may be slightly distorted because I was comparing it to The Hunger Games, which isn’t completely fair. I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t live up to my expectations and the hype around it.

The idea of this book was so fascinating and drew me in immediately. I love reading romance and I thought that a romance between a general’s daughter and a slave seemed very interesting. It had so much potential, but it didn’t live up to it. For most of the book, I was bored and was counting down the pages until I was done. The last 150 pages (basically when Kestrel was Arin’s prisoner) was when I became invested in the story and what was happening. It made up for the rest of the story.

The other thing that I found interesting in this story was the politics between the Herrani and Valorian people. I love when books dive into politics and I thought that Marie Rutkoski did a great job dealing with this subject.

I appreciated that there was never any info-dumping and the world-building was great, especially for high fantasy. The history behind the two countries made complete sense and I love the small details that were thrown in about the world. It made it feel so much more real.

The main problem I had with The Winner’s Curse was the characters. I didn’t care for any of the characters and wasn’t affected by any of the deaths in this story. Kestrel’s only personality traits were that she didn’t want to be a soldier and that she likes music. I knew nothing else about her and I couldn’t list any of her character traits. I don’t have an opinion on Arin, the main love interest. He was just there and didn’t do anything that made me form an opinion on him. Jess was the only character I kind of liked as the rest were either insufferable (Cheat, Kestra’s dad, and Irex) and the others had zero personality.

This book was supposed to be about the romance between a slave and the general’s daughter, but it didn’t feel like that. When Arin was a slave, he never acted like one. I know that Kestrel was the one who gave him privileges, but that completely took away the feeling of a forbidden romance since he was able to do whatever he wanted.

I didn’t hate this book, but the sequel isn’t high on my to-read list. I’ll get to it eventually, but I’d rather read other books first. I was looking for a true dystopian because of The Hunger Games, but it was just a romance hidden in the dystopian genre. Hopefully, the sequel will have more action and live up to this story’s potential.

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