The Winner’s Curse trilogy review/thoughts

book review, Uncategorized

This trilogy is such a delight, not least of which I can say it is a wonderful departure from other YA fantasy books in its characters and its writing. *Spoilers for all three books*

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So when Book 1 starts off, we learn that the Valorians conquered Herran over 10 years ago and the Herrani have been slaves ever since. Enter our two main characters: Kestrel is a Valorian and Arin is a Herrani. Book 1 follows their initial meeting and what happens as the two worlds start to collide and Herran is on the brink of rebellion. In the first installment, they both stand high in their peoples’ regard: Kestrel is a high general’s daughter and she, as Valorian tradition dictates, is set to marry or join the army; Arin is a pivotal force in the Herrani rebellion. This romantic relationship starts off interestingly different from other YA novels–at a slave auction where Kestrel buys Arin. Off putting at best, problematic at worst. But, slowly, Rutkoski expertly asks us questions about the slavery of the oppressed, the oppression of culture when a people are conquered,  and the conquered’s bleak past and future. Although I can say all I want about what Rutkoski knows about war and slavery so intimately, I cannot lie, my favorite part of these books is Kestrel and by extension the romance between Kestrel and Arin.

The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.

-Marie Rutkoski

Rutkoski introduces the concept of the “Winner’s Curse”, essentially, did Kestrel lose more than she won when she bought Arin? And Rutkoski so expertly explores not just in the conventional way in terms of monetary loss. Under any normal circumstances and in a normal world they would have pursued a romance devoid of many problems but the relationship explores how because of this system of oppression, the unequal power dynamics, makes this relationship extremely difficult and uneasy from the start. The internal motives that may or may not be there: is Kestrel lying? Is this how she really feels, is Arin taking advantage of her for information? The first book follows how they develop feelings for each other despite their peoples’ tenuous history. The best thing is that Rutkoski offers no easy solutions but that’s what makes you root for them. Kestrel, as the general’s daughter, is ever calculating and manipulative goes against her better judgement and duty to be honest with Arin. She will willingly go into a duel for him (one of my favorite parts of the novel) and seek out his honesty. They try to hard to be honest which is why the midwinter rebellion is such a heartbreak to read. Arin not telling her to drink the wine (ugh my heart). And even when Arin lets Kestrel go to the boats and tell the emperor about the rebellion.

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I also love this world. The people are so distinct in their ways of life. The Valorians value war and honor and doing everything for your country. The Herrani admire the arts and the gods. It has influences from Greco-Roman culture and especially the Roman empire with its emphasis on war and a rigid system of honor. There are descriptions of architecture, art and frequent allusions to the Herrani religious system of gods. It makes the book more prevalent to our history.

Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?

Rutkoski is a wonderful writer. It is immensely metaphorical and quiet and the imagery of the intangible is so precise. I love the way she portrays her characters. Kestrel is far from the stereotypical heroine I’ve come to expect from YA. I think her character especially shines in the second book.  She is not stubborn for the sake of being stubborn and consequently a “strong” female character. She also is not good at fighting and in fact does not want to go to war! Instead, she is good at war strategies and has immense cunning prowess, beating everyone at Bite and Sting. One of her fatal flaws is her dishonesty which I makes the miscommunication in this book all the more believable. She lies to herself about not wanting Arin, lies to the emperor and is a spy for the Herrani, lies to Arin about supporting Valoria and to everyone around her so much that she doesn’t know who she is. She is torn between Valoria and Herran, to her father and to Arin. And what she didn’t realize in the first book is that her first duty is to herself. I love her duty to her country but the fact that she comes into her own and figures out her own honor. I still get all the feels at the end of Book 2 when she tries to tell Arin the truth in the piano room but is brutally interrupted. Book 2 is my favorite because it shows Kestrel out of her element in the royal court where she may not come out on top. I’ve said it once before but the miscommunication in this one actually makes sense unlike the miscommunication of 90% of YA novels. And of course, once again, no easy decisions as demonstrated when Kestrel persuades the emperor to poison the grass so the people would starve and move away instead of burning the land where all the people would just die instead. I also really liked that Kestrel and Arin developed separately as the stakes with the emperor got higher and every character is cunning and has ulterior motives.

