Monday, March 3, 2014

Review and Giveaway: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: March 4, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Published by: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - Goodreads | Purchase

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.


Ten Likes/Dislikes:

1. (+) Kestrel, the protagonist - In some ways Kestrel reminds me of Bitterblue. Both are competent enough to defend themselves should they fall into dangerous situations, but their assets do not lie in physical tests of strength. For that reason they can be underestimated, but they are both strong female characters with capable minds and fiery temperaments when their values are threatened. Kestrel, in particular, is a strategist, and the cold edges of her mind derived from her logical perspective are softened by her love for music. She is easy to like not only for her cleverness and the unfairness of her situation (marriage or military) but also for her compassion - she does not relish the attitude adopted by other Valorian conquerors with regard to the Herrani, and as shown in the first chapter, finds herself sick at the auction.

2. (+) Arin, the romantic interest - It's hard not to like Arin, or at least to feel pity for or try to understand his situation. Of course he's angry. Of course he's focused, rebellious, and secretive. As a slave he does not have the luxury of being open, and he refuses to be happy about what's happened; he has years worth of memories of better times and times spent horridly as a slave, separated from anyone and everything he loves. There's more to him than this, but I don't want to accidentally include a spoiler, and suffice it to say that he provides a good match for Kestrel. It's obvious to see the chemistry between him and Kestrel because they also have similar personalities.

3. (+) Romance - Probably one of my favorite aspects is that the romance works in tangent with the character and plot development. It doesn't overwhelm the main plot, and while forbidden romances can sometimes include too much angst, this one never strays into that realm. The characters also don't stop being who they are because of the romance, and that provides the majority of the struggle and tension underlying their interactions. This is probably one of my favorite types of romances too because it's subtle and sneaky and fits entirely with who the characters are and the feel of the novel at large.

4. (+) World-building - The first question you should ask yourself is whether you're okay with not knowing all the details of the world right now. Rutkoski gives just enough details for you to feel immersed in the world for this novel, but it's obvious that things have been left out so they can be explored in future novels (e.g. other peoples like the barbarians, etc.). Here we have subtle hints as to the different customs adopted by the Herrani and Valorians, the differences in how their houses are organized and how they viewed the other culture, and in their religious beliefs and what they valued in daily life. We're exposed to the Valorian arrogance and degrading perspective they take with regard to the Herrani and vice versa, and how the Valorians came to rule the Herrani.

5. (+) Plot - To me the brilliancy of this plot was not because it was unpredictable but because it excels at building your anticipation for the events to come. Every scene seems to be doing more than two things at once - promoting the romance, your understanding of the world and characters, etc. etc. And the tension and conflict are perfectly executed, constantly there for the entire novel.

6. (+/-) Characters - I loved learning more about them - about Cheat, General Trajan, Jess, Ronan, etc. - but at the same time, never felt entirely attached to or invested in anyone beyond Kestrel and Arin. Even still, I loved this book and not feeling attached to the other characters did not prevent me from feeling invested in the novel at large. This book is mainly about Kestrel and Arin and their people, and so the other characters naturally fall into the background.

7. (+) A Little Bit of Everything - Perhaps my favorite part of this book is that it really has a bit of everything for every reader. There are compelling emotional stakes for both main characters and a forbidden, sweet and steamy romance that doesn't derail from the main plot but instead adds an underlayer of tension throughout the novel. There are action scenes appropriate to all the hints of unrest and sure to satisfy Cashore fans who wanted more of that from her novels. The book's set in a pseudo-historical Greco-Roman inspired world, and I don't know about you, but I loved the show Rome and I loved Megan Whalen Turner's Byzantine-Greek inspired series, and I particularly loved how the two were meshed into this fantastical world from Marie Rutkoski. There are a lot of literary allusions that add extra layers that are well worth pondering on or examining in your free time. They give the book an extra layer of depth and dimension that's not necessarily found in every YA novel. (I particularly like the bit about girls either joining the military or becoming married, and how Kestrel's father says "a woman soldier has proved her strength, and so doesn't need protection" (25). It seems to engage with a lot of the discussion on strong female characters and how they do not necessarily need to be "kick-ass" or wield all sorts of weapons.) And this book is masterfully plotted, every scene infused with multiple purposes so that you're never left questioning why it's been included. So basically, readers who are more action-oriented, or character-oriented, or plot-oriented - all of them can find something to love in this novel.

