The Winner’s Curse: review

February 7, 2014 2014, 4.5 star books, fantasy, Marie Rutkoski, Wendy 112 ★★★★½

The Winner’s Curse: reviewThe Winner's Curse Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 4, 2014
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 368 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

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.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

In the coming months, you’re going to be hearing a lot of people talking about The Winner’s Curse. The story of Kestrel, a general’s daughter who impulsively buys a slave from an auction, has the feel of a historical fantasy without slotting neatly into either category; it’s not directly inspired by any particular period, nor does it contain any magic. Rather, it is a perfectly self-contained, handsomely realized world of its own, and one that I found incredibly imaginative and thrilling. If you’re a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy or Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars series, you must get your hands on this as soon as it’s available!

I loved so many of the memorable characters that live in this world. Kestrel must enlist in the military or be engaged by the age of eighteen; while she’s headstrong, her willingness to keep an open mind, her concern for others, and her dedication to her duty overrides any youthful missteps. She has a sense of command that comes from both her position of wealth and from a strong inner core, and she is written in a way that believably portrays a girl from privileged background who becomes restless when she realizes that her own prosperity comes at an unforgivable price. I appreciated her observant, questioning nature, as well as her caution; in that regard, she reminds me quite a bit of Tessa Gray from The Infernal Devices–who just happens to be one of my favorite YA heroines.

Kestrel listened. She saw, yet again, that her friend’s compliments were just bits of art and artifice. They were paper swans, cunningly folded so they could float on the air for a few moments. Nothing more. Kestrel felt something within her lessen. She didn’t know, however, whether that something was tension, easing into relief, or expectation, dwindling into disappointment.

Every supporting character has a story, from Kestrel’s old nurse Enai to her childhood friends Jess and Ronan. I especially liked the depiction of Kestrel’s father General Trajan, a busy man who urges his daughter to her duty, but who speaks to her with gruff care, whether he’s discussing Valorian military history and strategy or looking out for her future.

“Kestrel.” The general touched her shoulder. When he spoke, his voice was uncharacteristically hesitant. “It’s every child’s duty to survive her parents. My profession isn’t a safe one. I would like–Kestrel, when I die, do not mourn me.”

She smiled. “You do not command me,” she said, and kissed his cheek.

The moments are brief, but the affection is so very real.

And of course, then there’s the slave Arin, whose subservient surface hides tight-lipped defiance and deep pain. There’s gravity shown for the outrage of human slavery, as well as for the misery of displacement and subjugation, without being too heavy-handed.  There’s also a beautiful passion and restraint in the subtle, slow-blooming romance, which to me is all the more poignant because these two cannot express their feelings. If you’ve ever had someone stir your interest but didn’t dare to think about it, if you’ve ever felt a deep yearning for something you knew you couldn’t have, you’ll understand Kestrel and Aerin’s plight. All their moments together were just lovely, from their initial clash of purposes to their quietly humorous companionship. Trust, loyalty, deception, and anguish are all part of the challenges that they must overcome.

Music plays an important role in this book as well. I’m not always drawn to this element in YA books, but the author writes about music in a way that beckons you note by note until you’re helplessly lost in the moment. Music is a metaphor for passion in this story with bewitching results, and it’s also greatly effective as a foreshadowing device.

It was almost dusk and Arin was returning from the stables to the slaves’ quarters when he heard it.

Music. He went still. His first thought was that the dreams he had almost every night were spooling out of his head. Then, as notes continued to pierce through wavering trees and dart over the whir of cicadas, he realized that this was real.

It was coming from the villa. Arin’s feet moved after the music before his mind could tell them to stop, and by the time his mind understood what was happening, it was enchanted, too.

The notes were quick, limpid. They struggled with each other in gorgeous ways, like crosscurrents at sea. Then they stopped.

Arin looked up. He had reached a clearing in the trees. The sky grayed to purple. Curfew was coming.

He had almost regained his senses, had almost turned back, when a few low notes stole into the air. The music now came in slow strokes, in a different key. A nocturne. Arin moved toward the garden. Past it, ground-floor glass doors burned with light.

Curfew had come and gone, and he didn’t care.

He saw who was playing. The lines of her face were illuminated. She frowned slightly, leaned into a surging passage, and dappled a few high notes over the troubled sound.

