Young Adult: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Young Adult: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: Winners Trilogy #1
on 3rd July 2014
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
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.

Whenever a book has a lot of hype revolving around it – I’m nervous. I spend a lot of time trying to find why everyone loved it so much that I often end up missing the bits which make it such a powerful and great book.

This wasn’t the cast with The Winner’s Curse. I was hooked from the very beginning.

Seventeen year old Kestrel knows that she has lived a privileged existence thanks to her father’s elevated position. He has led Valorian armies to victory and is a huge reason why their empire is so successful in terms of defeating and conquering. But now Kestrel is facing a choice – enlist in the military as her father has been training her to do her entire life or marry someone he deems worthy. With either choice being less than favourable, Kestrel is biding her time.

When she finds herself at a slave auction, Kestrel finds herself with the winning bid on a young blacksmith but at a high cost. She wants nothing to do with him and yet finds herself searching him out in her estate’s grounds. He’s angry and sarcastic with a chip on his shoulder and yet Kestrel finds him to be better company than the high-born Valorians she has grown up with. Nothing is black and white anymore with Kestrel questioning everything she has ever learned about her father’s victories and the Valorian way of life.

There is so much going on in The Winner’s Curse. It’s a story about strategy and timing, losing battles to win the war and the sacrifices one person makes for the greater good. I was fascinated with how the topic of right vs. wrong was approached. When it comes to war and either side have their own agendas, who is to say which side is right? This is also a story about friendships. Kestrel is loyal to those she feels deserves it and willing to stand up for them even when it comes at risk to herself. There is a slight romance going on in this book which was lovely to read and not quite what I expected. The characters are brilliant. They are all three-dimensional and their true motives are never quite clear to the readers. Kestrel is a strong independent female who I found to be different from most I’d read before. She’s a little cagier and slightly more selfish but all that added up to an incredibly realistic heroine I adored reading about. Arin – the slave boy – is similarly complex but in different ways from Kestrel. I loved reading how angry and infuriated he was by his situation. This isn’t the kind of book where a character takes one look at a pretty girl and is won over. No – he’s realistically livid at his station in life and it really works in this novel.

One of the things I liked most about this book was I didn’t quite know what to expect – which is why my review may be a little lacking in detail. I don’t want to spoil anything which happens for anyone intending on reading The Winner’s Curse. What I will say is it was a fantastic read. I didn’t want to put it down until I had finished it. The society which exists within its pages is interesting and the characters are unique yet realistic. As a first book in a trilogy – I’m eagerly awaiting the release of book 2 because The Winner’s Curse has been one of my favourite books of 2014.


Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for the review copy


  1. I have heard amazing things about this book – just like you had. I’m glad it matched the hype 🙂 I bought myself a copy but the hype is rather intimidating me. I think you may have given me some confidence though 🙂

  2. Yaaay! I read that first sentence and got worried for a second there. I absolutely loved this one as ell. The hype definitely had me worried at first but it just showed that there was no reason to be. Lovely review Kate! I can’t wait for the second one either. 😀

  3. I agree, I loved that “who’s actually the enemy here” question because both sides seemed just as bad as each other at the end. I think it was awesomely complex! My only issue with it was the inability to ship Arin and Kestrel. I loved them both…but as individuals, not together? Which is weird and I know I’m in a minority there!

  4. I have been hearing so many wonderful things about The Winner’s Curse. I can’t decide if I want to read it, though. Not because of the hype, but because I often struggle with any kind of dystopian story. And the whole slave thing is freaking me out a bit.

  5. I absolutely loved this book and am so glad you enjoyed it as well. And I agree it was not what I expected either, and I had high expectations as well.

    Great review

  6. I felt exactly the same before starting this one, the hype was unbelievable and for me that’s usually an indication of being sorely let down. I’m thrilled you loved it as much as I did. Couldn’t agree more, I was hooked from the beginning as well. It jammed so much in, but it flowed beautifully. I’m itching for book two now as well. Your fantastic review makes me want to read it again already.

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