8. (+) The Writing - Gorgeous. I am reminded of a mix between Cashore's more literary style and the style in Cruel Beauty (somewhere between purposeful, practical prose and poetic lilt). I'd say it's more similar to Cashore's writing style, though, and this may be one of the only comparisons to her work that I've found really and truly accurate.

9. (+) The Pacing - More action-oriented readers might find this a tad slow, but I thought that its pacing was perfect for the literary-commercial vibe and allowed for us to get attached to the characters and understand the Herrani/Valorian situation before upping the stakes.

10. (+) The Cover - This is a beautiful cover that's sure to catch the attention of any bookstore browser. It captures part of Kestrel's inner struggle and that dress is, I think, included in the novel. I wish it also hinted at the pseudo-historical fantasy feel though.

This is a surefire win for Kristin Cashore fans. I know that that comparison is used a lot in YA marketing, so I am not using it lightly. I said in my pre-review that it would also appeal to Megan Whalen Turner, Rae Carson, Rachel Hartman, and Melina Marchetta fans. MWT fans because the world reminds me of hers and because the feel of the central romance somewhat reminds of that in her novels. Plus the strong character development and political intrigue. Rae Carson fans because Kestrel and Arin's cleverness and strategy are shown in the way that Elisa's cleverness and ability to rule are shown, and it's clear that both Arin and Kestrel respect each for that, again shown in the way that I've heard happens with the central romance in Carson's trilogy. Hartman fans because there's a similar balance between the romance, political intrigue, and internal character struggle. Marchetta fans because I think her Lumatere Chronicles would make for great comparison to The Winner's Curse and because they have similar literary-commercial vibes to me. Basically I would recommend this novel to all fantasy lovers.

The Winner's Curse is an absolute gem of a pseudo-historical / Greco-Roman inspired fantasy, packed with breathtaking star-crossed romance, strong strategist main characters, and enough political intrigue, action, and tension sure to enthrall its own legion of fans.

Don't believe me? This one has already gotten rave reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly. And here are other reviews:

[5 stars] Lauren at Love Is Not A Triangle - "This book is so good that you definitely want to read it now so that you can discuss it with friends, and then read it again before book two releases."
[4 stars] Mary Christensen - "This book is excellent!"
[3 stars] Pam at Bookalicious - "I definitely want to read book two. I think it's going to be full of action."
[2 stars] Fiona - "I approved of a lot of elements, but I regret to say I didn't enjoy it very much."
[1 star] at the time that I am writing this (1/12/2014), there are no one star reviews.

89 comments:

  1. AHHHHHHH I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THE EPICNESS THAT IS KESTREL AND ARIN! Everyone's talking about them. Also, this vivid world seems so interesting and I haven't read a book with an extremely vivid and complicated world so I can't wait to dig in. Plus, the possibility of even more world building (like it happened in Through the Ever Night) is extremely appealing. Well, I think the fact that you adored everything else and wasn't perhaps that connected with the sidekicks? Um, that doesn't make me sad at all, because the rest of this raving review makes me happy:) Also, I'd participate in the giveaway, but since my hardcover is already on its way I better leave this to someone who is in more desperate need of a copy :D Thanks anyways:)

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    1. You are awesome, Siiri. I hope you enjoy your hardback <3. Don't forget to tell me what you think of the book & the charas & world-building and all the rest!

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  2. I'm so glad the romance isn't overwhelming! I am not a fan of romance-driven plots but love it when it's carefully intertwined with the plot so I'm hopeful I'll like it :D

    I'm really looking forward to the worldbuilding, I'm not too sure how I'll feel about not knowing everything about the world straight away but we'll see. I'm also glad the writing style is similar to Cruel Beauty but not exactly because I was quite put off by it in Cruel Beauty but I really want to appreciate such writing.