Night had truly fallen. Arin wondered if she would lift her eyes, but wasn’t worried he would be seen in the shadows.  He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.

This world is filled with a loving eye for detail. It’s lovely to read about tea, hibiscus cake with peeled oranges, red velvet dresses, and carriages, but I also liked the game of Bite and Sting that is played with ivory tiles, as well as a clever structure and storytelling that never shows its seams. The use of language felt intuitive enough that a sometime-fantasy lover like me was able to slip into the world easily even with different terminology and customs. The pensive mood of the book was also a welcome change from other fast-paced YA novels that don’t take the time to let the characters reveal themselves for who they really are–it’s so much more interesting when betrayal shocks someone into action only after you’ve come to truly know what trusting someone has cost the characters.

My love for this book was well-earned, because frankly, I was doubtful of the early rave reviews. You know that breathless, incredulous feeling that comes over you when realize you’re reading something truly special? You may feel that as you turn these pages for the first time. I know I felt that excitement again as I was skimming through the book for this review, when I fell in love all over again with the characters and language and emotion.

The books that stand the test of time are the ones that speak to something larger than themselves. With The Winner’s Curse‘s themes of honor and responsibility in the midst of betrayal and heartbreak, I have no doubt that there are going to be readers swooning over this story for years to come. I love love love love loved this book, and I hope you will, too.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review. Macmillan has an amazing slate this year–keep your eye out for their upcoming releases!

Wendy signature teal



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The Winner’s Curse Blog Tour StopWinner's Curse ARC

Be sure to visit us on Monday, when author Marie Rutkoski stops by to talk to us about…forbidden love!  It’s a gorgeous post that you won’t want to miss, and we’ll have some fantastic giveaways, too.





112 Responses to “The Winner’s Curse: review”

  1. Mel

    I have found some wonderful books through your reviews Wendy! I am so glad I stumble across you on Goodreads and have followed you to Midnight Garden! I loved The Grisha series, although it took along time for me to get round to reading it. I was slightly put off by the high fantasy nature of the series I had read about. But having dipped into Shadow and Bone and fell in love with Mal and Alina, I will now try The Winners Curse! I also loved the Clockwork series too and Tessa Gray – the way Cassandra Clare left all her readers satisfied by the ending was amazing – even though I cried buckets too!

    Once again thank you for these great reviews….. I look forward to reading The Winners Curse with anticipation!

  2. Meredith

    Eep, Wendy you have the absolute best reviews!! We must share an awesome brain as I’m always agreeing with everything you suggest!

  3. Valeria Andrea

    Quite frankly I’ve been avoiding this review because, AH! You know. The experience of a completely un-spoiled book you are desperate to read. But oh, is too late for that anyway & right about now I was free for about 5 minutes & succumbed.
    Now I realize that, even if denial-love is what brings me to this book so very strongly, I am curious about the WOLD in which it happens. I figured “fantasy-old-ages like” setting but now I’m not sure. & the society! I love that the protagonist hasn’t as an option just marriage, but military too. I mean, I’d chose military… Point is, I wan’t to read this more than ever.
    Valeria Andrea recently posted…Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3)

  4. Sam @ Realm of Fiction

    Your review is STUNNING, Wendy. You capture so many of the things that I loved about this story. I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d fall so deeply in love with it. I was certainly expecting to enjoy it (how could I not, after all those positive reviews!), but I don’t think I truly believed I would find something in its pages that would blow me away. It’s my favourite 2014 release so far, and I’d be impressed if something manages to top it soon. And I agree with the Tessa comparison, and also that this will appeal to fans of Shadow and Bone. I thought of Leigh’s writing while I was reading this.

    That ending has me on pins and needles for the next installment. I hope it’ll be just as strong as this one. :)
    Sam @ Realm of Fiction recently posted…Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

    • Wendy Darling

      I very rarely like it when music is a major part of a YA book, but there are some exceptions like THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, and in a very different way, this book! I’m excited that you are excited about TWC, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. :)

  5. Jennifer Yang

    I really have to say that this book is climbing on my “must read” list! I’ve been following its reviews lately, and I’m almost certain that it matches my interests in reading material. Political intrigue, high society, romance…

    • Wendy Darling

      Climbing? It should have zoomed to the very top of your list by now! :D

      It’s got all those things you talked about. Class differences are always so interesting to me, too, and it’s handled very sensitively here.

