The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) – Marie Rutkoski


The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)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.


Hopefully I don’t jinx myself, but I’ve honestly had the best luck with books lately. And I’m so happy to say that The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski was no exception!

This book was pretty hyped up on Goodreads and I was concerned going into it that it wasn’t going to measure up. But I was so wrong! The Winner’s Curse is absolutely phenomenal…a gorgeous blend of lyrical writing, well-fleshed out characters, a detailed fantasy world, and the most beautiful romance.

I’m not even sure that I could pick a favorite aspect, honestly. One thing that I particularly enjoyed though was the world building. Sometimes in fantasy novels I have trouble navigating through the unfamiliar terms and complex societal structures, but this was definitely not the case with this book. Everything is pretty clear from the beginning and Ms. Rutkoski does a great job of easing the reader gently into the world. It’s more historical fantasy than anything, which will appeal to readers who struggle with high fantasy and magical elements. The structure of the society was very much similar to that of ancient Greece and Rome, with the more barbaric Romans (aka the Valorians, in this book) conquering the more culturally refined Greeks (the Herrani).  It was really fascinating and utterly captivating at times…I loved living in it along with the characters!

And as for the characters…oh, I have so much love! The main heroine, Kestrel, is really truly wonderful. As the daughter of the highest-ranking Valorian general, she’s expected to be strong, ruthless, and kickass. And she definitely is…just not necessarily physically. She’s a brilliant strategist, and I loved watching her best the arrogant men in this novel again and again. She’s also sympathetic, sweet, and a genuinely good person. Gahhh, I loved her!

The main love interest, Arin, is just as great. As a Herrani slave to the Valorians, he’s so angry and so bitter, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to read about his story. He’s just as smart as Kestrel, and the two of them prove to be quite the match. Their slow-growing attraction is forbidden, of course, but that just makes it all the more delicious!

The only thing some people might dislike is that it’s told from split perspectives (Kestrel and Arin). However, I didn’t mind…in fact, I thought it added a lot to the understanding of the characters and the story, and I really loved being in both of their heads. 

All in all, this book is definitely worth it. Although the plot doesn’t pick up until about halfway through, there’s enough character development and interesting world-building to hold your interest. And then once it does pick up…oh boy, hold on! It’s a wild ride. On top of that, Ms. Rutkoski’s writing is so poetic and lyrical. It practically sweeps you along from page to page.

The Winner’s Curse is a must-read! Go pick up your copy ASAP!

Pages: 355

Publication Date: March 4, 2014

Publisher: Farrar Strous Giroux

Rating: ★★★★★