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.
Title: The Winner’s Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Rating: 5 stars
I’ve had The Winner’s Trilogy on my shelf for some time and I will be the first to admit that they were initially cover buys. I mean look at these covers they’re gorgeous. But even though these covers are beautiful, I didn’t actually expect to enjoy The Winner’s Curse as much as I did. Yes, I did what our parents told us never to do, I judged a book by its cover. However, after much insistence from bookish friends and my desperate need to get out of the reading slump that has lasted since reading A Court of Wings and Ruin in May – it’s been that long guys – I found myself picking up The Winner’s Curse hoping that by some miracle it would drag my lazy ass out of the horrid slump. It was probably the best decision I could have made for myself. I devoured The Winner’s Curse and by the time I was done I felt like the old Dee was back. Now I want to read everything. It has even inspired me to get my shit together and blog more often. So if you have not yet, these are the reasons you need to get your hands on The Winner’s Curse like yesterday.Kestrel has earned herself a pretty comfortable spot as one of my favourite female characters ever; right next to Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and for a very different reason as to why. You see, Kestrel isn’t your typical sword wielding, kick-ass assassin heroine. Her strength is not combat, despite being the only child of the General who has lead Valoria’s armies and basically paved the road for the Empire to conquer the world. In fact, Kestrel refuses to join the military even though it is the only wish her father has for her. Instead, Kestrel’s strength lies in her ability to approach a situation, break it down and find the most rational solution. Yes, fellow MBTI obsessed peeps, Kestrel is a bloody INTJ and sweet baby cheeses, this is music to my soul. I have noticed in that in literature INTJ’s are normally painted in a negative light. They’re usual the villains or, like Nesta in A Court of Thorns and Roses, they’re portrayed as extremely unlikable. Rutkoski’s portrayal of an INTJ female feels authentic. Kestrel is smart, quick thinking and a level headed introvert, who internalises emotion and favours rationality above all else. But she is also a dreamer who has this idealistic view on what the world should be like and is continuously trying to fix things. I think the biggest difference between Kestrel and Nesta is the way the reader gets to know them. We get to see the way in which Kestrel’s mind works, whereas with Nesta, we only ever see her through Feyre’s eyes, so all we get to see is Nesta’s ‘armour’, the mask she wears for everyone else to see. (Apologies to anyone who has not read ACOTAR. This should be reason enough for you to go and pick it up as soon as you finish reading this review. Also, apologies to if you’re not familiar with MBTI. You can do the test over here.) With Kestrel we get to see the gears turn and we realise that there is so much more to her then the hardened shell she chooses to show everyone else, which is why I think it feel more authentic. It is really refreshing to see a strong female character who can kick ass while wearing a corset and not having to engage in combat too often.
The Winner’s Curse is set Roman/Ottoman inspired fantasy world, however, there is no magic. I personally thought that this might be a deal breaker for me but I found that I didn’t even notice that it was missing. Rutkoski’s world building is vivid and she writes political intrigue so well. The narrative is driven by strategy as Kestrel becomes entangled unwillingly into a rebellion that was never hers in the first place. The way she navigates through it keeps you at the edge of your seat.Essentially the plot centres on a romance between Kestrel and a slave named Arin. Yet, even while the romance is an integral plot point I found that it felt secondary to the political narrative. I definitely ship Kestrel and Arin but I love the fact that their relationship is a slow burning romance rather than insta-love. Ain’t nobody got time for insta-love.
Overall, it was a solid 5 star read, and I say this with confidence. It’s been a couple of days since I finished it and after thinking about it at length I can’t find any reason to not rate it 5 stars. If you loved A Court of Thorns and Roses, Throne of Glass or even An Ember in the Ashes then The Winner’s Curse will definitely be worth the read.