Review: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy, #1) - Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: July 3rd 2014 (UK/Aus), March 4th 2014
Published By: Bloomsbury Childrens Books (UK/Aus), Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US)
Pages: 368
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Purchase: Click here to purchase

Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis: 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.

Review: Okay, so I know you have heard a lot about this book, I certainly did. And generally a book that has lots of raving reviews makes me nervous - it results in high expectations, and high expectations are often not met. But, The Winner’s Curse does not disappoint!!!

In an empire built on the war, destruction and slavery, Kestrel lives the privileged life of a General’s daughter. However, her life is not without restraints, she has to choose a life in the military or get married. She no plan to do either, in fact she is quite happy with just living her life for now. But her life is changed forever when in an auction house she comes across a slave who has nothing but defiance in his eyes, and a suggestion of musical talent. Did Kestrel just find herself with the winner’s curse?

This is one amazing book. I just loved the world which is filled with history, strategy, mystery, political agendas and society rules. The writing in The Winner’s Curse is beautiful. Concise, engaging, suspenseful and wonderfully done. The writing is descriptive without lengthy explanations, poignant without being “flowery”.

The characters are rich. In a world filled with oppression and rules, I found that the characters all bring their own unique power to the story. Kestrel is smart, strategic, and kind. She knows her strengths and weaknesses, she has a sassy side, and she will not allow people intimidate her. She is bold, she is brave and she stands up for those she loves. Arin is intelligent, calculating, determined and he is deceptive. He is complex and he is a fighter. He is resilient and he is motivated. The Winner’s Curse is told in third person, mainly focusing on Kestrel, but you do get glimpses of Arin’s point of view, and I found this really helped in understanding Arin a little more. Kestrel and Arin live in very different worlds with very different sufferings, but both have their own restraints and suffering. Neither have control over their own lives, and have their own heartaches. And as these two amazing characters embed themselves in each other’s lives, they may just find that the price of gambling can be much higher than they ever expected - hearts can be broken and lives can be lost.

And guess what, there is no insta-love! Kestrel and Arin took a while to warm up to each other, and I really enjoyed watching their relationship go from distrust and distain to something far more than either of them expected. They were both in a rather unique situation, and although they both initially (and instinctively) don’t trust each other to begin with, they are both curious about each other. It is also an unsual beginging, with Kestrel insisting that Arin be honest with her - something that is not expected, nor allowed, of a slave. From this grows a steady but subtle bond, and as they get to know each other, we get to know them as well. We get to embark on this slowly and beautifully built relationship, and fall in love just as slowly as they do.

This book will bring ALL THE FEELS! Your heart will ache for Kestrel and Arin. You will swoon over those brief, but tender moments between them. But it is amazing how much romance that wasn’t in this book. This story was filled with yearning, desire and emotion - and beautifully so, but there was not a lot of actual romance. But, that was the most beautiful thing about it. Kestrel and Arin know that a Valoriann and a Herrani could never be, and they even try to deny that they want it to be possible. This forbidden romance is filled with heartache, denial and desire, and it was slowly but masterfully written.

As Kestrel and Arin become closer, the plot builds and layers are exposed. The book ends on an unexpended twist that is an amazing gateway into the next instalment in this series. Deceit, lies, betrayal, slavery, high-society, strategy, secrets and forbidden love - The Winner’s Curse has it all! There is little wonder as to why there is so much hype around this remarkable book - you will not be disappointed!



“Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”

“It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not”

“Nothing in dreams can hurt you”

“You might not think of me as your friend,’… ‘but I think of you as mine”

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous”

“Cold without, color within. This was how it had been”

“Your promises are worth nothing”


What do you think?

  • YEAH! so happy you loved it!! It sometimes is difficult to read a book everyone raves about and I’m always scared I end up not loving it.

    • Kristy says:

      There is nothing worse than when a book leaves you disappointed, especially when you are really looking forward to it. That is the downside of hype I guess… but this one did not disappoint!

  • Pavan says:

    What a fabulous review! I felt the same way throughout the book-MY FEELS WERE ALL OVER THE PLACE! I absolutely cannot wait for the next book :)

  • The “you may not think of me as your friend” quote KILLS me. So many feels! I completely agree with what you said about the writing style; I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it is really elegant and descriptive without being purple prose-y or going on for paragraphs.

    • Kristy says:

      It is a killer quote. There were a few quotes that bring all the feels (some too spoilery). I only really mentioned the writing style, as I am one that likes more detailed and descriptive writing (not purple prose-y, think Laini), but I found this book managed to leave me wanting more, without me feeling it needed more… it gave me just enough :)

  • YES YES YES. I finished this one recently and I absolutely loved it as well. I completely agree with everything you said. :D Lovely review Kristy!

  • […] spoilers for previous books in the series. To read my reviews on those books, you can find them here and […]

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