    Gah so excited you mentioned Melina Marchetta fans will like it too :D

    Thank you so much for the giveaway Christina!

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    1. Well, in some sense, it's really central to the plot so I wouldn't say that it's not romance-driven. You read Fire, right? It's like a Cashore novel where there are other things going on while the MCs learn more about each other, but at the same time, I mean the cover shows her in her dress from a ball scene. The romance is definitely getting advertised... You were off put by the writing in Cruel Beauty??? Gosh, I hope my comparisons haven't set the bars too high o.o.

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  3. wow this is super fingers crossed

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  4. Great review. I like when an author doesn't go into information overload trying to give the reader every little detail of their world. I'm not going to lie, the moment I saw the name Kestrel I fell in love. Anytime I make a character for a game, that's ALWAYS their name. Plus the whole slave thing sounds like an interesting twist in YA.
    Kristin @ Book Sniffers Anonymous

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  5. Everything about this book interests me. I love fantasy, and it really sounds like a book that I would like.

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  6. The plot, the characters and how they will progress through out the story.

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  7. Everything! The plot sounds amazing, the cover is gorgeous and I haven't read one bad review about it! It's definitely on my to-read list. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  8. I actually just added this to my to-read list on goodreads yesterday, it looks so good! The plot is very unique and unlike anything that has been released recently. I'm very excited to read it. :D

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  9. I already was going to check out this book, but your review has just convinced me that I NEED to. I LOVE Kristin Cashore's series, and I've missed it so much, so to find another series like it is really exciting. And all the other authors/series you've compared it to are on my to read this so it only makes sense to add The Winner's Curse to it too. It sound like I'd really enjoy it

    Thanks for the awesome review and giveaway :)

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  10. Everything about this book seems to be super amazing!

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  11. Great cover, not read the author and I have just found your blog, so thank you!

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  12. The cover interests me the most! :D

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  13. I love reading dystopian stories, and I've been hearing good raves about it.

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  14. this book sounds fantastic! Thanks for sharing :)

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  15. Everything about the book interests me

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  16. I'm excited to read a story about political intrigue!

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  17. Honestly, the cover and all the reviews!!

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  18. I'm interested in fantasy books that don't have any magic at all. I just think that's really neat (and all the great reviews, awesome cover, and comparisons to Kristin Cashore don't hurt either :P)

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  19. I have heard great things about it and it just sounds amazing!!
    I love the cover also!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!

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  20. Guaranteed to be orginal and thrilling!

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  21. The characters! I've been hearing so many great things about them.

    (Thanks for this opportunity!)

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  22. The romance was my favorite point too shockingly enough. It blended so well with the story itself. It was so lovely. Fantastic review, I so agree. :)

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie! I can't wait for more romance between Kestrel & Arin either. BOOK 2 WHY YOU SO FAR AWAY.

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  23. This sounds fab! Love the sound of romance, it sounds more believable than some! That cover is gorgeous as well.

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  24. I have seen so many positive reviews and I want to check it out. Plus, I'm participating in 2014 author debut challenge.

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  25. I have heard SO many good things about this book - in fact I haven't heard anything not good yet, so I am crazy excited for whenever I manage to get my hands on it. And you COMPLETELY sold me with the Kristin Cashore (and then even more with the MWT)

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  26. I love your list of 10 likes/dislikes and I think I have to agree with most of it. I love the political intrigue in this book! And the sweeping romance. And definitely the cover haha. Lovely review!
    (PS. I just posted my review of it, too, if you interested (: )

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    1. Thanks, Cyn! I'll hopefully be able to look at your review soon, though I'm really behind on that at the moment :/. Either way, thanks for stopping by!

