Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner’s Curse

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Romance

Published:  March 4th 2014
Queen of Shadows Cover

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.

My Review

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

The Winner’s Curse is the first in the Winner’s Trilogyby Marie Rutkoski. It is essentially a historical romance/fantasy. The story begins with Kestrel Trajan, daughter of a high ranking Valorian general, purchasing a Herrani slave at a price that sets people talking. Slowly, love blooms between the two, a forbidden love that bears harsh consequences for Kestrel. Her world is turned upside down again, when Arin is revealed to be a integral part of a long time coming Herrani rebellion, to overthrow their Valorian conquerors. Now Kestrel is torn, having to make a choice between loyalty and love.

I found Kestrel to be an interesting and different character. This was because Kestrel couldn’t just be slotted into a single category. She is a high-society Valorian, but isn’t a shallow airhead. Neither is she a raging Amazon warrior, but rather relies on her quick mind to get her out a sticky situations. (Not that I don’t love a bad-ass, sword-swinging female lead. Celaena Sardothien, anyone?) Lastly, the seventeen year old girl could still be seen in the way she still desired to make her father, her only parent, proud.

Arin. The Herrani slave. While I enjoyed his and Kestrel’s romance, and it was indeed, as many others have described, a ‘slow burn’, my problem with Arin was that he didn’t act like slave. Slavery is terrible, yes, but slaves are expected to behave a certain way. Arin, however, didn’t. Instead, he said and did what he pleased. Which was a little dumb, considering that he’d been especially placed there to further the rebellion. If his homeland’s freedom meant so much to him, surely he could bear a few taunts?

Jess and Ronan struck me as slightly clichéd characters. Jess was the air-headed best friend who sole interest lies in high-society gossip. Ronan was the guy that is seemingly perfect in every way possible for the girl, yet she keeps rejecting him again and again. Although, I am curious as to the fate of Ronan, and his reaction to Kestrel’s choices.

The first half of the book is slow. It dragged and was an effort for me to read. However, the second is picked up greatly and had me hooked. Kestrel and Arin’s love struggling to survive, Kestrel’s indecision and Herrani’s revenge for their years of suffering had me turning page after page. The ending, especially, came with a twist that left me gasping and desperate for more.

My favourite scene in the book was of the duel between Kestrel and Irex, her long time enemy. The whole scene was written really well, and the emotions just rolled off the page. It was suspenseful and exciting and showed exactly the way Kestrel used her intellect to turn the tides in her favour. The concept of the winner’s curse was seamlessly woven into the story, in both Kestrel’s personal choices as well as choices of Valoria as a nation.

My Rating:


Here’s the book trailer for The Winner’s Curse!


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