The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

April 15, 2016
The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Trilogy, Marie Rutkoski, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Bloomsbury Childrens (April 10, 2014)
Format Read: Kindle Edition (369 pages)
Genre: Fantasy/ Young Adult/ Romance
Series: Book One of The Winner's Trilogy
Source: Purchased
The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)
As a general's daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. Kestrel has other ideas.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in Arin, a young slave up for auction. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him - and for a sensational price that sets the society gossips talking. 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 him is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The first novel in a stunning new trilogy, The Winner's Curse is a story of romance, rumours and rebellion, where dirty secrets and careless alliances can be deadly – and everything is at stake.


I don't understand how everyone loves this book and this series. This book is about romance. While I usually don't read romance, I am not usually put off by it. The world building and fantasy elements that I was expecting, was not there. The Valorian and Herrani's conflict with each other, how it came into existence and why it's so deep seated is never fully explained for the reader. The character development moves slowly, and then the action happens in bursts that helped me finish reading, but didn't make me forget the lulls. The writing itself was not bad, but the story had it's problems.
There was also the issue of slavery, which was handled badly by the protagonist Kestrel. Kestrel is uncomfortable with slavery because her nursemaid Enai formed a great bond with her. But she begins the book by buying a slave, Arin. Throughout the book she observes the cruel treatment of slaves , but never once feels that she can or should do anything to change it. She deals with her conflicted feelings by taking an interest and spending time with her slave Arin. She treats him as a peer in private, but still as only a slave to the public. When you portray a fictional account of slavery it should be a thoughtful part of the novel, this trivialized it. I will never be comfortable with people buying other people.
"The Winner's Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep prize." 
Arin who has watched the Valorian's conquer and enslave his people, puts those feelings aside because of his interest in Kestrel. I never got past the choice that Arin makes, and so while reading about their relationship I couldn't get on board with their feelings. The last third of the book is much better than the rest, and sets up a interesting sequel. However I have had my fill of Kestrel and Arin, so won't be continuing with the series. I would recommend this to fans of young adult and romance. However I could not get over how the author dealt with the issue of slavery, which is still a ugly feature of our world today.

If you read this, let me know if you had a different takeaway in the comments below.


Marie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Society and the children's fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders, The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Her next project is a YA trilogy that begins with The Winner's Curse, which is scheduled to be published in March 2014.

Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Harvard University. Marie is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children's literature and fiction writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. 

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