  6. Heather @ Buried in Books

    That is such a beautifully written review. I’m definitely going to read it, but the way you write about it, no one has mentioned the prose. I am a sucker for romance, but beautiful writing, I just want to read it over and over again. There aren’t many books that make me feel that way. Not about the writing. I love the quote with Arin and the music. I can’t wait to read it!!
    Heather @ Buried in Books recently posted…WOW- Waiting on Wednesday

      • Wendy Darling

        I am still not over Clockwork Princess. :( I cried and cried and cried like I’ve never cried before, and am not sure I’ll ever cry again. By this time I would normally have reread that book (it might be my favorite YA series ever), but my heart just can’t take it.

        And I’m so glad you’re a fan of Tessa’s, too! I’ve seen her criticized as being too boring, but her introspectiveness (and the passion beneath it) is part of the reason why I love her so much.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, thank you, Heather! The book is so beautiful that I felt a responsibility to try to convey that in some way with this review. I’m glad you got a sense of how much I loved it. (Side note–I even tried not to say “gorgeous prose” too, because I use that too much, hah.)

      I agree, beautiful writing can elevate something very ordinary into something exquisite. I do hope you get your hands on this as soon as it’s available, because it sounds like you and this book are a match made in heaven!

  7. Andrea @ Bookish

    Did you just compare this book to the Grisha Trilogy and Kestrel to Tessa Gray?! Sign. Me. Up. I love even more that it’s a slow-blooming relationship – as you put it. It’s make the relationship so much more believable and likeable.

    I feel in like with this book the moment I saw the cover and in love the moment I read the synopsis. The more things I read about it, the more I desperately need it. Thanks for making the want worse – but in a good way! :)
    Andrea @ Bookish recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Swoon

    • Wendy Darling

      Thank you! I’m so glad you’re going to read it. I can’t wait for everyone to read it.

      And yesss, I imagine the hardcover’s going to be absolutely gorgeous. Poor Kestrel looks so distressed, it’s a pretty perfect representation of her feelings in the book, hah.

      Your blog name is super cute, btw! I want to come to that party.

  8. Christina R.

    LOVE those quotes!!

    What’s so nice is that it sounds like historical fiction, but isn’t, and that it’s fantasy without magic.

    Lots of moral and ethical questions raised, and it’s wonderful that there’s a friendship in the book as well:)

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the quotes! And moral/ethical questions are some of my favorite things for books and films to address, it’s interesting to me that so few YA books attempt that. Based on what you’ve said, I have the feeling you’re going to enjoy this one very much.

  9. Neyra

    I have only ever read those -excited, out of breath books very few times. My first experience was with Angelfall. Omg, I could not believe my eyes. I haven’t quite had that feeling of euphoria again, but I’m not losing hope just yet ;) And The Winner’s Curse sounds like a very unique tale. I love forbidden love, especially in these types of settings/circumstances! Great review Wendy, and thanks for sharings bits of the book, I love the quotes/teasers! :)
    Neyra recently posted…Review: Love Gone Mad by Mark Rubinstein

    • Wendy Darling

      Ooo, yes. I had that feeling with Angelfall, too–“holy hell, WHAT am I reading?!” This is definitely a much quieter book, but that’s exactly why I like it. It really sweeps you up with its story and emotion, though, or at least it did me. Definitely a very unique book, and I’m glad you liked the quotes!

  10. Vivien

    Seriously! I swear, you just reviewed my dream book. I’m not kidding. The beauty that you evoked, purely in this review just makes me fantasize about reading this. And how can you forget the cover! All of the reviews have just been so positive for this book. But I don’t want to overindulge in reviews. I don’t like to know a lot going into these kind of reads. The emotion you described is to be felt for the first time when actually reading the book. (I also run out of awesome feelings to describe for books I really enjoy/ or think I’ll really enjoy. So if this is just a run on, I apologize :p)

    • Wendy Darling

      So much better to go into books with an open mind and heart, Vivien. :) I like going into reading as blind as possible, too, sometimes I don’t even reread the synopsis before I start something! I will keep my eyes peeled to see what you think of this one–I’m pretty sure you will love it.

      And please, we love it when you come ramble at us, we ramble here all the time.

