World Building: 8/10
Writing Style: 9/10
Character Building: 8/10
My Opinionated Review
An intriguing story with an excellent balance between fantasy and politics, a promising start to the series.
The Winner’s Curse is a fantasy romance with typical structure, expected characters, the romance storyline that everyone has experienced one too many times, and despite all the cliques, everything working out just perfectly. It makes the reader fall in love with the characters, be intrigued with such an unusual fantasy world, where the main issues are incredibly close to the real world, and see boring storyline grow into an incredible plot, making the reader anticipate to read the next book instantly after finishing this one.
The main story is quite simple, although it does deal with quite a sensitive topic – slavery. In this world, the book starts 10 years after the war between Heranni and the Valorians. Valorians won, enslaving all the Heranni people that survived. The main character Kestrel, the general’s who won the war daughter, does not share the ideals her father has and refuses to enlist to the army as her true passion is playing the piano. However, one coincidental day, she stumbles upon slaves’ auction, and the slave’s rebellious behaviour blended with the promise of his ability to sing, end in Kestrel purchasing the slave for the incredibly high price. This one action starts a complicated journey of love, betrayal, and war between the duty for your people and desires of the heart.
I have heard quite a lot of mixed opinions prior to reading this novel. I was quite worried about this story being too clique or too romantic, because I could not help myself and have read way too many reviews beforehand. Therefore, I had quite low expectations when going into the book expecting it to be filled with romance. However, I needn’t worry, the book actually surprised me in the best possible way. Was it filled with cliques? Definitely. The whole premise of the story is very expected, and road the story was going to take was very obvious. We have a typical forbidden love story, where characters, despite from having so many differences and fighting for a completely different cause, fall for each other. Cheesy, right? Yet I loved every minute of it. It might be that I am a complete sucker for romance, or that my low expectations ended up working to my advantage, but this book just gave me all the feels.
I saw so many good aspects in this book. First, the writing style. It is obvious that the author is a very skilled storyteller, and her rich language made the journey incredibly pleasurable. Everything floats so wonderfully, there aren’t too many descriptions or dialogues, and the mystery is kept at the right level, always giving insight into both of the main characters’ thoughts when it is necessary. Secondly, the idea of the book. I absolutely loved the fantasy novel without any magic. The author has created the world much resembling our own, she was bold enough to write about the horrors of slavery, and somehow, the lack of magic and the realness of the problems, just made the story much more magical. And although I did not find many shocking revelations along the way, I believe more surprises will come in the later books, and this kind of beginning was needed.
Thirdly, I will just say it, I absolutely adored the romance. Although there was quite a lot of time dedicated to the interactions between the two main characters, I did not think that there was any need to cut the romance. Actually, I thought that this was quite a perfect blend with the book being the fantasy romance, yet the romantic plot never overshadowing the main storyline. I loved the forbidden angle, loved all the angst, and I can honestly say that Kestrel and Arin might be becoming one of my favourite fictional couples.
However, the factor that makes me want to praise the author the most for is her male character. Having read quite a number of fantasy books with the main protagonist being a young female, I have seen many strong heroines over the years. However, more often than not, I find the male characters a bit lacking. Usually, I feel like they are mere love interests without their own storylines, used only for the purposes of romance, and often, comic relief. However, in this case, Arin was an incredible character, with his storyline being even more important than Kestrel’s. I never felt like Kestrel was being overshadowed, I was just joyful to finally read about an interesting male character, who was not snarky and flirtatious, but a true hero of his own people. I know I cannot wait to continue with this story, because that ending was just incredible, promising much more to come for the main characters.
I completely understand why many people would see this book as one of many in this kind of genre. As well as I absolutely agree with the ones that loved the book. I am just glad that I decided to pick this book up, as it delivered fantastic world, with incredibly strong characters, and the potential to go far. Honestly I have no idea which direction the story will take, and I am so excited to find out.
If you love romance, or you love fantasy (ideally both), I recommend picking this series up.
- Roo Panes – Know Me Well
- Dum Dum Girls – Coming Down
- Deerheart – Breakdown
- Ross Copperman – Holding on and Letting Go
- The Sorry Kisses – Abandon Ship