Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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.

Rating: 4/5

Are you free to love when you are not free?

Reading slumps suck. What I hate the most about it is that I can’t really do much about it, sometimes it starts with a bad/boring book that I have no interest in continue and so I pick another story, and then another, and then another… never quite getting into any. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good a book is, I’m simply not in the mood for that particular book. I have no idea what I want to read, I just know it’s none of the books I have.

I was in a reading slump before starting The Winner’s Curse, and when I had picked it up it had been more to try and force myself to find joy in reading again rather than anything else. I was sure, as it had been for the last two weeks, that the story would not catch my attention and I would continue bored and bitter.

But imagine my surprise when I start reading, and in a few pages I’m pulled in. there was something about the world created there and the characters that intrigued me. Often, one of my biggest problems with books are characters, I feel like authors don’t care about them as much as they should. I like to read stories with people, and sometimes I find empty shells instead. I find this things with names, lines but no personalities, no characterization. They aren’t people, they are plot devices created to move the story along. Sometimes that’s fine with me, I won’t love the book but I won’t hate it either. But there are other moments when we need to connect with these characters, we need to invest ourselves in them,, feel their pain, love, anger. Worry about whether they’ll survive or won’t. I can’t do that for a thing without personality, I don’t that person and therefore I can’t truly care for them.

But here the characters they were flawed, wrong, dumb even, from time to time but they were people. I could feel them, I got to know them and they were alive. They had dreams and passions and fears, and I could invest myself in them.

Perhaps the world wasn’t as developed as I like dystopian worlds to be, but what we got was… organic. As I read I had to keep reminding myself that there were things that didn’t happen or exist and that they never did. It felt natural and real, and that’s not something that can be achieved easily.

After I was finished, my reading slump was cured! I was ecstatic, I could finally enjoy reading again, it didn’t feel like an obligation but rather for pleasure. I loved The Winner’s Curse for that, gave it five stars and recommended it to everybody as one of my favourite books!

However, as time went by and I had time to think I realized that there were some things about the book that bothered me and that I couldn’t get past, the main one being are you really free to love when you are not free?

Reading is, for most of us, something fun to do. We read because we want to experience new worlds, new people and emotions but also, because it’s entertaining. Still, and I know that the “It’s just a book!” Is something many people agree with when it comes about discussing dangerous tropes in literature, I however, do not agree. I believe that we can be entertained without offending and or hurting and, let’s face it, slavery is and will always be a very cruel subject.

While The Winner’s Curse refrained itself from the most vicious parts of such a concept, that doesn’t mean that they weren’t there. Kestrel forms part of a society that conquers people for their own advantage, and I hated the way the book brushed this fact aside to give way for romance.

Kestrel is presented as someone to admire and root for because she is supposed to be against her society’s ways, and yet she keeps on buying slaves, not to set free or to help, she simply buys people like one would buy clothes. She has no interest in the Herrani people besides her nanny, a woman she claims to love but whom she knows nothing off. Her beloved nanny is nothing but a pretty little accessory for Kestrel to hang from her wrist and show us just how compassionate and different she is.

She has no respect for the Herranis or their culture, disrespecting them in every possible way by imposing her own judgement and customs on them. She’s appalled that the Herrani people don’t want to be slaves! Who would have guessed people didn’t want to be sold as things to beat, rape and kill? Certainly not Kestrel.

At the end, and this is not really a spoiler, Kestrel changes her mind about it and realizes that she was wrong… but not exactly. I wished it had been dealt with it better though, because Kestrel realization is too sudden to make an impact, it’s like “They would all clean my feet and be my slaves!... Nah, maybe he’s right and they should be free. Ok I’ll go with that.” Kestrel never really seems to accept the fact that she was wrong, not just her society, she was the one buying those slaves too and helping her father and Kingdom to conquer new places.

I don’t believe this is right, the story was entertaining, yes but it brushes off very important issues that could have made an important statement.

Read carefully.

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