Written by: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: March 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: The Winner’s Curse
“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.”
I could not wait to get my hands on this book (I mean look at that cover!) after all the hype surrounding it and It certainly did not disappoint. I was hooked immediately, i stayed up all night reading because i literally could not put it down, I honestly didn’t want this book to end. If you love fantasy, intrigue, political manoeuvring, romance, or good books in general, this one is for you.
Lady Kestrel is the only daughter of General Trajan, a famous general who made his name during the Herran War that saw the Valorians invade and occupy the Herran peninsula, enslaving the Herrani. In the Valorian Empire, everyone is expected to either enlist or marry for the betterment of the empire. Despite her talent for strategy, Kestrel is a mediocre fighter—but marriage barely appeals to her. Distraction comes in the form of Arin, a Herrani slave Kestrel buys on a whim. Arin is defiant, capable, and challenging. He is also not everything he appears to be. As Kestrel finds herself more and more attracted to Arin, she must ask herself where her loyalties truly lie.
I loved Kestrel, the main character from the beginning, she is a kick-ass heroine but not your typical kind in the YA genre. Her strengths lie in her intelligence and mind for strategy. Kestrel is constantly beating herself up. She is so pressured by her father to join the army, she battles with herself almost daily. Sometimes the biggest problem she faces is herself and what she wants. I also love that she continues to pursue her passion with music plays the piano even when it is deemed “improper” in society. Kestrel bids a large amount for Arin, not because she desires a Herrani slave but because the auctioneer proclaimed him as a good singer.
“A kestrel is a hunting hawk.”
“Yes. The perfect name for a warrior girl.”
“Well.” His smile was slight, but it was there. “I suppose neither of us is the person we were believed we would become.”
To begin with Kestrel and Arin have very little interaction but when they do, they are not friendly. Arin and Kestrel are a slow- burn romance, which I liked. They start spending more time together when Kestrel begins to take Arin as an escort and they learn more about each other through bite and sting games. They are defiant of their feelings for each other, both of whom understand the impossibility of their situation. It is a complex love that thrived on power play, both manipulation and trust. I didn’t find them swooning over each other, but I certainly felt a strange passion igniting between them, a bond that gradually grew stronger with each encounter. It took a long time for them to do anything about their feelings and this is one of many reasons that i kept turning the pages. (totally worth the wait)
Marie Rutkoski’s world building blew me away, I loved it. They are in no way technologically advanced since they rely on lanterns and horse or boat travel. The women wear gowns equipped with daggers, are allowed to fight in the army and have influence. The society lives for lavish balls, duels, high social gatherings and gossip. The Winner’s Curse is a perfect combination of genres; historical and fantasy, that feels inspired by ancient Greece and Rome, yet wholly original at the same time.
Overall, I ADORED this book and therefore give it a 5 star rating and recommend it to anyone who simply wants to read a damn good book.