Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I know exactly when I bought this book. It was at the 2014 Rochester Teen Book Festival, May 17th. I have tried to volunteer at the event each year since I discovered it. That year, I was paired with an author. Each author at the festival gets an adult and a team of teens to show them around, get them stuff, fight off the hordes of adoring fans, etc. Guess who I was paired with. I'll tell you. It was Marie Rutkoski. ::feigned gasp:: I didn't know Dr. Rutkoski's work very well, though I read The Cabinet of Wonders when I found out that I would be her helper for the day. The Cabinet of Wonders, by the way, was quite good. Excellent premise and interesting fantasy elements. Also, I would like a little metal spider, if anyone has one to give me for keepsies. I haven't finished that trilogy, though it is on my "read before I die" list. I can't find the picture I took with the team that fateful day, which totally sucks because I recall having fabulous hair that day!

Update: found it!

Anyway, Dr. Rutkoski was a lovely person, and by the fourth time I heard her talk about the book and her inspiration for it, I was hooked. She also talked about throwing knives and busted fish tanks, and who wouldn't like that.

The Winner's Curse is about two people, really, though I'm sure I would have thought it was simply about Kestrel if I wasn't really paying attention. Kestrel is the general's daughter, rich, respected, restless in her privileged life. She has to choose, soon, if she will join the military or marry an appropriate suitor. She's a good person, as she must be, right? She's actually none to happy about the slave trade. Arin, also known as Smith, is the slave that Kestrel buys, perhaps on a whim. Dr. Rutkoski spilled the beans for me, so I'm spilling the beans for you: Arin is a spy and a war is coming. Before that, Arin and Kestrel become friends, make waves, and generally try to out wit each other, which is just what nerds do on their way to love.

The Winner's Curse is WONDERFUL. It's fast paced and interesting and the first time the two primary characters meet is at least a little different. A little in that it takes place at a slave auction and one of them is the slave. The rest is kinda the usual. You know that Arin is not what he seems and you hope, along with him, that he is able to balance his loyalties in a way that work out for everyone. Obviously, that can't happen in the first book. The author is an excellent world- builder and the writing is great, which is good because I hold Professor Rutkoski to an absurdly high standard given that she teaches English. 

I have already requested the second book in the series from the library with a plan to own the whole trilogy for my own shelves. I hope that I have the opportunity to hear her speak about her books, again. I look forward to hearing her updated thoughts about the story as well as her thoughts about the controversy surrounding the publisher's decision to change the cover art to show Kestrel in fighting clothes. I kid you not, it's apparently a thing. Kestrel is "known for her strategy not her fighting" is one argument I've heard against the new cover. But she's also not know for being in a froo froo dress... but whatever. Both formal dress AND bad-ass military chick covers are overplayed and underwhelming, in my opinion.

The Winner's Curse is an actual economic concept. It's the idea that if you win an item by overbidding for it, you have the item but at too high a cost. Kestrel does, indeed, overpay for Arin. But the farther reaching consequences of having him in her life are much greater.

1 comment:

  1. lovely review. im planning to read it next month :)