The Winner’s Curse

The Winner’s Curse

The Winner's Curse

by Marie Rutkoski

Series: "The Winner's Trilogy" #1
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Romance
Published: March 4th, 2014
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux




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.


Almost reading a bit more like a historical fiction novel with a hint of fantasy elements than a straightforward fantasy novel, The Winner’s Curse is a fine addition to the YA fantasy genre; and excels where some novels – Shadow and Bone and Throne of Glass respectively – have – in my opinion – failed.

Even though the excessive amount of hype it has been receiving has certainly made me a bit cautious, The Winner’s Curse definitely delivered and even possibly surpassed the hype in my opinion.

Set in a world where the Herran have been conquered by the Valorian and subjected to slavery, our story follows 17-year-old Kestrel – the daughter of the famous and prestigious General Trajan. Kestrel isn’t too optimistic about her future, which basically involves her choosing between becoming a soldier in the military or marrying – two things that Kestrel despises.

But when you are faced with only two choices— the military or marriage—don’t you wonder if there is a third, or a fourth, or more, even, than that?

But one day Kestrel and her best friend go to a slave auction, where, without thinking of the consequences, Kestrel buys a slave. Independent and observant, Kestrel’s new slave Arin intrigues her, and soon she finds herself going out of her way to be with him. But with such different backgrounds, is a future together even a possibility?

Kestrel is a brilliant character, and my emotional connection to her was something that I felt really propelled the story. Kestrel might not have an aptitude for fighting, but she is a strategist through and through. Every move she makes, every word she says, is calculated and well thought-out – and it’s fascinating watching her plot and scheme to get what she wants.

The romance between Kestrel and Arin was beautifully done. It wasn’t instalove, and it didn’t dominate the plot. It was scarce and far between, but when there were romantic scenes between them, they stole my heart.

Marie Rutkoski’s writing is beautiful and really takes the story to the next level. Her eloquence is wonderful, and the musical, lyrical descriptions she writes of everything were just lovely. If you’re a fan of Jodi Lynn Anderson’s writing, Marie Rutkoski has a very similar style.

All in all, I highly recommend this. It’s a lovely, lyrical novel and if you’re a fan of YA fantasy or historical fiction-like novels, you won’t regret picking up The Winner’s Curse. Especially if you’ve been wary of reading it on account of the excessive hype it’s been receiving, I’d say go for it. As for me, I’m without a doubt going to continue the series.

With such a heart-breaking ending, how could I not?


60 thoughts on “The Winner’s Curse

  1. I just bought this book :DDDDDD Can’t wait to start this!! I was gonna wait for a bit till I’m more free-ish, so I can read it in one setting. But I’m so tempted by all these awesome reviews 😛 The romance definitely sounds like the highlight of the book and if you say Marie Rutkoski has a writing style similar to Anderson’s, I’m SOLD! Lovely review Zoe 🙂

    1. Yeah! 😀 Glad it sounds like something up your alley Angel! 😀

      The romance is absolutely pheonominal! And Marie Rutkoski has an absolutely beautiful prose! It’s not quite as beautiful as Jodi Lynn’s, but it’s pretty darn close, so that’s saying something!

      Thanks Angel! <3

  2. I WANT THIS SO BADLY!!!!!! *grabby hands* And your review just makes me want this even more. I think it’s been picked up by Bloomsbury Australia so I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it’s finally out.

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this novel. Kestrel sounds like such an amazing character. Oh man, it’s such a relief to hear you say that the romance is WELL developed. And that you wanted more?! Wonderful sign! I want to know what all the hype is and I want to read Marie’s amazing writing. Come on Australia, pick up the pace! 😛

    Wonderful review as usual Zoe. Loved the gifs! xx

    1. It’s definitely an amazing novel – and the hype has been outrageous! Kestrel is definitely an amazing protagonist! Haha…you know the romance is good when I say that, eh? 😉 (I never honestly thought I’d ever say that for the life of me…but I guess I was wrong, eh?!)

      Come on Australia…let’s get it going! Haha…just kidding… but really though… 😉

      Thank you Joy! <3

  3. Yay, I’m happy to hear you really liked this one and the hyped lived up to it. I do want to read this. It’s not what I’d normally grab on my own, but I’m very curious now.

    1. Thanks Lauren!
      It’s always great when something you wouldn’t normally read ends up intriguing you, right?

  4. OMG YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RELIEVED I AM THAT YOU LIKED IT!!!! I’m super worried about this one because a) I’m dying for it, and b) the hype was quite incredible. Soooo…I don’t want to be disappointed. But my heart is resting easy now. x) I’m getting my sticky paws on this ASAP.

