Ah, YA Fantasy.
It’s been known that I struggle with YA Fantasy. I keep comparing it to Adult Fantasy and in comparison, YA stands no chance. But still, I keep picking up YA Fantasies left, right and center, in search for one that will blow me away and come close to some of my beloved Adult Fantasy series (or Six of Crows. Although we all know that’s never happening). I’ve been meaning to read The Winner’s Curse for ages. It’s been super hyped in the past years, and it’s been a series that’s somewhat polarizing. Some people love it, some are really underwhelmed by it. And I can totally see why that’s the case. This book is by no means ideal, but it has some amazing stuff going on. Let’s talk about why it worked out for me, even though it’s definitely not perfect.
I think the number one reason this worked out for me is because the main character was really compelling to me. Kestrel is not a fighter, and it was so refreshing to see YA where the main character isn’t a super amazing fighter chick, but is still very much a badass. Kestrel is clever and composed and really persistent and I loved that about her. She is not your typical YA heroine, because she can’t fight in a world where being a soldier is really important. But she is a great strategist, and is super valuable in a war, just not the way you’d expect. I was rooting for her from the very beginning and she made the novel for me.
I truly am. I mean, if they hate each other, but then they don’t, I am probably gonna love the book. Since this is a romance between a slave and a princess, the hate is obviously there. I really enjoyed the romance. I know some people will hate this trope, but the back and forth of the forbidden romance really works for me. The constant “I can’t love him, it’s not allowed” juxtaposed with the constant tension is something I can read any day. And that’s why I could get on with this novel. Be aware that I personally think that this is a romance heavy book, so I think clicking with the romance is crucial to liking this. And I clicked with it.
It took a while for me to even like Arin, who is our male lead. His characterization mostly boiled down to anger in the first part of the novel, so I was pretty over him. However, as the story progressed onward, I started to like him more and more. Maybe it was because the romance progressed, and we got more of his and Kestrel’s interactions. Either way, by the end of the book I was really on board with him.
The rest of the characters are so forgettable and not at all developed. I didn’t feel anything for any of them. The bad ones are bad without depth, the silly ones are just silly, the good ones are just plain. There wasn’t really any other character in this book to root for, they were all background noise. So it’s great that I cared for Kestrel and Arin enough to not care about it.
If you have been following my blog for a while, you know I am not a big fan of world building in YA Fantasy. I find it pretty lack lustre and I have yet to read a YA book that has world building that can parallel Adult Fantasy. This was more or less the same. The world building is really basic, and gives just a sense of the history of the world. As for the vividness and the vastness of the world, there’s really nothing there. It was just bland. I felt the author did some interesting thing with the slavery. The slaves in this book are the more cultured, educated people, while the slavers are pretty barbaric. It’s not what you usually see in books so I liked that. However, like I said, not a lot to envy on the world building front.
I went into this with pretty low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Since this is focused on the romance, which I really loved, I ended up really enjoying the book. I would recommend it, but only if you’re someone who doesn’t mind a romance heavy Fantasy and is in it purely for the fun.
Final verdict: 4 stars
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you read this one or plan to? Did you like it? Let me know!
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