Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: The Winner's Curse ~ Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse
Marie Rutkoski
Young Adult/Fantasy
The Winner's Trilogy/Book 1
Farrar Straus Giroux/March 4, 2014

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 is of the audio book, narrated by one of my all time favorite narrators, Justin Eyre.

This is a case of interest in a new release, final book in the trilogy, leading to picking up the first book in the trilogy. What a stroke of luck coming across Marie Rutkoski's brilliantly beautiful story of a girl, a guy and a need to set the world right.

The Winner's Curse took me to a world where not everyone is what they seem. Some are hiding behind their perceived short comings while others allow people to believe what they see, instead of showing what is real. For Kestrel, she believes her father can never be proud of her, that she is only a disappointment to him. For Arin, he is a slave with a past in conflict with his present. It is a past that will soon collide with the present and his feelings for Kestrel.

Kestrel is a such a complex character, for being only seventeen. She is the daughter of the general of the Valorian army. Lady Kestrel is meant to be taken care of and held above the lesser people. She is accustomed to others doing the menial tasks and for herself, trying to live up to her father's expectations but always seeming to fall short. Kestrel did not always come across as a seventeen year old young woman but resembled someone far older if not in experience than in wisdom. She has a sharp mind and uses it to her advantage to disentangle herself out of the formidable situations she finds herself in. I loved seeing how her mind worked and the results of her creative thinking. This showed how her strength would lead her down her true path. It's is not an easy path and I did questions some of her decisions, that's when I was reminded that she is a seventeen year old young woman who has lived a fairly sheltered life. It was fascinating to see her sheltered life fall away and for Kestrel's new experiences to shape who she is to become.

Arin is a character whom you know from the start is not all that he seems. He is a slave, bought at auction and taken into Kestrel's home. But you get the sense he is no ordinary slave. He is far too outspoken, too familiar to the world around him, Kestrel's world, to not have some experiences outside that of a slave. Arin, was a tough character for me to like because I fell for Kestrel so quickly. When Arin's true motives are shown, I understood what inspired his actions but the fallout was not always easy to take. Still, seeing Arin's conflict for what he must do and how the results affected him, showed a side of him which made it easier to understand and like him.

The world Rutkoski has created is multifaceted, like a jewel of the rarest stone.  From the grand mansions to the meager slave quarters, the descriptions give life to the places Kestrel and Arin take us. But the world is really a backdrop for the story of Kestrel and Arin and their fight for what they believe in. The conflict between them only heightens the difficult decisions they must make.

What makes this story such a winner is you knows something big is going to happen and while I wanted to get to what I knew was coming, I also wanted to enjoy the ride getting there. It's that feeling you have when you're exciting about a upcoming event. The days prior with the build up of excitement all leading to the culmination of the event. That's how this felt and it was wonderful!

This is a trilogy which means the ending of The Winner's Curse is not a true ending for Kestrel and Arin. Their story continues in the next book. So if you don't like cliffhanger endings, then think of The Winner's Curse as a part of the whole story and read the next book, The Winner's Crime.

Rating: A

The Winner's Trilogy ~

The Winner's Curse
The Winner's Crime
The Winner's Kiss


  1. hmm… I enjoy YA fantasy. This sounds great too (along with Sword-Dancer). Now I need to make a hard decision.

    PS: An audio book. I really enjoyed audio books last year and need to get back to them. They really save time!

    1. If you can get the audio book it's the way to go. The narrator is wonderful. I get my audio books from the library because of the cost.