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ahhhh what a good book. The main character is a strong female lead with a mind for tactics in both war and high society. The male lead is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Both characters are well written and the plot is well rounded; leaving the perfect opportunity for sequels to fit in. I am worried about book 2 and 3 as the first book can be the best and the rest a flop.
I was expecting more somehow. More strategizing and longer wow worthy moves by Kestral since everyone kept saying she was a strategic and intellegent, just more political movements that would impress me. Unfortunately, I didn't get that as much as I got from The Goblin Emperor. Other than that, sure, it made me cry a bit, but I find that it was quite predictable in the romance department. I think I place that blame on how much other books I have already read though and a better neighbouring royalty as slaves romance (Captive Prince) that it kind of ruined this for me a bit. I especially really disliked how Kestral kept promising to be/do something but kept changing her mind, that was infuriating. But overall, it was okay I guess. I'll probably continue just to see how it ends.
Where do I start with The Winner's Curse, ladies and gents?
In a nutshell: the prose is lovely despite the plot being a bit too naive for the age group. It feels like middle grade. Any sort of controversial, overly sexual or extremely violent topics are hushed out, so it always feels like the overall picture is muted. You won't see brightness of Katsa or Celaena or even quiet dignity of Avry from Maria V. Snyder's books, but then you get passages like that:
“The snow fell on her, it fell on him, but Kestrel knew that no single flake could ever touch them both. She didn’t look back when he spoke again. “You don’t, Kestrel, even though the god of lies loves you.”
and they strike you and stay with you for awhile.
After reading many other books in the same genre I'd say that The Winner's Curse is a simplistic fantasy romance for young readers. It's clean, so it will probably work for MG readers as well, but it doesn't have enough scope for a good fantasy (Kristin Cashore for example) or complexity of characters' feelings (I'm looking at Melina Marchetta right now) to become something more striking. What works for it is the writing style itself in all its straightforward loveliness.
In the audio version of the book the narrator, Justine Eyre, has done a fab job depicting Kestrel's slippery way of thinking, and I did enjoyed listening to it. There was also an interesting preview of the next book which sounded more promising than The Winner's Curse. I'll be tempted to continue with the series based on the excerpt.
Overall, not bad, but I'm on the fence about recommending it.