Saturday, January 3, 2015

REVIEW: "The Winner's Curse" by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
(The Winner's Trilogy #1)

Goodreads -- Amazon -- Book Depository
Author Website

For Ages 13+ (Language, Violence)
Young Adult -- High Fantasy

Farrar Straus Giroux -- Published in March 2014
Hardcover, 355 pages
Read in December 2014
Borrowed from Library

Alternate Universe, Brainy Heroines, Cliffhanger

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.

"She shouldn't have been tempted."

The Winner's Curse is a book that I have seen around the blogging sphere since its release in early 2014.  I am usually hesitant to try books that have such hype around them, but I just couldn't resist it.  And I am so glad I took a chance because it became one of my favorite reads of the year and I am eagerly anticipating its sequel's release.

The first in the Winner's Trilogy takes place in a fantasy world heavily inspired by the Greco-Roman era.  A proud culture is invaded and its people enslaved by warrior-infused nation before the book even starts.  Things get going in the book when Kestral, the daughter of a Valorian general, stumbles across a slave auction and impulsively buys a slave whose eyes seem to call her.  As they spend more time together, Kestral and Arin develop a bond that is tested when truths begin to be revealed.

I absolutely loved Kestral!  She is seventeen years old and is quickly approaching adulthood.  Once she does, she will be forced to choose between life as a soldier or marrying someone appropriate.  Unlike the general, Kestral does not thrive on the bloody aspects of war.  She is more cerebral and fairly adept at the strategy element.  I really enjoyed how intelligent she was and how she used those skills to her advantage.  There were moments where she displayed typical teenage personality traits, but they showed how much she has to grow throughout the series.

Arin is another very likable character though very mysterious.  He does not act like a normal slave and it becomes obvious that he used to be from a powerful Herrani family before the invasion.  I liked how slowly the author revealed the truths behind his past and what he is actually doing while in Kestral's household.  There are a few chapters that are told from his point of view which is always fun to see as a parallel to Kestral's structured upbringing.

There is a romance, but thankfully it is well-developed.  Arin and Kestral spend time playing a chess-like game (Bite and Sting) and talking about their families which helps them connect.  I appreciated both the forbidden aspect of the love story and the slow development that Rutkoski provided.  Even by the end, there are feelings expressed, but it is obvious that they have a long way to go as a couple.

I can't say much more about the plot due to spoilers, but I was really impressed with the fast pace and suspense.  Political drama can get boring in young adult fiction though that never happened in this book.  Overall, I found The Winner's Curse to be worthy of the hype and definitely recommend it for any reader wanting a smart, suspenseful fantasy.


Blush -- Kisses with no/minor touching.

"The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price."

0.5. Bridge of Snow
1. The Winner's Curse
2. The Winner's Crime (Coming 2015)
3. Untitled (Coming 2016)


  1. I've heard so many wonderful things about this book, but I'm a little hesitant to read it. I don't always love books set in the future, and this seems very stressful with the whole slave thing. But, at the same time, I'm curious. Especially now that I know you liked this book so much. Maybe I will try the audiobook.

    1. I think you would like this. It isn't really set in the future...more like an entirely different world that reminded me of ancient Greece or Rome. I hope you give it a chance!

  2. I'm so happy you enjoyed this book! It's one of my favorite reads for 2014 and I am so excited about the sequel too! :)


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