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  27. I am interested because I enjoy the blurb, but even with the blurb there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the story. I know she doesn't want to marry, I know she buys a slave and I know the price was to high, but that isn't the meat of the story. There is a lot that I just don't know, and that mystery is one that I need to figure out. And I absolutely adore that amazing cover!

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  28. The deadly games makes it sound interesting.

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  29. Well, this makes me want to read Bitterblue. I've been scared of it because I wanted it TOO much. But but but YES.

    Characterization is where the book took a bit of a hit for me as well. I mean, I thought they were all interested, but I wasn't invested enough in anyone in particular. I loved watching them, but wasn't emotionally attached. Mostly I wish the romantic arc had been a bit smoother, but the plot was brilly.

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    1. READ BITTERBLUE READ BITTERBLUE READ BITTERBLUE READ BITTERBLUE

      Hahah. If you think the plot in this in amazing, Bitterblue's is even more complex. It's a little head turning, and I admit that the same thing happened to me -- wanting the book so much that I feel like some of my expectations were too high -- BUT It is a Cashore Novel And Therefore, Name-Twinsie, YOU SHOULD READ IT ;).

      Also yes. I like how you summarized our mutual feelings on the characterization in a much shorter way than I did hahaha. As usual, I suppose.

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  30. I love historical novels so the setting grabs me!

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  31. Everything seems so interesting but i'm most excited for the characters and the setting. Also the cover is amazing.

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  32. I have to admit, the cover definitely grabs my interest the most.

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  33. The plot sounds interesting, but all of the 4/5 star reviews are what truly drew my attention to it.

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  34. All of the awesome reviews has be super interested in this book,

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  35. The romance! I love that that a general’s daughter falls in love with a slave but there is still more to the story, he has a secret! I heard the writing in this book is amazing and cant wait to read it! Thanks for the chance to win!

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  36. (This is Darith L)

    I love the plot! And it's a world I'm interested in --- ruling power, those medieval like time period just gets me so excited.

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  37. Thank you! I love this giveaway

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  38. I love the sound of this book, it sounds right up my street so thank you for the review as it's pretty much made up my mind that I NEEEEEEEEED this book!

    New GFC follower

    Thea @ Gizzimomo's Book Shelf

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  39. I loved this book from the moment I saw the description, everything just sounds amazing, and seeing all the great reviews just makes me even more excited!

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  40. I keep feeling like this book is a futuristic-dystopian. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe the cover? Maybe the title? Either way, I keep passing over it when I LOVE historical fantasies! I seriously need to keep your review in mind next time I see the book.

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  41. I know what it feels like to not be attached to the characters; you just don't get the same out of the story as others do who are more attached or emotionally invested with the character. But at least you could connect with one or two of the characters! Awesome review!

    Lisa
    www.turningpages94.blogspot.com

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  42. The cover is gorgeous and I have seen so many raving reviews for The Winners Curse.

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  43. hi! I just want to say that i think this book is great! The story tho resembles the plot of a manga i read before. a shame i don't remember the title :'(

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  44. I like the idea of the forbidden love aspect. I also think the cultural dynamic will be fascinating.

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  45. I have never read a book that resembles this book very closely so this book could be a fresh start on what I like to read.

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  46. The characters sound interesting

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  47. I really think I would really like this book. I love fantasy and the plot & characters sound very interesting

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  48. The cover is fabulous and the synopsis sounds amazing!! And everything about this book makes me want to dive in and read it right away!!! Thank you SO SO SO much for making the giveaway international because it gives Aussies like me a chance to win some AMAZING books!

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  49. The thing I like best is that this book sounds like it has everything that I love to see in a story line. Action, romance, fantasy it has it all. And the cover is beautiful. A cover always helps me decide it I want to read a book and this one is at the top of the list. One of the best covers I have seen in a long time. Thanks for the great giveaway!!

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  50. A couple of things draw me to this book. First, I am one of those people who DOES judge a book by it's cover and I love this one! Second, a strong female character is important to me. The fact that she isn't all powerful but just a normal chic with a good head is intriguing and most books that I generally tend to love have this same type of character. But most importantly, the love interest sounds perfect! I love a good romantic feel in a book without it overwhelming the story. I can't wait to read this book and form my own opinions. Thank you!