  11. Mona

    Wonderful review and with all that I hoped for! I am so jealous of those who’e already had this book. Slow-burning romance has always been my favorite, and I absolutely love the writing. So excited!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh gosh, it’s so worth the wait though, Mona. And just think, this means you’ll wait less time for the sequels, hah. I’m already sadfaced about the year between now and book two. *sigh* The writing really is gorgeous, isn’t it? You can tell just from the snippets here and posted elsewhere around the blogosphere. I’m really enjoying all the posts on the other tour stops.

  12. Alisha Sienkiel

    A great review! I will have to put this book on my to read list. It sounds good!

  13. Alexa

    Glad you liked it! So very looking forward to this one, it’s been one of most anticipated non-series/sequel books. So far, I’ve heard only good things about it. I’m so happy that it comes out soon. :3

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh no, I didn’t like it…I loved it. ;) And yes, just 20 more days until its release! I know this because Katja Millay and I were talking about this on Twitter, and she is literally counting down the days, hah.

  14. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    A lovely, lovely review, Wendy. Though I expected nothing less. I definitely know the feeling of fearing a story has been overhyped, thinking that it can’t possibly be as good as everyone’s saying. Thankfully, this one IS exactly that good. I’m a big fan of fantasy that does not add magic into the story, because characters don’t have it to rely on. I like that you pointed out that it’s missing here. LOVE what you said about the pensive mood of the book and the slow building romance between these two. It is achy and delicious.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

    • Wendy Darling

      I know, for once all the hype is justified! I’m scared overselling it, though, sometimes people more upset than usual if they feel like something is overhyped. Pretty confident that it will stand the test for a lot of readers, though. I also don’t want to jinx this, but I feel like this has the potential to be a bestseller as well. It’s that sort of sweeping, epic-feeling story, and Macmillan’s clearly putting the support behind it.

      “Achy and delicious!” I love that, that’s the perfect way to describe their relationship.

  15. Susan T.

    I am so excited to read this book! I love stories of forbidden love, especially involving slaves and masters. Usually these are set in the Roman period so I’m interested to see how this new world is developed.

    • Wendy Darling

      I am always drawn to stories of forbidden love, too–and you’re right we mostly see Roman era if we see the slave/master relationship at all. I really liked the world that she created here, though, it’s pretty intriguing and well thought-out.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, good! I’m glad I’ve persuaded you to give the book a chance. I found it to be so beautiful and romantic, I hope you will, too.

      And I see you’ve posted a VA review! We just posted our discussion this morning as well, I need to come by and visit your post later this week. SO much to discuss. I can already tell from your title that we are in agreement in our feelings about it.

  16. Jen @ YA Romantics

    LOVED this book so much. In fact, I just sat and basked in the warm feelings I have toward it and have not written a review. Yet.

    And I agree, I wasn’t sure how to categorize it either (except amazing!) It’s a little bit fantasy, but not heavy fantasy. It feels a little historical, but it’s not really historical fiction.

    PS Looking forward to reading what you and Kate thought of VA movie. I’m going to try to go with an open mind this week.
    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted…Extra! Extra! The Romance Edition

    • Wendy Darling

      I understand that! I had to let it sit for a bit before I wrote my review as well, and even then I was just telling Karen below that I felt the pressure to come up with something worthwhile, too.

      I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who was hesitating on how to shelve this thing! I was trying to explain to people on GoodReads that it’s not really quite either category, although it feels like both. I had to look up the definition of the fantasy category to assure myself that sometimes the stories don’t necessarily involve magic, although I’d always understood that to be a prerequisite. You learn something everyday.

      And yeah, re: Vampire Academy, always best to go into these things with an open mind. I’m hearing some people have enjoyed it, but Kate and I definitely did not, hah. Look forward to discussing when you’ve had a chance to see it!

    • Wendy Darling

      I was just overwhelmed by how beautiful and complex every element of this story was. Yet it was completely accessible and exciting.

      I agree with this completely. I was sort of at a loss when I sat down to review it, it felt like such a daunting task to try to explain to people how beautiful I found this story. We’ll just have to hope people take our word on it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, excellent, then our job is done. :D

      We’re giving away a copy on the blog on Monday, so be sure to stop by for that! Plus, as I mentioned, there’s a lovely guest post from the author, too.

