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

Title: The Winner's Curse
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Pages: 368
Source: ALA Midwinter

Summary from Goodreads:
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 when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price'"

What I Liked


"'A kestrel is a hunting hawk.'
'Yes. The perfect name for a warrior girl.'"
Kestrel was awe-inspiring. She was strong-willed, passionate, keen. She was a survivor. The perfect protagonist.


"'You are the god of lies'"
Arin was trouble. He was unforgiving, unsympathetic, deceptive. He was out for revenge. The perfect antagonist.

Kestrel and Arin

"'You might not think of me as your friend,' Kestrel told Arin,
'but I think of you as mine.'"
What an interesting and intense dynamic. They used one another, betrayed one another, protected one another, loved one another. I loved the slow build of their affection for each other. How they resisted it and failed. How it simmered between them. How it was forbidden. How it tore them apart. They were the perfect pair.

The story

"'Do you think I care how you won?'
'You won. Your methods don't matter.'"
What a beautiful, tragic, engrossing story. This one is filled with emotion of all sorts and had everything I could ask for. I loved the fight for freedom. The strategizing. The undermining. I loved the stories of those who were playing the game, and those who were caught in the middle. I loved how I sympathized with both sides. It was unputdownable and nerve-wracking. It was defiant, unexpected and hopeful. I've never read anything like it. I loved it to pieces.

The writing

He knew the law of such things:
people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark"
This book was magnificently crafted. The words and sentences just flowed together and pulled you under. Everything was that much more impactful. It was so easy to fall in love with this story.

The pace

"'Plot away, Kestrel.'"
This is not a book that makes you wait until the end for the good stuff. The good stuff is constant throughout. The plot is solid and unwavering. I was apprehensive from the beginning, but straight anxious from page 64 onward. And shit hits the fan on page 210.  This book had my undivided attention every step of the way.

Bottom Line

Trust me (and so many others), you need to read this book. Treat yourself. It lives up to its hype in every way and it is the start of something wonderful. I loved every second of it and I am confident other readers will too.
"Happiness depends on being free, 
and freedom depends on being courageous"
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