Vivid Writing and Complex Characters in The Winner’s Trilogy

The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski made me sleep-deprived for three whole days, that’s how badly I wanted—no, needed—to finish those three books. Each book was fast moving, beautifully developed, and highly addictive. I’ve been on a high fantasy kick, and this trilogy has only made my love for the genre greater.

The premise is this: A general’s daughter buys a slave and finds that the price she paid for his life is much higher than she ever could have imagined (it basically turns her whole world upside down). This trilogy delves into intriguing strategy and deadly politics, and is overall slightly reminiscent of Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson’s respective novels.

I loved the characters, the world, the plot, the intricate details Rutkoski wove throughout the trilogy and the themes she incorporated into her stories.

Throughout the trilogy, Rutkoski used themes such as: the value of human life,  being true to one’s self, independence, the meaning of loyalty and love, and the importance of familial relationships.

The first book especially focused on the value of human life and the importance of equality within relationships. The relationships displayed in Winner’s Curse were complicated, and yet quite tangible. I fell in love with the main characters, and I hated the villains.  Rutkoski drew me in to her world with these complex and vibrant characters who cultivated beautiful and sometimes problematic relationships in a world reminiscent of ancient Greece and Rome.

The second book, Winner’s Crime, was, perhaps, my least favorite, if only because my hands were stiff from clutching the book for so long. The tension within this middle installment filled my mind and body through to the end, making it almost impossible to put down. I loved the change of scenery and the depth that Rutkoski continued to give her characters and world they live in.

The final installment in Winners trilogy, Winner’s Kiss, was beautifully done as well. Rutkoski masterfully wrote fast-paced action sequences that cut between parallel plots in the best, and most intense, way possible.

I don’t want to say too much about the last two books and give anything away, but I will say that I would highly recommend this trilogy.

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Weight and Religion in High Fantasy with Rae Carson

Rae Carson has a talent for creating interesting main characters. In The Girl of Fire and Thorns I was impressed by her creation and development of a dynamic character who, in a world so different from our own, struggles with something so relatable as body weight.

Problems with weight loss/gain topic is quite common within contemporary YA literature but I don’t think I have ever encountered it within the high fantasy YA genre. However, this topic fits within another, more general theme, that is perhaps more common: feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Carson did an excellent job in the first installment of this trilogy of creating a believable and relatable main character, Elisa. While she struggles with her physical appearance and health, mentally she is at the top of her game.

Not only did Carson tackle body image issues, she also delved into the ever-controversial topic of religion and faith. Throughout the first installment, Elisa is devoutly religious, but as the story progresses, she is plagued with doubts about the religion she grew up with, and her faith in her God is tested.

I really enjoyed Carson’s courageous effort to create a book that addressed so many controversial topics. It could easily have turned into an offensive mess if done carelessly. But Carson was very tactful and thoughtful in her development of themes and storylines. I really enjoyed this book,. I felt is was very original and excellently executed.

If you are looking for a thought-provoking high fantasy book, I would definitely recommend The Girl of Fire and Thorns. As for myself, I am looking forward to starting the second novel in the trilogy, The Crown of Embers.