The Winner’s Curse – Book Review
According to the author the concept for the Winner’s Curse comes from a discussion about economics. In particular the idea that those at an auction who outbid everyone else have also been foolish enough to pay way more for something that the rest of the company thinks is worth considerably less. It is an interesting idea.
However, that was not discussed or mentioned in the book jacket. The brief synopsis, like so many of its kind, misleads the potential reader. Or perhaps the attempt to simplify an entire story inevitably must distill down to something only vaguely connected to the actual plot. I know from the few lines I read before requesting the book from my local library, I had certain expectations about what I was going to read. I knew the main characters were young adults, that the main female, Kestrel, was going to purchase a slave, Arin, and that incident was going to change her life. I suppose that is in fact vague enough that anything could happen. However, as is the case I started to supplement the limited information with probable scenarios. It is something I am wont to do on a regular basis. In the past this has led to disappointment. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the Winner’s Curse. It was both well written and unpredictable.
I particularly enjoyed the manner in which the author dealt with slavery and conquering by foreign peoples. There was just the right balance justification so the reader could appreciate how both of the main countries involved in this relationship would see its rise and fall differently. It was power in the way it was subtle. There was not long-winded preaching paragraph about how slavery was bad, how war was bad or how being invaded and conquered was bad. Or even how rebelling was bad. There were atrocities committed on both sides, though happily not in graphic detail. Characters challenged preconceived ideas in realistic manners.
Kestrel and Arin were both strong characters with distinct points of view and ideas that shifted slightly over time. They worked well together, and the romantic in me kept trying to write a happy ending to their story. The final was not precisely sad, but it was a touch melancholy. In many ways it made the book. A more weak-willed author would have concluded with something light, fluffy and ultimately unrealistic. Rutkoski concluded the Winner’s Curse in a manner that was both satisfying and hopeful and yet, sacrifices had to be made. Neither character got everything they wanted. That was same sentiment was shared by the reader (at least it was for me). I wanted them to ‘win’, completely. To outsmart the rest of the world and pull of something that only works in books. Still, I cannot complain because this ending, the fast pacing of the rest of the book and the engaging characters kept me reading. In fact, had the book ended the way I wanted it too, then it would have been more like so many poorly written pieces out there – predictable.
In short, I thought the Winner’s Curse was surprisingly well written, fun to read and nothing like the book jacket suggested. I would recommend this for those interested in young adult reads.
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Well, I just was reading the fine print and discovered this is actually book one of a triology. I have to say this does indeed lower my opinion of the book. As a stand-alone, I thought it was great, as a trilogy…. Well, I haven’t read the second or third book yet, but I am not feeling it.