    • Wendy Darling

      I didn’t even talk to anyone about this cover yet–isn’t it GORGEOUS? Omg, so gorgeous. Apparently the bookmarks are beautiful too, and now I really want one. *covets*

  17. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    Wonderful review, Wendy! “Kestrel must enlist in the military or be engaged by the age of eighteen.” I love that kind of story! It’s not something terribly overused, and it’s definitely interesting. The quotes you shared also stood out to me because they expose the author’s overall talent. I’ll definitely be one-clicking this one. It seems everyone’s loved it!
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

    • Wendy Darling

      We really don’t see too much of that, do we? I like it, too! And I’m so glad you liked the quotes, it was a lot of fun picking them out. I had to stop myself from adding several more, hah, lest this turn into a overlong unauthorized excerpt stop that would get people upset at me.

      I’m happy to hear you’re going to read it–let me know if you love it as much as I do!

  18. Melliane

    Oh I’m so impatient to discover this one and I’mgladyou enjoyed it because the publisher contacted me a fex weeks ago to know if I would like to receive a copy so now I can’t waitto have it. I’m curious to see if we think alike. I’ll have to wait and se.. Great review!
    Melliane recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #80

  19. Lucy

    I’m so happy to hear you loved this, Wendy! It sounds like it has a lot going for it, and I’m tempted to just one-click right now. Looking forward to the author’s guest post next week too.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ooo, clicky the button, Lucy. Clicky the button, I know you won’t be sorry. (I feel like I’m waving a plate of cookies in front of you, hee hee.)

    • Wendy Darling

      Kestrel is a lot like Tessa, Andrea–a little more headstrong and bold in some ways, but there’s that determination to do what’s right and thoughtful nature, too. I’m glad to hear you’re a fellow Tessa fan! Some people thought she was boring, but I love her dearly.

  20. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Sounds breathtaking Wendy, I especially love the sound of sipping tea, cake and dresses! The thing that makes this book stand out is its historical setting and the memorable characters. I might have to give this one a go! Lovely review.
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Why You Should Start a Blog

    • Wendy Darling

      Between this book and TSARINA, I’ve had a lot of luck with historical fantasies lately. I think I’m finding that I respond to them more strongly than I do straightforward fantasy or even straight forward historical fiction in most cases, maybe because you can get such interesting and imaginative stories combined with a more grounded setting.

      I hope you do give this a try sometime!

  21. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    Wendy, what a breathtaking review! The passages you quote are wonderful, too. Like Kimba, I passed this one by, more because I’m trying not to overcommit to ARCs than because I didn’t like the premise. But I admit that it sounded a bit same-same, so I wasn’t excited enough to break my overcommitment rule. Now I am kicking myself, and wondering how soon I can get my hands on a copy.
    Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard recently posted…Sony closes its Reader Store

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, thank you! Aren’t those quotes lovely? I adore them.

      And yes, I was just saying to Kimba that I felt similarly when it arrived. I knew there was a lot of buzz around it, but I’ve learned to be suspicious of these things, hah. I was so pleased to find that the story really sweeps you away, and is so beautifully and subtly written, too. Let me know what you think of it when you’ve had a chance to read it.

    • Wendy Darling

      It is a very romantic book, Kimba, but it’s not at all a stereotypically written one. I understand why you might’ve hesitated, though, you just never know about these things until you start reading them.

      I’m actually kind of glad the synopsis doesn’t give too many details away or promise too much, though–it’s harder and harder to come into books with a clean slate, and I really liked discovering things at my own pace. I hope you get a chance to read–and fall in love with–this soon!

  22. Giselle

    This one has been calling my name and I’m so curious to see what the fuss is all about but also scared because me and fantasy sometimes don’t mesh at all. Kestrel (Love this name) sounds like an awesome lead for this story and someone I would easily be able to root for. I also LOVE when the side characters are so well developed that’s something many books are lacking and I find it can really make a whole story that much better! And wow that romance sounds so compelling and filled with longing. Also, YOU, interesting in tea and cakes? I DID NOT KNOW THIS! :D

    On another note, this reminds me that I SO have to read For Darkness Shows the Stars!! GAH!
    Giselle recently posted…Review: Three by Kristen Simmons

    • Wendy Darling

      I actually have a love-hate relationship with both fantasy and with historical novels, Giselle, so I bet you’ll be just fine. It’s really to learn/become accustomed to this world, and I just know you’ll like both Kestrel and Arin.