The plot is truly a weave of political intrigue which I absolutely love. Kestrel is smart but everyone is smart and I loved seeing her outplay and outmaneuver everyone, especially in the third book. The third book really explores her relationship with her father (who I personally hate). Kestrel really struggles with her father because he has done some  horrible things to her not least of which he sold her out to be sent to an internment camp where she was drugged and forced to work and lost her memory. But despite all that, she admits that she does still love him. Even as someone who would not understand, I do empathize with her especially when she recalls memories of him when she was a child teaching her strategy. Her father is a complex character in his own right as the emperor so willingly tells her during their last Bite and Sting game. He worshipped the emperor because he saw a kindred spirit in their strategizing, their brutality. I think Kestrel was someone he just did not understand and for him that understanding equated to love. The series ends with a very satisfying conclusion and those last few pages really show how Kestrel and Arin have come full circle.

Her next book which comes out in 2019 is set in the same world featuring cameos from the original trilogy and I’m so excited!! Bring it on.

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Spoiler Discussion: Sherlock Season 4

tv review, Uncategorized

So as of the 20th of January, I have caught up to all episodes of the BBC Sherlock including the mini 7 minute episode on Youtube and The Abominable Bride. So unless there actually is a secret fourth episode (I wouldn’t put it past them) I’ll only be discussing Season 4, the three released episodes. SPOILERS.

I don’t know why the hat thing always gets me everytime LOL

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Imagine my surprise when the show actually decided to focus on Mary this episode, a little bit out of the blue but interesting nonetheless. But I knew there was something suspicious about Moffat & co. suddenly giving a female character her own agency..and I was right. so Mary died and for what. Oh right, for more angst between Sherlock and John and for John’s angst. This was just poor decision making. We know that however sure and confident Sherlock was in thinking that he could protect John and Mary, it remains that Sherlock was not at fault for this. If Sherlock had done something himself to John like I don’t know, put him or Mary in danger purposefully for the “game” then John’s anger would make sense but it just feels anticlimactic. And, of course, this is also marred by the fact that John himself couldn’t confess his “affair” before she died so of course he felt guilty. Btw I didn’t even think that John could cheat. I don’t even understand why they put that plotline there. Plotwise, this episode was so plot twisty and not in a good way? Like the six Thatchers mystery was actually about Mary? It just felt like they wanted to add more and more plot twists on top of the other just for the sake of plot twists. Like a USB drive? Really?

Also, fanservice anyone?

Sidenote: I need more Sherlock babysitting Rosie. They are too precious together.

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I’m kind of sad that Mrs. Hudson didn’t have a bigger role in this series because she is THE sass queen.
John: Can I borrow your car sometimes?
Mrs. Hudson: no
She is literal comedy gold. Sherlock just keeps getting better and better with their on screen transitions. It’s honestly a work of art. I loved the part when Sherlock and Eurus (apparently) are trying to deduce the mystery in a dark street and Sherlock is deducing it all from a worn note. That that part is my favorite scene should tell you how much I’m nostalgic for the old deductions of Seasons 1 and 2. Everything else was kind of just a mess. For one, Culverton Smith. He’s set up to be the mind blowing bad guy in this episode but he comes no where near as compelling as some of the villains of Season 1 let alone Moriarty. And the only reason why he was compelling was because Sherlock’s mental state was in a fragile state itself. And as the episode wore on, I found myself not caring whether Culverton had actually killed anyone. Maybe I just have no soul. Idk. And of course the fact that Sherlock even cares that Culverton is a despicable human being is kind of laughable because Sherlock has never cared how inhumane a villain is. All he cares about is if “the game’s afoot”. You can say he’s changed but has he really? Especially when you consider the fact that just last episode, he was considered as the godfather for Rosie and he was texting during the baptism and all these microaggressions. And then in the end, it turns out that John’s therapist is Sherlock’s secret sister?? I actually did not see that coming.
Sidenote: So do the CDs labeled “Miss Me” Moriarity’s? or Mary’s? I’m really confused about that.
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So throughout the these 3 episodes, we’ve been teased with Miss Me? which by this point just felt like a gimmick, like the creators didn’t know how to hook the audience without Moriarity. I felt like screaming at the TV when Moriarty came to talk to Eurus and I assumed he was still alive but then the text said 5 years ago. And in the end, he didn’t even really have that big of a part in this whole scheme which completely ruins the point of teasing us about him all this time. I don’t get it.
I thought the tests themselves were really interesting. The sort of mind games that only Sherlock as a show can pull off. I actually really liked the whole Sherlock getting Molly to say I love You even though once again, the show decides to disrespect and emotionally manipulate Molly for Sherlock but it was interesting to see Sherlock break down like that.

