I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t understand this book. I tried to, but I just couldn’t connect to it and the plot went over my head. I’m not sure if this is my fault or the authors, but I feel like when reading a truly good book you shouldn’t have to try to make yourself connect to it, you just do. I probably shouldn’t write a review seeing as I don’t know what I just read, but here I am.
I brought this because of the cover. THE COVER. I’ve never seen a cover like it. It’s beautiful, and also a bit deceptive because the contents don’t match. My first impressions when reading The Winners Curse were that this was slightly similar to a ‘crappy teen fiction on Wattpad’, but nowhere near as bad as Wattpad fiction (no offence Wattpad, I loved you once). There was the whole obvious romance, where Kestrel constantly drooled over her slave Arin but somehow didn’t realise she had any feelings for him, and bloody Jess playing the cliché dumb-blonde-best-friend like a cardboard cut out. However, it soon became clear that this book isn’t just a typical romance, there’s actually a lot of war, politics and history.
This should have been a good thing because it stopped the book from being a typical love story, but I really couldn’t (for the life of me) find it in myself to care about the Valorian V Herrani war. I felt like the history between them, as well as the whole fictional world Rutkoski created wasn’t developed enough, and she was giving me no reasons to care. Was I supposed to hate the Herrani or love them? Are the Valorians evil or…? I don’t know. (Maybe the fact that I was reading Game of Thrones at the same time made me have an unfair judgement..) The second half of the book is about the war between the two groups and The Herrani reclaiming their land, Arin leading this battle, but I was so confused. I’m beginning to suspect I am incredibly thick. The whole time I was reading I was thinking come on, this isn’t a complex book but I still had no connection. My eyes were just kind of scanning over the words but taking nothing in, kind of like when you read a question in a maths exam and it takes five attempts to figure out what it’s saying.
Despite my grumblings there were some positives. Kestrel and Arin are decent characters, both of them brave and headstrong. The romance between them was actually quite enjoyable to read, and if you are someone who tends to get the feels then you might just get them (I didn’t, but if I was a few years younger I think I would.) Jess, who starts out as an absolute cliché running around and buying earrings, has a complete character flip and becomes this vengeful dying woman. On the topic of characters though, when I was trying to understand why I didn’t like this book my first thought was that there weren’t enough characters, However, thinking about it more, there’s a normal number of characters. The problem is that other than Kestrel and Arin we don’t get to see more than one side of every other character and they don’t feel real or important. It’s like Kestrel and Arin are cooped up in their little castle and everyone else is outside the high walls going unnoticed.
The ending was baffling. Arin is potentially a horrible traitor, as well as Kestrel, but also maybe not? I cant even really review this because I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED DESPITE READING IT. With every chapter I was getting more and more lost, until I didn’t know what the setting was or who was on who’s side.
Um…so this was a great review. I’m sad I didn’t like this book because I was excited to read it and judging from the cover it was going to be amazing. Rutkoski is clearly a skilled author as there were insightful and poetic descriptions, as well as deep metaphors, but the plot let it all down for me, and then that awful ending added salt to my wounds. I’ve looked at other reviews and was surprised to see this book is rated 4 stars, with some people raving about it. Perhaps I was reading it upside down. Anyway, I wont be buying the sequel.