Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4th, 2014
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
POV: 3rd, multiple
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Format: Printed ARC, e-ARC
Rating: The Royal Library, Top Shelf
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.
I knew going into The Winner's Curse that this would be a novel worth reading, if only because of how much I loved the creativity featured in Rutkoski's The Shadow Society. But even knowing that, I was still amazed by how outstanding this novel turned out to be. The story revolves around two main characters: Kestral, a Valerian and the daughter of a great military General, and Arin, a Herrani slave whom Kestral buys on impulse at an auction. Kestral is expected to join the military, while Arin must do whatever it takes to survive as one of the Herrani slaves. Despite their different stations in life, Kestral and Arin slowly form a forbidden friendship that could change the fate of their world's future.
Rutkoski excels at painting a vivid picture within her readers' minds – the characters, the world, the culture, everything proved to be easy enough to envision and imagine. But, it was the characters who stole the show. From Kestral's observant and strategic nature to Arin's subtle intelligence and sharp personality, it was easy to root for both of them. Even the side characters were wonderfully developed, and continually intriguing. I went into this expecting a good story, but Rutkoski delivered a quiet, stunning tale that pleasantly surprised me. The Winner's Curse is a surprising, captivating tale of family, love, and honor. This book? It should be on your to-read list. Or, better yet, your bookshelf.
Highlights: The romance is slow, subtle, and almost barely beginning. This story focuses on the intelligence of main characters, rather than their ability to be physical threats. I loved how this story was written in a 3rd person POV, because it allowed Rutkoski to go into detail and really show off the fantasy world she crafted. While this as a quieter story, there are bursts of action-packed moments, strategic manipulations, and a couple surprising revelations. Worldbuilding, characters, story – it was all fantastic.
Lowlights: It has a slightly slow beginning and a couple moments felt slightly rushed, but I have no big issues with this story. The ending was pretty brutal, emotionally. It leaves you wanting the sequel, desperately!
Rating: The Royal Library, Top Shelf. I love this book, so it is going on the top shelves in the royal library where everyone can see it. I'd highly recommend The Winner's Curse, because it is an incredible story.