      And hah, do I talk about tea and cake too much? *bats eyelashes*

  23. Rachel

    This sounds wonderful, Wendy! I do love emphasis on character development, and it seems you truly get a feel for the characters in this story. I’m wondering (hoping) if this is a stand alone? I’d be much more willing to pick this up if it was. Brilliant review! :)
    Rachel recently posted…Review & Giveaway: Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

    • Wendy Darling

      Very much a character-driven book, Rachel. So, so lovely.

      And I’m afraid it’s a trilogy, but I’m going to backtrack and take out “afraid” because I’m really happy we’re getting more books. The first book definitely leaves you in a place where you know there’s a great deal that has to be resolved, but it’s not a horrific cliffhanger or anything.

  24. Susan T.

    I’ve seen so much buzz about this book and read so many great reviews that I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  25. Aimee

    This is one of those books that I’ll just have to get once it comes out. It’s one of my most anticipated novels of 2014! And this review just strengthened my want to read it. I mean, a slowly developing romance with beautiful writing and language? I’m in. Lovely review, Wendy!
    Aimee recently posted…Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

    • Wendy Darling

      YES. You have to get it when it comes out. Please.

      And thank you! It’s one of those books that’s really hard to do justice to, but I’m glad my love for it came through. <3

    • Wendy Darling

      I am thrashing with you!! I love that you point out that all this feeling is accomplished with so little touching. Part of what makes period dramas so attractive to me is the amount of passion you have to convey through so little, so that even a forbidden touch of the hand feels dangerous and can leave you breathless.

    • Wendy Darling

      It really was a beautiful romance–I can’t wait to see how this develops in the next book, too! So dreamy. I think some readers might find it slow or perhaps too subtle, but that’s exactly why I love it so much.

  26. Morgan

    I already have The Winner’s Curse preordered- it sounds exactly like the kind of book I will love- but your review made me even MORE excited! I loved The Grisha Trilogy and For Darkness Shows the Stars! And I adore historical fantasy, even if it doesn’t fit neatly in those boxes. You really make the book sound enticing and lyrical, and I’m glad it’s a fantasy world easy to fall into! Wonderful review, can’t wait to make up my own mind about the book :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I love it when I get people even more excited! Let me work you into a frenzy! Hee hee. I’m so happy to hear you like both the series I referenced, so now let’s find out if I’m any good at predicting audiences for THE WINNER’S CURSE. :)

      “Lyrical” is also a word perfectly suited for this story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  27. Steph Sinclair

    Gasp! You doubted me, dear Wendy? Thou shan’t make the same mistake twice!

    One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the Bite and Sting concept and how a game mimicked their situation. OMGosh, I just need to re-read it again!
    Steph Sinclair recently posted…Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, you know that we don’t always agree on books! But we do seem to agree on the really big ones like Shadow and Bone and Unearthly, so that should have tipped me off. ;)

      I LOVED Bite and Sting so much. I suggested a few ideas for Marie’s guest post next week, and featuring the details about B&S (and other world-building details) was one of them, so I’m curious to see if it shows up elsewhere on the tour. I would love to learn more about how that came to be, and if she based it on anything in particular. And yes, there was a lot of shadowing/counterpoint in this book, particularly in their game play. SO well done.

  28. Taylor K.

    I finished reading this one this week and I just… Can’t put into words how much I loved it! The Winner’s Curse has set the bar so high for me this year.

    • Wendy Darling

      You finished it! So you know, you totally know how beautiful this book is. *sigh* It’s definitely going on my favorites list for the year, and you’re right, the bar has been set VERY high for the other 2014 releases.

      • Taylor

        I was so surprised by how wonderful it is. Kestral is just an insanely amazing character. She’s so fierce and bad ass and believable. She’s one of my favorite female characters I’ve ever read about.

        Plus, the little box the ARC comes in so freakin’ cool. :D

        • Wendy Darling

          Totally agree. She starts off headstrong at the auction, but then there’s so much more quiet/introspective parts in the middle that when she got fierce again I was like, “whoooa!” I really, really liked her. And man, that ARC presentation was gorgeous, Macmillan did a fantastic job with it. Definitely something I’m hanging onto.

