Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Me on The Winner's Curse

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan imprint)

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.

The Winner's Curse is enchanting and powerful. There are always two sides to every war and this book shows both, revealing the good and the bad as Kestrel and Arin struggle for an end that will not rip their worlds to shreds.

Kestrel is a piano-playing general's daughter, a privileged daughter of the Valorian empire, one that prides itself on its warmongering and conquering. Her options are simple, to join the military or get married, but she wishes her future could be different. She's intelligent, calculating, witty, and highly skilled in terms of strategy, but her soul thrives on music. And so she's trapped, nearly cornered by her father, when she buys a slave that may be hiding more than just his singing voice.

Arin is a blacksmith touted as a singer, a Herrani slave. Secrets abound around him, secrets on top of secrets. He years for freedom, but not just his own. He wishes his people free from slavery, free from Valorian oppression. But what is his plan? What is he looking for? Is he just a slave, luring Kestrel with only his singing voice and rough banter? Or is he using her? Is he just as intelligent strategically as she is?

Both are trapped by circumstance. The heart wants what it wants, it craves freedom and desires the one it connects with the most, but it can't have it. Not in times of war and struggle. Not over the needs of the majority. Not over what the leaders demand from their citizens and soldiers.

War means strategy, which means tactics and calculations. Kestrel and Arin constantly do battle, both with each other and with others, both physical and verbal. Both must plan so far in advance, looking towards what will save lives over what they want.

The war between the Valorian and the Herrani raise issues of colonization, of a stronger force coming in and taking control, seizing property and implanting their will over the native population. This has happened consistently through history, and it will continue to happen because history will always repeat itself. Empires will rise and fall, as will the rebellions that attempt to crush them and take back what once was theirs. But there will always be casualties.

Perhaps the most important question raised in this book: what is the cost of freedom?

The idea of the winner's curse is so intriguing, where the elation of winning a prize is weighed against the realization of the cost. It was never going to be easy for Kestrel and Arin, but that didn't stop me from wanting it to be easy for them. I fear that this series is going to push them together and rip them apart in more ways than one. I imagine the second book, and third, will be just as captivating but also just as painful.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

1 comment:

  1. I've heard a lot of mixed things about this book so I was starting to get nervous but your review has made me excited again! Sounds like it asks a lot of interesting questions.