Reading Level: Young Adult
Size: 368 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Winner’s Curse series
Source: ARC from Amazon Vine
Rating: 5/5 stars
I got a copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. This was an excellent YA fantasy full of intrigue, war, and romance. It was a very engaging book and hard to put down.
Kestral is the daughter of the general for the Valorian, a powerful nation that has been conquering the nations around it for many years. In this society Kestral has a choice; she can join the military or she can marry. However, Kestral doesn’t want to do either thing. She wants to play her music, something that is considered below her and a “slave’s activity”. Everything starts to change for Kestral when she purchases a young man known as Smith at a slave auction. Kestral doesn’t know it yet, but Smith’s real name is Arin. She also doesn’t know that Arin is deeply involved in a plot to overthrow the Valorian empire.
This is a very sweet story full of intrigue, war, and romance. Kestral buys Arin because the auctioneer says that he is known for his singing voice and Kestral is desperately seeking someone to understand her love of music. Kestral is headstrong and incredibly smart, he father would love for her to become a strategist or officer in the military. Yet, Kestral’s father also loves her dearly and is willing to give her a bit of time to decide her path forward. Kestral is not a fighter in the traditional sense but she is an excellent strategist.
Arin is an interesting character as well. He unexpectedly finds himself sympathizing with Kestral and gradually growing to love her. He is torn between his blossoming love for Kestral and the freedom he believes his people deserve. It’s never easy to be a slave to someone and respect them at the same time.
All of the characters in this book are very realistic, have a lot of depth to them, and are incredibly engaging. Our two main characters are always trying to do the best thing for their people as a whole and this can be frustrating to watch because it is so opposite of what would make them happy. There is a lot of self-sacrifice in this book and at times you want to yell at them “Oh, don’t do that!”
The world building is well done. This world reminds a bit of Ancient Greece. There really isn’t any magic in this world. There are a lot of politics, intrigue, war, and glittering parties. The setting is pretty straight-forward historical fantasy.
I enjoyed the plot. It was heartbreaking and entertaining to watch Arin and Kestral struggle to be faithful to each other and to their people and culture. They definitely have a very star-crossed thing going on here.
The writing was beautiful, easy to read, fast-paced and engaging. This is one of those sweet historical fantasies that is just exciting, romantic, and absolutely entrancing. While there isn’t a ton that is really creative here, what is here is very well done in a traditional fantasy way. The book ends well but at a bit of a cliffhanger, I am dying to know what will happen next.
Overall a spectacular read, I really loved this book. It is very much a traditional historical fantasy full of war, intrigue, and romance. The characters are engaging and likable, the plot is entrancing and I had a very hard time putting this book down. I really enjoyed it and I would recommend to anyone who like intrigue based fantasy in a historical setting.