Title: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4th, 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Source: ARC (thanks Macmillan
Genre: Fantasy | Romance
Age group: Young adult
Grade rate: A
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.
The Winner’s Curse is the first book I read by Marie Rutkiski and it will certainly not be the last. In this book I found a real gem, reminiscent, at least to me, of Maas’ Throne of Glass and Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns.
World building is really important when writing fantasy and it was expertly done in Winner’s Curse. The differences between the Herrani and the Valorian’s culture are marked, even if at their core they are more similar that they believe possible. The plot is intricate and scattered with the political unrest that only conquest can bring and also with military strategy. Rutkoski’s writing is exquisite, it’s full of imaginary, and it’s lyrical and poetic.
The characterization is remarkable. The story is told from the third point of view, from Kestrel and Arin’s perspectives. Kestrel is from the Valorian nobility and she lives in the conquered land or Herrani. All that society expects of her is to make a choice between marriage and the military career. Either option relinquishes her independence and her music, two of the things that she holds dear, and she wants to rebel against it. Kestrel tries to be fair to the person behind the titles, to grant love to who deserves it, regardless of where they came from. She is a brilliant strategist and loyal to her father (her only family) and her country, even when her heart dictates otherwise.
Arin is harder to know, at least on the first part of the book. However, he shines on the second part of the book and tries his hardest to make Kastrel happy and secure, regardless of her new circumstances. He is also brilliant and has a big responsibility over his shoulders at a very young age. I’m eager to know (given the ending) how this couple will survive what’s to come. From my end, it looks like a hopeless relationship, but I hope it turns out to be an epic love story.
The ending of The Winner’s Curse was torturous. It is a subtle cliffhanger, just enough to make me sit at the edge of my seat for the many months that will take to its sequel to be published. An outstanding book, with awesome characters and an even more amazing writing, The Winner’s Curse is a clear winner (pun intended.)
Quotes (from the ARC):
“The pointy-chinned woman snickered. “Looks like someone’s suffering the Winner’s Curse. The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”
”His eyes met hers. They were the color of the winter sea-the water far below Kestrel’s feet when she had looked down and imagined what it would be like to drown.”
“Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not. ”Thank you,” he said.
Kestrel felt herself blush. She focused on the keys and played something, anything. A simple pattern to distract herself from the fact that she wasn’t someone who easily blushed, particularly for no clear reason.”
About the cover: This is one of the most stunning covers I have ever seen. The grace of the captured movement, the delicacy of her hand holding the ‘R’, the beautiful font and colors. Gorgeous.