    1. Haha! 😀 The hype for this one has been CRAZY, hasn’t it? I have a feeling you’d like this one. I was reading it, and I thought to myself, “Oh, Cait would LOVE this writing“! It just seems so…you!

    1. Haha…thank you Kimi! 😀 I wasn’t expecting that the music element would have been as important as it was, but it was a definitely good surprise! Like, it wasn’t mentioned on every single page, but there was a lot of symbolism to music and a lot of musical metaphors.

      Thank you! <3

    1. Aw…thank you Jeann! <3
      Kestrel is definitely an awesome protagonist - it was great to get a break from the stereotypical Mary Sue / selfish protagonists that have been getting more and more common lately.
      Thank you for the lovely comment! Let me know if you end up getting a copy!

  5. Oooh, this sounds SO GOOD! I was already thinking I should be reading this soon, but you’ve convinced me to definitely bump it up on my TBR list! I loved both Shadow and Bone and Throne of Glass, so if you say this worked BETTER, I’m DEFINITELY reading it!

    1. It is SO GOOD! Haha! Glad it sounds like something you’d like!
      If you loved both Shadow and Bone and Throne of Glass, I have a feeling you’d love this one! 😀

  6. Right to the heart! I hope you have reviews of ToG and Shadow and Bone somewhere, so I can see why you didn’t like them at least 😉 I will look . . .

    And I pretty much agree with everything you said–I greatly appreciated Kestrel’s strategic mind and determination, and Arin was such an excellent silent, broody type. This was also the first of the sudden onslaught of music-focused YA fantasies, so it gets points for originality that I’m more hesitant to give to the followers, and overall Rutkoski’s writing is lovely. That ending though . . . cliffhanger’s are NOT my favorite, and this one was straight-up brutal. That pit in my stomach has resurfaced just thinking about it.

    Lovely review, Zoe! Now we can suffer the wait for book 2 together 😉

    1. I didn’t necessarily dislike them, but they weren’t the 5 star reads everybody claimed they would be (at least in my opinion), you know? If you’re still interested, here’s my review for Shadow and Bone and my review for Throne of Glass. 😀

      Yeah! Glad you agree! They were such great characters, right? And yes…I LOVED how music was incorporated!

      But that ending…gah! Straight-up brutal is exactly right!

      Thank you Jessica! We will all suffer together, yes?

  7. I really struggled with this one, with the romance and everything but I am glad that you liked it 🙂
    The elements of the plot reminded me a bit of the elements in Landry Park and one other book I read this year so It was like blah.

    1. Aww…sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did Lily! I read your review and I can definitely see where you’re coming from!

      Hmm…I didn’t really see the resemblance to Landry Park while I was reading, but I guess I can see how you might find the two similar. It’s always annoying when books are unoriginal, right? (Although I personally felt this one was pretty original!)

    1. Thank you Kimba!
      Aww…sorry you’re not really clicking with the audio version! I’ll be on the lookout for your review though!

  8. I love. Love. Love this book. And I absolutely agree, the romance left me hanging, but maybe that’s the author’s grand plan all along? To leave us wanting for more? If that’s the case, then..well played, Rutkoski. Well played.

  9. Great review! I LOVED this book. I was cautious at first too, but just like you said, it not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded it! Kestrel is seriously one of my favorite protagonists ever. She had such a good head on her shoulders. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for us in book two!!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one as well! The hype was definitely scary, but I’m glad The Winner’s Curse exceeded it for both of us! And yes…Kestrel is SUCH a great protagonist!

      Me too! It’s going to be such torture waiting for so long!

  10. Oh I”m glad you had a good time with this one, I really loved it. Krestel is si interesting as a character and I loved to see what she was going to do.

    1. Yeah! I’m so glad you enjoyed it as well Melliane! I agree…I loved Kestrel as well! She was such an awesome protagonist!

  11. Thanks to the excessive hype I’ve read a few reviews lately where people have felt disappointing so I’m glad that the hype didn’t bother you. Being cautious is not a bad thing at all 🙂 I wasn’t aware that music was such a huge part of the story, but yes yes yes to this! Love music and theatre so I hope I’ll enjoy this element just as much as you 🙂 Whoop! Yay for awesome characters:) Can’t wait to meet KEstrel and Arin. And thank goodness for slow-burn. That’s already made of win in my book. I hope you enjoy the sequel just as much. Great review, Zoe 🙂

    1. Yeah, it’s a shame when you’re expecting something and then you end up getting something else! I agree…it’s never a bad thing to be cautious!

