(I'm a few days late, I apologize!)
What a stunning book! The Winner's Curse is a beautifully written with two great protagonists
and terrific supporting characters, it's another book that I'm glad I
read because it helps straighten out some ideas I have in my own
writing. It also will not get the kudos it deserves for being a
spectacular fantasy book. I think it suffers (and I hate using that word) from "girl in the frilly, pink dress on the cover but that's your problem if your a guy and it bother's you syndrome."
The world building is brilliant, actually some of the soundest world
building I've seen in YA fantasy in a while. Rutkoski dishes it out in
palatable portions that are natural parts of the narrative and never
feel like info dumps. Not only that, it's smart and not overdone. Think
of the Roman Empire jumped up to the Age of Sail with little in the way
of personal firearms and it doesn't feel cobbled together the way some
authors tend to create worlds like that. The cultures are well thought
out and take just enough from what is familiar while mixing it with her
own twists. The games, the traditions, the culture...they all seem very
natural and completely believable.
A story doesn't exist without
characters and our two protagonists are well rounded. Kestrel is just
right as the aloof general's daughter. Rutkoski balances her well
enough. She's capable but chooses not to act so (a theme I play with all
the time). And when she's forced into bad situations, she makes the
right decisions, no matter how much they hurt. Her relationships with
the people around her and the characters that are developed work well.
Arin is the conflicted bad boy. If you've read other reviews or blog
posts, you know that I love tropes and believe in them. Rutkoski knows
how to play with this trope and makes it work. It's a hard one to play
with because we've seen it time and time again, but she does it well. I
would've liked a little more depth from the Herrani other than Cheat,
since he seems to represent all that is wrong with the Herrani, but
maybe that'll play out in Book 2.
The plot is sharp and moves
along at just the right speed. It is its own story with just the right
number of hints to the bigger picture of the series as a whole.
Political and courtly maneuvering in a colonial setting is right in my
wheelhouse. I'm looking forward to seeing how the new arrangements in
both the imperial capital and the city in Herran.
If you're a
fan of those political maneuvering/ Game of Thrones kind of books, this
is up your alley. (Especially Game of Thrones since there is the most
miniscule of magic in this!)