Friday, May 22, 2020

Book Sketch: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

By: Marie Rutkoskir
Published By: Farrar Straus Giroux
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Series: The Winner's Trilogy
Pages: 355
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Library Audio
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

First Thoughts After Finishing: I should have read this trilogy years ago!

A few years ago, I took a break from reading YA books. During that time, The Winner’s Curse was published. As it turns out, I missed out on some good books in those years. However, with Marie Rutkoski’s new book set in the same world, as well as the love for this trilogy, I knew that I needed to catch up on my reading, and I am so glad I did!

As the daughter of the Valorian general, Kestrel has two choices: Join the military or be married. Not ready to settle for either fate, she spends her time practicing her music or visiting her friend Jess. When the friends are out together and happen through the Herrani slave market, Kestrel finds herself making a purchase she never anticipated—a young male slave named Arin—for an exorbitant sum. Once Arin begins working at Kestrel’s house, she cannot seem to avoid him. He becomes her escort, her shadow of sorts—and yet he is a Herrani, and she a Valorian. Nothing could happen between them. But the winds of unrest are gathering, bringing change on the breeze, and neither Kestrel nor Arin could be prepared for what will happen.

This book has elements of several genres—fantasy, historical fiction, and dystopian. The world is complete with carriages, fancy dresses, and land battles and class warfare that left Herrani enslaved to the Valorians. Into this complex, tumultuous world are placed Kestrel and Arin, who must navigate a nearly-impossible situation. Kestrel quickly became one of my favorite females in fantasy. She has to train as a fighter, but unlike most females, her fiercest weapon is her mind. Kestrel is constantly strategizing, whether it is at the game Bite and Sting to outwit her opponents or devising military maneuvers for conquering lands or saving her own. Add to that her brilliant talent for music, and I was sold.

Arin was harder to get to know, despite the third-person point of view that allowed us to see his actions. It was difficult to determine my feelings about him until partway through the book, and even then the constantly-shifting events and loyalties made me question those feelings more than once. However, there was no denying the romantic tension between Arin and Kestrel—it practically radiated off the page into something palpable. The tender moments they shared were certainly swoon-worthy, and I cannot wait to see what will develop between them in the next book.

This book was a quick read despite all of the events taking place in what seemed like a few short pages. The writing was lyric and beautiful, and the cast of supporting characters brought vibrancy and life to the story. The story may have been written years ago, but it can still very much stand beside the fantasy stories of today in all aspects. If you have not started this trilogy, add it to your TBR today!

Most Memorable Aspect: Kestrel’s wit and cunning, and certain musical and pier scenes.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Book Sketch: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

By: Tricia Levenseller
Published By: Feiwel Friends
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King
Pages: 311
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought (OwlCrate)
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

First Thought After Finishing: Why did I wait so long to read this book?

Not long after I joined Bookstagram, there was a fair amount of hype about Daughter of the Pirate King. Sometimes that makes me nervous to start a book, but in this case, there was nothing to worry about. I flew through this novel in one day, and it was every bit as enjoyable as the hype had promised it to be.

Brave, fearless pirate Alosa has been sent on a mission by her father to retrieve a map that will lead to untold riches for the pirates. So Alosa devises the perfect scheme—fall into enemy hands, search their ship undetected, and prove herself as the best of the best. Alosa has no reason to doubt her skills or her success, and she is fully devoted to her mission. Only Alosa never bargained for Riden, the first mate of the enemy ship. The more time she spends with him, the harder it is to separate the prisoner role she is playing from her own feelings about Riden. But as a pirate, she should know that schemes always abound, and this mission may prove to be one too many for the pirate princess.

“Oh, the ridiculous things one has to do when one is a pirate.”

Alosa is everything one could want in a heroine—fierce, witty, and cunning. Her confidence in herself and her skills is a refreshing change of pace from main characters who are convinced they are “nothing special.” Alosa doesn’t need anyone to validate her, and yet, she desperately wants the approval of her father. This vulnerability, along with her humor, makes her quite likeable. Then enter Riden, the charming yet sly love interest. He is wonderful in his own way, and the banter between him and Alosa is very entertaining.

“Everyone has something dark in their past. I suppose it’s our job to overcome it. And if we can’t overcome it, then all we can do is make the most of it.”

Moreso than the budding romance, this book is nonstop adventure—escape attempts and capture, working against the clock on dangerous searches, and twists that might be predictable but also keep the story engaging. With the high stakes on the high seas, the schemes, and the romantic tension, there is never a dull moment. Both of the main characters also have their secrets, and those revelations have set the stage for a sequel that I can’t wait to read.

This was Tricia Levenseller’s debut book, and if all of her other books weren’t already on my TBR, they would be after reading this one. If you are looking for the perfect book to escape reality for a few hours, look no further than Daughter of the Pirate King!

Most Memorable Aspect: Alosa’s confidence and witty humor.

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