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  51. the book sounds amazing, lovin' the look of the cover

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  52. The cover intrigues me the most

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  53. I'm pretty excited about this book! It seems like it's going to have a slightly darker tone than my ideal book, but most YA books that are published these days seem to. I've heard a lot about solid writing and good characterization, and I'm always up for more of that :)

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  54. I looooved how you'v set this out. Its giving me the "feels". Honestly, just like everyone else has said in there comments. What you have placed upon us has REALLY made every including myself intrigued in this book. As you said, Kestrel reminded you of Bitterblue whom I loved. So I'm sure Kestrel and I will get along just fine. Interesting, very gripping. Cannot wait to get my hands on a copy!

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  56. I am initially drawn in by the pretty cover. But, I am interested in the story as well.

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  57. I love well crafted fantasy, and Kristin Cashore raved about this one. That's enough for me. Also, I've read some her earlier less hyped books and they were pretty good.

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  58. Don't really want to know much about the book before I get in so my interest is entirely due to the current hype around it.

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  59. I was originally hooked by the blurb on Goodreads a while ago. I thought it was beautifully written. Also, falling in love with a slave as a teenager is probably very sad, so I need to read this. I thought it was going to be a standalone, but saw that she is currently writing the sequel! Exciting!

    I plan on reading Bridge of Snow this weekend to keep me placated until I can get my hands on a copy. :)

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  60. OMG, I can't wait to get my hands on this one!!! It's sounds AWESOME!! And that cover, Wow, it's epic!! If it's anything like Kristin Cashore's books, then it's going to be perfect.

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  61. I just had to come over and see what you thought. I LOVED this one too!! Don't you love the way they designed the book too? Everything from the cover to the frayed edges. Now I'm just dying to read the next book!

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

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  62. The cover art is absolutely beautiful and the story sounds so interesting! The fact that you liked it so much makes me want to read it even more!

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  63. Oh I love the cover. I have hear many things about this book. I just really like the whole concept of the story. I am very interested in this one.

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  64. Everything!! I love the excerpt, the beautifull cover and the fact that it is a fantasy book :) I just can't wait to read it! Thank you!

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  65. As soon as I finished reading the blurb, before I even got to your review, I went straight to Goodreads and added this to my TBR. Slave stories, for some reason, really interest me. Your review also made it sound really good. :)

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  66. LOVE the genre and I love being introduced to a new author!

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  67. The fact that it doesn't seem like your average vampire book.

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  68. I've heard so many great things about this novel! Plus the cover is absolutely gorgeous!! Thanks for the giveaway! Happy Reading :)

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  69. I want to meet Kestrel and Arin and see for myself is this book that amazing as people say it is. I still havent read a bad review for this book and the blurb really interested me. Thanks for the giveaway :)

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  70. I love the cover and the blurb and I think it has a story waiting to be read :)

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  71. I'm always interested in fantasy novels

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  72. I've heard nothing but great things about this book so I want to give it a try.

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  73. okay first off this cover is GORGEOUS!! the characters and story seem so unique and different with amazing personalities:P i want to find out how Arin and Kestrel-geez even the names are original!!-fall and meet in love in this setting. your review made me want this book so much more:P thanks for the giveaway and your awesome review!!!!

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  74. Everything about this book interests me especially the cover and synopsis of the book. Thanks for the giveaway!!

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  75. I like the way elements of several different genres are interwoven :)

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  76. The plotline sounds completely different to anything I've read before - and it's always good to read romance novels that aren't just gushingly romantic at the expense of the story!

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  77. its something that i have never read before

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  78. I have never read anything like this before, so straight away that screams 'READ ME' and the reviews on this book are AMAZING!!! Got my fingers crossed!! :)

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  79. looks exciting, i always find teenage books better written than the majority of adult fiction

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  80. sounds like an interesting read, always looking for new things to read about :)

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