Author: Marie Rutkoski
Rating: 4 Stars
Ironically enough, I think the hype surrounding The Winner's Curse is its only flaw.
Quite simply put, Rutkoski's latest venture into fantasy is stunning. Filled with rich world-building, vivid characters, and a simmering romance sure to make readers swoon with its intensity, Rutkoski adeptly maneuvers around typical tropes flawlessly. The Winner's Curse lacks a cliffhanger, lacks a love triangle, lacks insta-love, lacks a Mary Sue...basically, every nit-picky issue churned through the YA genre time and time again is absent from this novel. Moreover, the content within The Winner's Curse proves to be thought-provoking, pushing readers to fall in love with characters who are forced to make difficult decisions, whose moral compasses don't always point in the right directions. And, don't get me wrong, I loved all of this.
But, after all the hype - the sheer LOVE pouring out for this book prevalent all over the blogosphere - I expected to be stunned. I expected to be brought to my knees in amazement, to shed tears of emotion and to be filled with the desire to re-read The Winner's Curse the moment I finished it.
And, because I didn't feel that heady rush of emotion, I began to notice miniscule flaws within the story. Arin's severe lack of background. Odd shifts of time during the second-half of the novel. Disappointingly short action sequences. Political motivations hastily sped through.
While the first-half of The Winner's Curse had me hook, line, and sinker, its second-half began to expose the holes in its veneer of perfection. Essentially, the plot direction of the latter half of this story is dense. It could, even, easily go on for another hundred pages, if only Rutkoski had bothered to include the fine detail she effortlessly poured through the first half of the novel. It isn't a major flaw; it isn't even a flaw I would have noticed had I not cracked open the spine of this book being aware of the hype surrounding it. Perhaps, if I had received an ARC, this would have been a 5 Star read. Alas, though I enjoyed The Winner's Curse, I did not love it. I want the sequel - desperately - but I also do not foresee this series becoming a trilogy, merely because the conflict seems to be rather condensed. Shadow and Bone felt like the start to an epic; The Winner's Curse, in contrast, merely seems to be the start of something very good.