My Unpopular Opinion on The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Considering the stuff that has been occupying me in real life this past month, I must say that it took me pretty quick to finish a fast-paced fantasy read that The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski is. Before I begin, could you please pardon my half-failed attempt to dress like Krestel from this series? I imagine she would wear something like this, but trust me that the picture doesn't do the dress justice.

"Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?"

The Winner's Curse follows the story of a seventeen-year-old Valorian named Krestel. As the general's daughter, Krestel is expected to enlist in the military. However, her lack of fighting skills and her love for music set her heart on something else. Krestel likes strategies. She just doesn't want to fight or kill.

One day, when Krestel and her best friend Jess stumble upon an auction of Herrani slaves, something impulsive happens. Krestel ends up buying a blacksmith named Arin for fifty gold coins. This being her first time buying a slave, Krestel doesn't know what to do of him other than get him home and put him in the slave's quarter. The thing is, Arin himself has a deep secret too, and no matter the consequences, both can't stop their feeling to grow even if it means betrayal to their very tribe.

I so couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. Everyone I know seems to praise this series highly, and as you know, I'm easily intrigued when it comes to book recommendations. Imagine my excitement when the first 50% of this book quite lived up to the hype. The pace was fast but it was not overwhelming or overly confusing. All the while, I came to adore the friendship between Krestel, Jess, and even Ronan. Even though there's a brief second where Krestel's character puzzled me, I found nothing to worry aboutI had faith that she's going to turn out alright.

The plot as a whole was actually interesting, I admit. The built-up anticipation towards the conflict was thrilling, yes, but I found the last 50% a bit rushed and... monotonous. Spoiler alert, please stop reading if you haven't read the book yet, starting when the Herrani officially took over, I felt like everything suddenly went downhill. I was disappointed in the characters' lack of development as well as how the author decided to resolve either the major or minor conflicts. The thing with Cheat, for instance, was a bit too quick and none progressed. I also thought that there ought to be something more for Krestel to accept Arin's hospitality considering he had practically butchered her entire people. And that ending... it didn't blow me away even a little bit. 

If we took the time to actually think about what the Valorian had done to their 'neighbor', it was hard not to root for the Herrani's freedom. I must say that this book was very well-written since it made me understand Krestel's big dilemma. The writing was beautiful in its simplicity, and I even liked Sarsine, a side character, at some point. But the angst that I had been anticipating in the first place turned out to be a no-show. Everything seemed to click into places easily for our main characters while there I was, hoping for more.

Overall, I don't think The Winner's Curse was a book for me, but for you maybe it would be. I genuinely understand why so many people love it and why this opinion can be considered vastly unpopular: this book was quite enjoyable and interesting. Therefore, even though I'm still debating whether or not I should pick up the next installment, I would still recommend it to you if you love a fast-paced fantasy book like The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller.

Actual rating: 3