Remember when everyone was freaking out when they saw this in the trailers? Good times.

It would have also been pretty interesting if he was forced to call Irene because I suppose she would have been far less susceptible although Molly is the far more emotional option.
It would have been really interesting to see Sherlock shoot Mycroft but I suppose that’s out of the question. I love it when Mycroft says “Brother mine” it is so endearing.
The ending was kind of anticlimactic. I just wanted more. The whole well thing was anticlimactic because obviously John was not going to die at this point. It’s hard to believe Sherlock feeling this gutted maybe because we never got to know yellowbeard and never really got to know SHerlock before he was an adult except for snippets from Mycroft. But the fact that Sherlock repressed these memories kind of proves that the creators didn’t know how else to fit the whole eurus storyline in without Sherlock knowing about it. And that ending felt a lot like a series finale. A very, very rushed one at that. So I’m not really that satisfied.
Sidenote: Sherlock’s parents that appear at the end were actually Benedict Cumberbatch’s real parents. I thought that was cute.
At this point, I don’t want a Season 5. I had a glimmer of hope that Season 4 was somehow going to improve on Season 3 but it actually regressed sadly. But Sherlock, despite its flaws, always manages to entertain me so I’ll always come back. I’ll just come back with a lot of reservation.
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In Which I fangirl over The Winner’s Kiss Excerpt

Misc, Uncategorized

You know shit’s going down when you start to tear up over a freaking excerpt of a book. I don’t even think it was a full chapter. Shhh, don’t judge me..

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you know I love the Winner’s trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. I read the sequel, The Winner’s Crime back in March this year and it remains one of my favorite books of 2015. The Winner’s Kiss comes out on March 29, 2016 and FierceReads just released an excerpt of TWK this morning. You can sign up to read it here.

If you haven’t read The Winner’s Curse yet which you should have by now because it’s amazing. I have all my reviews and discussions link in this post if you’re interested.

I wanted to talk a little bit about the excerpt so spoilers from here on out.


 

Ugh. Poor Arin, he’s still sooo conflicted. And then he finds out Kestrel is supposedly dead?? Wtf..did not expect that

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wtf kanye west kobe system

So what kind of message did Kestrel send?? Did she say what she sent the messenger for in the second book? I don’t remember! I need to reread it.

And omg, when Sarsine said

“I saw how you two were with each other. Why would you think you didn’t know her?”

and he responded..

“Because she’s a liar. She has her games, her clever tricks. Everyone falls into her trap. I did, too . . .” He trailed off, listening to his own words. He began to brush Javelin’s brown coat, leaning in hard. “She’s not dead.”

You know her so well Arin, it’s not even funny, kill me now..

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And then here come the circle of being so close to finding answers and then getting more questions. Hopefully, Arin can actually get answers this time or there will be murder. Also, Rutkoski promised us lots of kisses and there better be full on make out sessions as far as I’m concerned

Just please give me this book now. I can’t wait any longer.

On a side note, does anyone know how new cover changes work? I’m planning on preordering the book soon but I am filled with disgust at the new covers. I will accept nothing but the old covers. I can’t even begin to describe to you how much I hate this cover.

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Anyways, if you’ve read the excerpt let me know what you thought of it!

