I avoided The Winner’s Curse for far too long because something about it just put me off — the pretty lady in the dress on the cover, maybe? The fact that I vaguely associated it with Kiera Cass’ The Selection somehow (similar cover aesthetic + the idea of winning/losing something?) and that doesn’t really appeal to me? In any case, I did read the first page… and then the first chapter… while sat on the floor in a bookshop in Belgium. At which point I decided I’d better buy it before someone came to scold me in Flemish and I had to reveal I knew not a word of the language. (Or worse, had to employ my terrible A Level French.)
When I did read it, wow. Okay, there are some issues, I think, which have been articulated in reviews like this one, which discusses the portrayal of slavery. I think the book does touch a little bit on some of those questions, and the sequel definitely seems to so far, but it is fairly light. Can people ever be friends when the question of ownership lies between them? Can there be love?
I love Kestrel. I love that she’s strong and capable, but not necessarily physically. I think my initial reaction to friends is worth quoting: “I love that Kestrel is strong because she’s a strategist, and not because she can break all your bones or shoot you in the eye socket like Katsa (Graceling) or Katniss (The Hunger Games). I love that she’s a musician and she’s afraid of her hands being ruined. I love the relationship between her and her father: trusting, loving, but also tentative. (I’ve read a spoiler and I’m not sure if I even believe how it’s going to work out, wtf.) And while I don’t majorly ship Arin and Kestrel, I do believe in the push-pull connection between them.”
Arin… I’m less sold on. His emotions are powerful and sometimes contradictory; I sometimes wanted more time spent in his head to really understand what was going on. When he talks about things Kestrel had no idea about — like him being whipped the day before she takes him with her as an escort — I didn’t see anything hinting specifically at that myself, so it felt like a spurious reason to resent her. Which also would make sense with their relationship, but…
I do love the faintly Greek/Roman setting to the way the world of The Winner’s Curse is set up here; it definitely feels like that rather than generic medieval Europe, which is always refreshing.
So yeah, eagerly going onto the second book; super glad I have the ARC of the last book.