I'm glad I didn't pass this book up, despite the lack of emotional development and some of the questionable world-build...more
Fantasy-lite. But a lot of fun!
I'm glad I didn't pass this book up, despite the lack of emotional development and some of the questionable world-building. The Ring and The Crown is my first read by de la Cruz but it seems she has a talent for writing lighthearted, fluffy and entertaining stories. Reading this was a bit like reading a gossip magazine - full of the scandals, relationships and drama of the celebrities aristocracy. It won't change your life, you won't get a new philosophical perspective, but it is a fast-paced, entertaining novel that held my attention from start to finish. Oh, and there's also a few dashes of magic now and then.
As is common with traditional fantasy, there's quite a large cast of main characters and the book zips quickly from one point of view to another. Surprisingly, this works really well here and each perspective offers something unique and interesting. The world-building is patchy here and there, but this is not for a lack of trying. The author sets the scene in the prologue - this is an alternate history where the world is dominated by the Franco-British empire and its head controls the world's only source of magic. I had to raise an eyebrow at how quickly the author paints a picture of this unlikely world and expects us to believe it without further details... but, oh well. Into this world comes an array of characters: Princess Marie-Victoria (heir to the throne), Queen Eleanor (her mother), the Head Merlin and his daughter - Aelwyn Myrddn, Prince Leopold, Gill, Ronan and Wolf (to name but a few).
Queen Eleanor has high ambitions for her daughter and intends for her to marry Prince Leopold, but Marie has long been in love with her childhood friend - Gill. Their story isn't the only one of its kind in this novel. In fact, much of the book is about the romancing of the royals and aristocracy; the people they love and don't love but are being forced to marry. It's a whole bunch of romantic silliness that I don't usually care for but found extremely readable and entertaining. I suppose that sometimes this kind of light, undemanding story is exactly what you need. Just don't wander into this expecting hidden depth.
To some extent, though, I am selling this one short. Despite predominantly being a historical fantasy romance, the female characters all get their turn at being badass. Running parallel to the flirtations and sexual tension, is a story about war and magic. And the fate of this world depends on the female main characters (who all have their own strengths). I don't want you to think this is a typical romance where the women care about nothing but the guy's beautiful face, they have bigger concerns too.
Want something deep, complex and meaningful? Go find something else to read. Want something light and entertaining? Then this could very well be the book for you. This will probably appeal to fans of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.(less)
There comes, on occasion, those moments in the lives of readers when they find themselves putting a book down, pausing, looking around at all the glow...moreThere comes, on occasion, those moments in the lives of readers when they find themselves putting a book down, pausing, looking around at all the glowing reviews and five star ratings, and asking themselves the question... did I read the same book?
When it comes to language, dialogue and general storytelling of small events in The Winner's Curse, it's obvious that you are in the hands of a competent writer with a talent for description and a nicely-spun phrase. But this book is so... tame. Way too tame for my tastes. So much of the novel is in dire need of an injection of badassery or action or tension that goes beyond the romance. I wanted an interesting fantasy, but instead I got a dragged out tale of the forbidden romance that blooms between a Valori General's daughter and a Herrani slave.
I will admit that the book starts to pick up in the last third (approx) but even that was way too little and far too late for me. I noted the page when my interest piqued slightly for the first time - page 103 - because before that I'd been treated to sitting rooms, parlor games, and polite pleasantries. Honestly, I would have put this book aside by page 50 if I hadn't been spurred on by all the positive reactions from other people. There's a whole lot of swanning about doing nothing. There's balls with pretty dresses and high society gossip. A whole lot of:
And a lot of passages where Kestrel and Arin study each other's faces in great detail: Arin knew this: her gaze would measure him, and he would sense a shift of perception within her. Her opinion of him would change as daylight changed, growing or losing shadow. Subtle. Almost indiscernible. She would see him differently, though he wouldn’t know in what way. He wouldn’t know what it meant. This had happened, again and again, since he had come here.
The story starts several years after the Valorians have conquered the Herrani people. Herranis are now prisoners and slaves of their conquerors. The main character - Kestrel - finds herself at a slave auction one day and makes a rather spontaneous purchase of a male Herrani slave called Arin. What begins as a master/slave relationship between two people who are foes by birth, gradually turns into friendship, trust and love. But Arin is not all he first seems and carries a dark secret that could threaten not just their relationship, but the whole kingdom.
It is, essentially, a romance. Which could be exactly what you are looking for. In which case, I'd say step right up and grab this book as soon as you can. But I found it disappointing as a fantasy. While there are some references to past wars and other parts of the land where the book is set, the world-building remains disappointingly vague. There is very little reason to call this book "fantasy"; it could just as easily be labelled a "dystopia", as it reminds me of many I've read that were romance stories hiding in the dystopian section.
I would recommend The Winner's Curse to fans of Shadow & Bone and/or Throne of Glass. Those books that are light on the fantasy and heavy on the romance. This book is set up nicely for a sequel that should be equally dramatic in the romancing department. Who knows? Perhaps it will be like the sequel to Throne of Glass and appeal to me a lot more. I will be keeping an eye out for the reviews of the second book. All I ask for is this: a little less conversation, a little more action. Please.(less)
I made a little collage for this book that I posted to instagram:
And is it just me or would my college make the perfect setting for a beautiful and gr...moreI made a little collage for this book that I posted to instagram:
And is it just me or would my college make the perfect setting for a beautiful and grim Wuthering Heights retelling?
karen's review does this book justice more than I think I ever could so I'll leave you with these few snazzy pictures and a short note: This has to be the PERFECT way to do a retelling. Especially for a book like Wuthering Heights, whose praises I have sung from the rooftops on a regular basis. It captures the wild beauty and grim darkness of the original novel, sticking quite close to the plot structure of WH but putting an insane fantasy spin on the old tale too. The characters were so evil and twisted but, if you know the real WH and not the romanticized version that appears on TV now and then, then you'll know how evil and twisted the characters actually are. *sigh* I loved it.