      Yeah! Another music / theater fan! 😀

      And yes! Awesome characters + slow brun = awesomeness, right? 😀

      Thank you Siiri! <3

  12. What a gorgeous review! I absolutely loved this book, and I’m so glad to see it worked for you too. I know hype can sometimes be a negative thing, as it can lead to too high expectations that never get met, but I’m really pleased it delivered for you in this instance. Kestrel was one of my favourite things about the book, along with the writing – I agree, it’s really beautiful. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this world. Thanks for sharing, Zoe! 🙂

    1. Awww….thank you Sam! <3 I'm SO glad you loved this one as well! This is definitely one of those rare books where the hype actually worked! 😉

      Kestrel was definitely an amazing protagonist, and the writing was THE BEST! (Kind of reminds me of Jodi Lynn Anderson's writing in a way!) Me too! The wait for Book 2 is going to be torturous!

      Thank you for the lovely comment Sam! <3

    1. Thanks Michelle! It’s always a great feeling when you enjoy a book, right!

      Aww…no problem! Anytime! 😀

      Thank you for the lovely comment! <3

  13. What a wonderful review, it sure sounds like a book I would enjoy. You really seem to see the author as a wonderful writer and a great story to be told. Thanks Zoe for all the information given to me through your excellent review.

  14. Surpassed the huge amount of hype? Sign me up right now. I purchased a copy of this because because I was hoping I would like it but now I’m really glad I own it-I want to go and read it right now! Gah, I love the sound of the characters!! When you have good characters like that and they get into a romance, my life is pretty much complete xD Awesome review 😀

    1. Haha! 😀
      Let me know when you get a chance to read it and what you think! 😀
      Yes! The characters were definitely the highlight of the story! And that romance? *swoons*
      Thank you Alise!

  15. In all honesty I only skimmed your review since i’m about sixty or so pages from the end of this book myself and I just don’t want any indication on how it’s all going to end. I love how beauitful the writing is and I totally get what you mean by just shipping Arin and Kestel SO DAMN HARD! Oh my god! I just can’t! i ended up waiting a bit before reading this one (or strating too at least) because i heard so much hype about it that I just wanted to not let it get to me too much and enjoy it!
    Great review!
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

    1. I’m glad you agree about the writing and the shipping!

      Honestly, I don’t blame you about being cautious about this one – I know I was! I’ve had so many instances where I’ve been the black sheep with a really hyped about book, and I didn’t want this to be one of those instances! Fortunately it wasn’t!

      Thank you Lily! <3

  16. I’m glad you found this a good read overall, Zoe! The Winner’s Curse as a romance was excellent; I loved the tension happening between Arin and Kestel so damn much. I felt like just telling them “JUST KISS ALREADY!” lol. World-building, I thought it was lacking. I didn’t think it was fleshed out enough, and we don’t even know the names of the cities where the Herrani and the Valorians lived, and we don’t know much about the cultures save for a few tidbits. I’m hoping it would be remedied in the next book!

    Awesome review, doll 🙂

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    1. Thanks Faye!

      It was excellent as a romance – I definitely agree with the whole “KISS ALREADY!” theme – haha!

      Hmm….I guess I can see how the world-building was a bit lacking, but, to be honest, I didn’t really pick up on that – haha! Hopefully it will be restored in the next book (it probably will since – at least in my opinion – 1st books in series never really explain the world-building).

      Thanks Faye!

  17. I SHIP THEM TOO. And it was definitely a better read than Shadow and Bone/Throne of Glass. I’m glad you thought that as well! And Arin. My dear, sweet Arin! <3 This one definitely needed more romance. Lovely review, Zoe!

    1. Yeah! *high-fives* Phew…I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that! 😉

      And Arin was SUCH an awesome character, eh?

      Haha…I agree! I never thought I’d ever say that, but it’s definitely true! 😀

      Thank you Aimee! <3

    1. They are really sweet!
      Let me know if you get a copy Mel! I hope you end up enjoying it as much as I did!
      Thank you! <3

  18. Kestrel sounds wonderful and definitely easy to like and root for! I can’t believe I still haven’t read this one after all of the hype – which was kind of scary actually as I’m often the black sheep haha. Great review! 🙂

    1. She definitely is! The hype was definitely scary – I’m often the black sheep as well – but (for me at least) it didn’t disappoint! Thank you Giselle! <3

  19. Aw, only four stars? lol, jk. <3 I'm glad you mostly enjoyed this book 😀 I loved it so much. And ahh. Yess. The romance is done so well, isn't it? I really, really loved the romance. Dying for book two 🙂 Great review. <3
    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. <3
    Love, Carina @ Carina’s Books

    1. 😉 Thanks Carina! Glad you enjoyed it as well! And ugh…the wait for book 2 is going to be HORRIBLE!

      No problem! 😀

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