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Spoiler Discussion: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Book Discussion

So I just finished An Ember in the Ashes yesterday and I wanted to spew out my thoughts. I will be posting up my non-spoiler review very soon if you haven’t read the book. But for now, long story short, I gave it a four out of five stars so I really enjoyed it. Spoilers from here on out!

The Masks and the masks

First off, I still don’t get what the masks actually look like…like it would have to be thin I’m assuming because how else would it meld into your skin??

The Precious Cinnamon Rolls aka our main characters

I really liked all of our main protagonists. I have a soft spot for Elias (add him to my list of book boyfriends) but I really liked Laia too. I feel really bad for all the shit she had to go through at Blackcliff but her character development was beautiful. You know, not always believing what people tell her and finding out the true meaning of courage and sacrifice (I sound like a Hallmark card). Helene was understandably frustrating. I mean she has grown up in a world where loyalty to the Empire is a must. I mean you have to remember that the way she thinks about slaves and scholars came from the empire teaching that to her so I can’t really be expected to like her way of thinking. I’m super happy about getting her point of view in the sequel and I almost wish she wasn’t blood shrike because I would want to be at least a 20 mile radius away from Marcus.

The Not So Precious Cinnamon Rolls

I really liked the Commandant’s character and how she showed absolutely no mercy because usually there’s some small chink in the armor with these types of characters or some really tragic backstory but there isn’t with her character and the fact that Tahir was brave enough to push the boundaries on the violence (that “k” scene tho..) really amped up the tension and suspense because I was actually scared when Laia would go off and spy for the Resistance thinking she was going to be caught at any moment. Heck, I was even scared whenever she was talking about basically anything to Izzi.

I also kept thinking something bad was gonna happen to Izzi but nothing happened so that was good..*knock on wood*

The drama! The romance!

I also have mixed feelings about this love square that we’ve got going on or more like two love triangles..I liked that there was a love triangle with a male character but I felt like it wasn’t necessary. Because romantically, there’s nothing really to explore with Helene’s character. I don’t think there was any way it could have worked because Elias doesn’t want anything to do with the Empire but Helene wants everything to do with the Empire. I feel like even if they were good friends, Helene would have still done the deal because that’s how loyal she is. On the other hand, I felt like the love triangle with Laia, Keenan, and Elias was more warranted because Laia feels that Keenan understands her predicament whereas Elias understands her as a person. But I got annoyed with Keenan, mostly because I ship Elias and Laia.. The moon festival scene was so cute *_* and who can forget the scene after the Third Trial..

Also, I low-key ship Keenan and Izzi..

Also, it sounds really harsh but I was kind of annoyed with Darin for going to jail!!!! (jk) But Laia was sacrificing everything for her brother. I just feel like I needed more development and interaction between Laia and her brother for me to be invested in their relationship.

Oh No You Didn’t

I knew that the Test of Loyalty was definitely fighting Helene but I didn’t quite believe it because that is just cruel. Fighting your best friend to the death?? But I think it’s interesting that one of them would have killed the other and there weren’t any real hard feelings after that from Helene. Like ok, you almost killed me!! But that’s ok because you were just doing your job!! ha. ha. ha. I thought one of them would have backed down and say no but I liked that Tahir pushed the characters to their limits (almost).

For the literary critic in me

I have noticed a recurring trend in YA. It’s ok if there’s extreme violence in your book but the romance always has to chaste..like what..it doesn’t fit..

One thing that did really bother me throughout the book was the use of sexual assault. Not in the way it’s used necessarily (although the scene with Marcus and Laia felt a little gratuitous to me), but the concept surrounding it. The Commandant mentions that it would have been better if Laia had been scarred because then she would have been ugly and not be raped. This sentiment is consistently mentioned and it bothered me because beauty does not enter into the rape equation. Being beautiful does not give you a higher chance of being raped. That’s essentially like saying if your clothes are too revealing, you have a higher chance of being raped or vice versa. Rape is about power no matter who it is.

I realized I had a lot to say so kudos to you if you stuck till the end. If you did, comment moon cake below and let me know your thoughts! 😉

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