  29. Larissa

    I’ve been anticipating this novel for quite some time now. All I’ve ever heard about it is praise, which is exciting yet also a bit worrisome. It builds up exceptations.

    However I’m fairly confident I’ll love this one from this review and other glowing ones I’ve read. A mix of historical and fantasy, both of which are my favorite genres? Sounds fabulous. The characters all seem to be well developed and multi dimensional. The amazing quotes showed this, along with some great writing. I also love the idea of a slow building romance, void of any insta love.

    It really does sound like this is a match made in book heaven for me. Awesome review! :)
    Larissa recently posted…Discussing Through Midnight (22): Larissa’s Hopes for 2014 YA

    • Wendy Darling

      I tried really hard not to gush too much in my review because I feel like sometimes people get mad when books are hyped and they aren’t as mindblowing as they expected…but as I was flipping through the book for the review, I found so many things I wanted to talk about. So many things. I even took out some things, although you probably can’t tell, hah.

      Yeah, I hesitated calling it a “historical” because it’s not really based on any one country or culture that I can see, but the customs and history are developed and described the way they are in a historical novel, if that makes sense. So it feels like historical fantasy, or just some sort of alternate, non-magical world.

      I’m so glad you like the quotes, I had a really good time poring over the book to find them. <3 I look forward to hearing what you think of the book!

  30. Lily B

    Lovely review!
    Once I get my kindle going I am so starting this one! I managed to snag a copy and cannot wait. I love the sound of it, the book sound deep and different.
    I know what you mean about rave reviews that’s why I am coming into this one open minded as well. Hopefully it will steal my breath away!
    Lily B recently posted…Review: Archetype (Archetype #1) by M.D. Waters

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh thank you, Lily! I can’t wait for everyone to read this, I’m glad you already have a copy so you can go forth and tell more people to read it, too! Always good to try and keep as clean a slate as possible, though. (But fingers crossed for the breath-stealing.)

  31. Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    YAY WENDY! I absolutely loved this one as well, it was just quiet and gorgeous and it sucked me in immediately. The romance was the highlight for me (as is so often the case), mostly because of the subtlety you mentioned. I love the big, dramatic, over the top romances, but the ones that always stick with me the longest are the quieter, slower burning ones like Kestrel and Arin’s. SO AMAZING:) Lovely review!!!
    Jenny @ Supernatural Snark recently posted…The Big Love Letter Event + Giveaway: Wendy Higgins

    • Wendy Darling

      “Quiet and gorgeous” is absolutely right! It got me from the very beginning as well, I think I read it in just a day or so. I agree, the showy romances can definitely be very fun, but the ones with quiet longing and heartbreak are always the ones that linger most for me as well. Argh, I need to know what happens to them.

  32. Carina Olsen

    Yesss. I’m so happy that you loved this book as well. <3 It was perfect, wasn't it? Sigh. I really, really loved it :) And aww. I LOVE the quotes you shared. <3 I think people will love this too. I really hope everyone will. Anyway. I really need to re-read it :D Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3 Amazing review :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell

    • Wendy Darling

      It was pretty close to perfect for me too, Carina. And thanks, I love the quotes I pulled, too–I actually had to delete a couple of others that I chose because there are SO many good ones, but the post was just getting too long and unwieldy. I tried to leave ones that give people a good sense of the writing and characterization, though.

      And thank you! I’m happy to hear you loved this, too!

  33. Kim

    My expectations are so high I am actually frightened of reading this. Eep, Wendy, eep! I have this on my Kindle already and it just sits there scaring me. Angsty subtle romance of a love that cannot be is my favorite. Gaaahhh. What are you doing to me, book? I haven’t even read you yet!

    • Wendy Darling

      I know the feeling…and honestly, the best way to read it is to wait a beat to get away from all the hype and expectations, and then lock yourself away and just let the story unfold for you. It’s a quieter book, but I do think it’s one you’re going to appreciate. I hope so, anyway! I hope I haven’t built this up too much! I’m always nervous with these reviews where I love the book so much that I want to do it justice, but at the same time, overhyping something can add to people’s unrealistic expectations. Gahhh.

