Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”
I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to fantasy. My problems usually lie when it comes to the world-building. I love world-building but sometimes it can be a little too complex (Snow Like Ashes, anyone?) and it feels like a chore to have to remember strange names, lands and customs. But as often as I hesitate to step into the fantasy genre I always manage to come back and The Winner’s Curse reminds me exactly why I do. Told in duel POV, The Winner’s Curse is a story with forbidden love set amidst politics, social classes and war.
“Kestrel’s cruel calculation appalled her. This was part of what had made her resist the military: the fact that she could make decisions like this, that she did have a mind for strategy, that people could be so easily become pieces in a game she was determined to win…”
Kestrel is a Valorian. Arin is Herrani. Kestrel is of high society. Arin is Kestrel’s slave. The balance between their races and roles in society make it almost impossible for there to be any chance of a friendship or relationship between them, let alone one not filled without contempt and distrust, to have an honest shot of happening. But as you learn more about Kestrel and Arin you see these two finding these common threads that link them together. The romance is almost a bystander to the real story and conflict going on but when it happens it’s one of those romances that hurts your heart. I was so caught up with what a badass heroine Kestrel is, and how Arin is so much more tender than he sometimes lets on, that when the stars aligned and their uneasy friendship turned to something more, I felt wrecked.
“You might not think of me as your friend,’ Kestrel told Arin, ‘but I think of you as mine.”
But as much as the slow-build romance had me hooked, I have to say that the characters were what made The Winner’s Curse such a fascinating story. Kestrel was such a bad ass. She is so cunning and smart, always thinking with strategy. Arin was just as compelling with his loyalty to his people and his fight for freedom. The dynamic of their relationship and how they interact with one another is just really enjoying as a reader to witness. I read The Winner’s Curse in one night and have sat on my review for a week just trying to come up with right words to describe why I liked it so much. As a fan of slow-burn romance, characters that are really well written and full of depth, and a story that constantly keeps you on your toes, The Winner’s Curse was right up my alley. I am SO excited for The Winner’s Crime!