📚 The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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Winner’s Trilogy #1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2016

Narrator: Justine Eyre
Length: 8h 24m
Publisher: Listening Library⎮2014

4.75 ★ Audiobook⎮ April has been a very productive month for my audiobook bucket list, if not for much else. This is an audiobook I have had in my sights for more than a year now. I have seen nothing but glowing reviews for it, which of course made me skeptical about starting it. I have a tendency to dislike overly hyped books and this particular one already had a huge mark against it because I’m not a fan of the narrator. In fact, she was the sole reason I kept putting off this audiobook. However, after months of being bombarded with reviews praising this series, curiosity finally got the best of me. I told myself that I would give the audiobook two hours, just to see if the story lived up to all the hype and if I could tolerate the narrator enough to enjoy the story.

Maybe it’s because I already had low hopes going in, but this is one of those rare times when I actually wasn’t disappointed by a really popular book. To be honest, the first 10 minutes were the worst part of the experience, not because of the story itself, but because I couldn’t focus on anything but how much the narrator’s voice made my skin crawl. After about the 10 minute mark, the story began to consume me and it was all I could think about from that point on. At 30% completion, I realized that the narration only bothered me when I actively thought about it, which wasn’t that often anymore. At 45%, I knew I was hooked, for better or worse. Marie Rutkoski had me in her grips, god awful narration or not. The plot itself doesn’t seem that extraordinary, but the writing makes it so. I’m not sure why, but I got a distinct Gone with the Wind impression from this story, albeit an alternative, militaristic impression. That’s probably because slavery plays a major part in the plot, although US history this ain’t. The story takes place in some sort of fantasy world with different races and nationalities, but honestly, that’s all I was able to figure out. It was a little hard to orient myself within the world, as far as setting and timeframe, but that never really posed any problems to my understanding of the story. That’s probably why my brain chose to relate it to my closest frame of reference, which was the pre-Civil War South, even though there seem to be significant differences in timeframe.

I liked the female protagonist, Kestrel, although I don’t think I love her yet. But if she keeps going in the current direction, I can definitely see myself loving her in future installments. I would like to see her develop more of a backbone and the skills to adequately defend herself instead of needing to be rescued. My opinion of Arin, the male protagonist, keeps wavering as does my opinion of the political conflict. I suspect that the author intends for the reader to be torn in choosing a side, just as Kestrel is. I also suspect that the “right” choice will become increasingly evident throughout the series. The romance is engaging and emotionally provoking. And, thankfully, does not have a hint of a third wheel (no love triangle). All in all, I’m very satisfied with this story and do plan to continue with the series very soon.

Narration review: You probably already know how this is going to go, but here it is anyway. Everyone has their favorite narrator(s) and likewise probably has a narrator (or several) that they would prefer to not hear again. For me, Justine Eyre is the latter. It’s nothing personal against her and I don’t mean this as an attack in any way, but her voice is majorly offputting to me. Like, “nails on a chalkboard” offputting. This is only my personal opinion and I’m sure someone out there probably thinks I’m crazy for not loving her work. But her voice just gets under my skin. I first heard her narration in Fallen and, after struggling to finish it, I swore that I would never listen to her again. Fallen was not as strong of a story as The Winner’s Curse and therefore I was probably more inclined to let the narration bother me than in this case. While my opinion of Eyre’s narration style has not changed, my fascination with this series encourages me to persevere with the following installments. For those that are not as chained to the audiobook format as I am, I highly suggest picking this series up in regular book format. Or, at least listen to a sample of the audiobook before purchasing to see how you feel about the narration. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book DepositoryAudible/Amazon and Audiobooks.com

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