This is my first book review (and a long, enthusiastic one).
I know I’m late to the party, but I finished The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski yesterday and holy blonde cheerleader batman, was that good!
I’m not a big fan of sappy romance books, of covers with random girls wearing pretty dresses, of poorly constructed fantasy worlds loosely based on ours. So why did I pick this book up? At first glance, I was supposed to hate everything about it.
Instead I closed the book and there I was, my mouth still open and my heart still beating so fast I thought it would burst out of my chest.
I. FREAKING. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.
You don’t like one-dimensional characters that immediately declare their undying love to each other for no actual reason? Don’t worry, reading about these two is like watching a slow chess game and hoping both of the players will lose and win at the end.
You don’t like reading about girly girls with pretty dresses that don’t do anything but spending their time daydreaming about their crush? Well good for you, because Kestrel is a complex girl that manages to be feminine and sweet and still kick some major ass, and the best part is that she doesn’t do it by picking up a sword (I love fighters but it’s nice to be reminded that you don’t need to be a skilled ninja to be considered “strong”), but by using her dangerous brain and cleverly chosen words.
You hate bad worldbuilding? No problem, because here we have a Roman Empire kind of setting where interesting things actually happen in a logical order, instead of being poorly thought-out and randomoly tossed there just to put the tantrums of the two lovebirds in some kind of blah context.
I hate when books do that, when they pretend to be what they’re not. Oh look, a high fantasy book! Ugh no, wait, this is a cheesy instalove book disguised as fantasy where nothing really happens. A sci-fi book! An adventure book! A thriller/urban/whatever book! No wait, still a romance book labeled as something else.
This was not one of those books. I loved EVERYTHING about The Winner’s Curse.
It’s a fantasy book that has an intriguing plot, a captivating love story, conflict and exciting twists in it. And the prose, oh gosh! The prose is so damn pretty. English is not my first language but a) even I recognize bad prose when I see it and b) I’d sell a kidney to be able to write that well.
And the male protagonist! I almost forgot! I’m sick of bad/manipulative/stalkerish boys who treat their female counterparts like they’re incompetent children (or worst, their property). This guy was not one of them. Throughout the whole thing, I felt Kestrel and Arin were very different but still equal, there was respect and admiration and honest affection between them. And seriously guys, this is all I asked for. I’m sold.
I’m enthusiastic and I’m about to read the sequel right now. To be honest, I was supposed to read other books I have on my shelf but who am I kidding, I can’t wait to know what happens to these two and to their Country.
ps. As a writer, I can only say that I hope I’ll be able to write something that compelling, well-constructed and well-worded, one day. In the meantime, I’ll keep practicing and reading good books.