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

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Where did you get this book: e-ARC from publisher
Release date: Out now

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.

winnerscurseOne 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.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

I was so excited when the publicist for MacKids contacted me about reviewing The Winner’s Curse. I’d seen this book mentioned positively amongst the YA bloggers I follow, and the blurb simply screamed READ ME DAMMIT. READ ME AND ENJOY ME.

Well, The Winner’s Curse, I did read you and I enjoyed you very much. You gave me a heroine who plots and schemes like a badass, and you gave me a hero who also plotted and schemed because both Kestrel and Arin are on total opposite sides where a barrier is thrown up between them as Master and Slave. This book reminded me a little of The Empire Series by Raymond E Fiest. Kestrel is the daughter of a General, and what I adored about this book was Kestrel and how she thinks and how she behaves in a world of privilege. Her father wanted Kestrel to join the army. And if she wouldn’t join the army, she would have to marry. Kestrel wanted neither. She didn’t want marriage and nor did she want to be a fighter. Kestrel is a thinker; she plots, she devises and she’s smart and very intelligent. She also loves to play music, which is a cause of tension with her father. Kestrel is also very aware of her circumstances and how her father, her people, took a country and enslaved its people. She feels no pride in what her people have done.

But when she sees Arin in the slave auction pit, after her best friend inadvertently drags her there, she finds herself bidding for him when she sees his pride and defiance when the slave auctioneer orders him to perform in front of the bidders. Kestrel’s unusual actions of buying Arin sets off a train of events that Kestrel, despite her intelligence and quickness, never saw coming.

Her relationship with Arin is always that of a Master and Slave but a friendship builds between them. Despite Arin being the slave, at times he felt as if he was the one in total control. And without revealing spoilers, he was in control in how he schemed and manipulated events. The Winner’s Curse is not an action packed book. It’s about politics, it’s about scheming, and it’s also about revenge. Arin’s defiance is understandable and his burning anger heartbreaking. Everywhere he turns, he’s reminded of a life that was his. Yet he can’t help but like Kestrel. Kestrel loves her father, she loves her friends, and she grows to care and love Arin. But you don’t ever forget the barrier between them. But when the BIG reveal arrived, it was like OMG. And boy, do things turn around for Kestrel and Arin. The second half of the book is pretty amazeballs and the ending was a scorcher. I’m vague on the plot because I think if I reveal too much, it’ll spoil the story.

The politics in this world are amazing and I loved that Kestral could be ruthless at times, especially in the second half when she’s blindsided by betrayal and heartbroken. The secondary characters are detailed and driven, and there’s not one character that’s surplus to the plot.

If you love politics, fantastic worldbuilding, strong-willed characters and a subtle romance, then you’ll love this book.

I give The Winner’s Curse an A.

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