  34. sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books

    I’ve already been seeing so much talk about this one! It’s been killing me to wait for its release but it’s not too far now, I can do it. lol I do love the Grisha series and For Darkness Shows the Stars, adding in the amazing and memorable characters you mention and I really feel like this book will be something I’ll enjoy immensely too! The author will be here and May and I can’t wait to hear her speak and get a copy signed! Thanks for the review Wendy! I’ll be stopping back on Monday for the tour. :)
    sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books recently posted…Review: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead

    • Wendy Darling

      Just one more month, Sara! It’s worth the wait, I promise. I am pretty sure I’ve identified the audience for this book with those two comparisons, so I’m eager to find out if I’m right. (I only recently read ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA so it’s fresh in my mind!)

      It’s so wonderful Marie is coming to your home town soon, judging by her book and her VERY thoughtful guest post coming up on Monday, I bet it will be a lovely experience. I hope she reads passages from the book, there are so many lovely ones to choose from.

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah, that is the best acronym ever! And yeah, it’s very hard to not be aware of hype sometimes, but it’s nice that I’m not the only one who is super suspicious of it. I’m pretty good at separating my feelings from the noise, though, so I hope you end up loving this as much as I did! Let me know what you think when you get to it.

  35. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I have so much love for this book. It added fuel to my love of fantasy. Like you, I questioned the hype (though PR did a fantastic job of building it with those little packages they sent out to a bunch of bloggers! I was highly jealous I didn’t get one. But — haHA! — I did get my hands on an ARC so yay.). It lives up to the hype and I’m really looking forward to the second in this series (I mean, what’s going to happen? With…and…and then…you know!!!).
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Revisit: E-books versus physical copies

    • Wendy Darling

      You know what, Macmillan did a beautiful job of quietly putting forth the effort for this book without overhyping it, in my opinion. They let the packaging indicate their belief in this title (clearly something they’re going to be pushing hard soon) and let the book speak for itself, at least so far! All the hype has been from other bloggers who have been excited about it, understandably so. It’s not a case where I think the publisher is overselling something at all.

      I’m glad you got an ARC, even if it wasn’t one of the special edition ones! The content, for once, is even more beautiful than the pretty jacket and packaging.

      Dear god, I want the next book.

      • Mary @ BookSwarm

        Oh, I completely agree! That quiet push with the pretty packaging got people excited, got people reading and got people talking — and the people talking (the bloggers/Tweeps I trust) is what I listen to more than anything else.

        Right there with you on the crave for the next. WHAT HAPPENS?!? I MUST KNOW!!!
        Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Revisit: E-books versus physical copies

        • Wendy Darling

          It’s a nice change from all the huge campaigns that end up not being very effective or are for expensive but not-so-great titles, right? I love Macmillan, there’s so much thought and quality in what they do.

          WE MIGHT DIE if we don’t get the next book soon. *cries*

    • Wendy Darling

      YES. Definitely a book that you need as a hard copy, because you’ll want to stroke it and cuddle it afterwards. Plus that gorgeous cover! I’m so glad you pre-ordered it, Pili.

  36. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    Wendy, I’ve been skeptical about the horde of positive reviews that this book keeps churning out, but I’m still very excited to get my hands on it. From the small glimpse of this world I got through Rutkoski’s novella, I know I’m going to enjoy its scope and depth. Ever since reading GRRM’s work, I haven’t been drawn to very many fantasy novels but this is one I cannot wait to pick up. Fantastic review, dear – I can’t wait to meet these characters and fall in love with them too! :)
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

    • Wendy Darling

      I was incredibly skeptical of all the early raves for this book too, Keertana, especially because a lot of them came from reviewers that I respect, but whose opinions I rarely seemed to agree with. In this case, though, I am in perfect agreement with them that this book is something special.

      Don’t go into it expecting the kind of lavish detail that you might get in traditional fantasy books–it feels more like a historical fantasy because she has built this fragile thing that doesn’t really exist, and the detail is more in the emotional depth and intelligent narrative. That being said, I loved the details that were there, though. I want a Bite and Sting set, as well as a handsome guy who can teach me how to play.

    • Wendy Darling

      Jessica, I felt the same sort of excitement after reading this book as I felt after finishing SHADOW AND BONE. They are very different books, but they have a certain similarity in tone and emotion, and I’m pretty sure that readers who enjoyed those two authors are going to LOVE this book. Let me know if I’m right!

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