Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
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. – Goodreads
Seventeen year old Kestrel, is a headstrong girl who doesn’t stand for nonsense or old fashion ideals. This includes her father who doesn’t believe she is safe to walk alone, but is strong enough to be in the military and she calls him out on it. Her fahter however is not interested, he is only interested in what is best for the empire, not his daughter, or even himself. What keeps her sane is her music, and it has been clear that she is not supposed to have time for that. What is unexpected for Kestrel, is that music helps bring her together with Arin, the slave she bought at market.
Kestrel is looked at in society, she paid a crazy amount of money for a slave, she freed her own maid when she was fourteen and she has a love of music. This is not normal, and Kestrel’s BFF, Jess makes it known to her and requests that just once Kestrel acts “normal.” It’s hard for Kestrel to act “normal” when she feels like an outcast of society, even though her father is respected in the community. She continues to feel like an outsider.
It also doesn’t help that the slave she bought, is actually a spy. He’s also, one of the few people who’s completely honest with her. Most tell her what they think she wants to hear, not the truth. While her father is patient, he is also a general, and he tells Kestrel she must decide to join or marry by next Spring. That’s it. No more “thinking” about it.
What Kestrel, and her father don’t know is that Arin, or Smith as they call him, is actually a spy inside the house. While he is clearly changing Kestrel throughout the novel, usually over games of Bite and Sting, the fact that he has been lying to her isn’t helping any situations.
“Well.” His smile was slight, but it was there. “I suppose neither of us is the person we were believed we would become.”–pg 116, ARC
Kestrel and her father continue to have a special relationship throughout the novel. Although her mother died, and he is trying his hardest, Kestrel is never going to become this perfect person that he wants her to be, and he slowly does accept that. Even if it includes listening to gossip about his daughter and the slave being more than friends. Although that wasn’t true, when enough people said it, he did believe them and it didn’t change his opinion of his daughter, not once.
The Winners Curse was also a heartbreaking book because the moment Kestrel and Arin are finally honest with each other, a pivotal moment in the book occurs and the climax of the novel transpires. However, this never felt like a book that was full of fluff. Rutkoski chose her words wisely and often proved a point with them, even if it was brutal and hurt Kestrel’s heart, and my own. However, I didn’t really believe the love story between Kestrel and Arin. I believed that they went from strangers to friends, but friends to in love never worked for me. Rutkoski made a very subtle love story here, and that includes the two main characters falling in love, too. Which is probably why it didn’t work for me. I enjoy when my love stories slap me in the face with feels.
Told through real-life journals, collages, lists, and drawings, this coming-of-age story illustrates the transformation of an 18-year-old girl from a small-town teenager into an independent city-dwelling college student. Written in an autobiographical style with beautiful artwork, Little Fish shows the challenges of being a young person facing the world on her own for the very first time and the unease—as well as excitement—that comes along with that challenge. – Goodreads
One of my highlights of ALAMW this past year (besides meeting/having my life become better because SOMEONE is in it) was because I met Ramsey Beyer and her book Little Fish. Then of course, because life happens, the book sat on my shelf and recently I picked it up and devoured it. In one sitting.
Highlight of my reading month to be honest.
I related a lot to Ramsey and her first year at college, her love of list making and realizing how polarizing your childhood home could be from freshman year of college when you live on your own. Through use of mixed media, lists, drawing and her livejournal, Beyer tells the story of her freshman year in art school when she moved away from her small town of Paw Paw to Baltimore, a place 700 miles or 10 hours from home.
While life in Paw Paw was good for Ramsey, she also knew that it was a very limited view of the world. She was excited to see what Baltimore would bring to her life. Because it spans the time period of one academic year you see her high school friends go from emailing her daily to barely emailing her and how it took her a bit to come out of her shell and find her group of college friends. When you grow up in a small town you know everyone and you tend to become friends for life. Ramsey jokes that she forgot how to make friends because she just always had them.
What made Little Fish stand out to me was the use of drawings, the inner dialogue, the lists. Oh the lists. 18 year old Ashley related to all the lists. Heck, the Ashley writing this review relates to all the lists. I often joke that my lists have lists and Ramsey seems to get that and embrace that side of her. She also over thought a lot and never hid that from her livejournal or the lists that she made throughout her freshman year. It works throughout Little Fish. Heck, I would love to fill my shelves with more books like this. Not just because of how well I related to it, but because how well done it was. It wasn’t your typical book, but maybe it should become more typical.