The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski | Book ReviewThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Also in this series: The Winner's Crime, The Winner's Kiss
Also by this author: The Winner's Crime, The Winner's Kiss, The Map from Here to There
Published by Macmillan on 2014-04-10
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

Kestrel lives the lavish lifestyle of a Valorian General s only daughter, and such riches come at a cost for Valoria s captives and for her. As the Herrani face death or slavery, Kestrel s destiny is shaped by her father. He gives her two choices: join his army or get married. Desperate to realise her own future and knowing that it will invite scandal, she pays a small fortune for a handsome Herrani blacksmith at a slave auction. Arin not only plays Kestrel s power games, he understands what she needs and soon she is torn between loyalty to her people and her feelings for him. But Arin is not all he seems and Kestrel will learn 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.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski was a whirlwind read for me. I had no idea what to expect except that I had placed it on my pile of 40 books to read by BEA and pretty much every single person I know was all like YOU NEED TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW. And I was like, oh but it’s been on my pile forever, what if the hype isn’t true. Then I was like, hey brain, shut up, everyone likes this book. And then I picked it up and 100 pages later realized, hey, it’s like bed time for me, but oh man just going to brush my teeth and read one more chapter and THEN one more chapter and oh man, who cares if I look whacked out at work the next day from reading this all night. Or at least, that would be the plan if Tony wasn’t quite so strict on sleeping. Truthfully, I read this book in what felt like the blink of an eye. Friends, I have not had this totally absorbed feeling with a book in a very long time. And to think, this feeling lasted through the book I read after The Winner’s Curse, but that is neither here nor there. Instead, I am here today to tell you why you need to read The Winner’s Curse too and why we need to fangirl over it together.

Kestrel is the daughter of the general who essentially conquered the Herrani for the Valorian empire. Her dad is very, very powerful. The Herrani have been enslaved by the Valorians. When Kestrel is walking about with her friend Jess, she passes a slave auction where she ends up bidding on and buying a slave named Arin because he allegedly sings very well and she has great love for music. Also, Arin has blacksmith skills. Unfortunately, Kestrel may have overspent on Arin and has fallen prey to what is known as the Winner’s Curse which basically means that you win an auction by paying more than what anyone else would value the product at. It’s interesting to apply this concept to the book. Anyways. Kestrel is busy trying to impress her father and trying to avoid making the choice of marriage or becoming a warrior. Meanwhile, Arin is kind of a thorn in her side. He’s not the sort who is meek and humble and ends up causing some drama. Okay, now I want to take a break from how I normally write reviews so that I can fan girl more easily.

Reasons I Am In Love With The Winner’s Curse:

  • Kestrel – Listen up, this girl, you all are going to be like yes, she is brilliant and awesome and please stop making her choose mr. general dad. She’s got such a tactical mind and oh man, I love that. I love that she has to fight her feelings for a certain character. And she is self-sacrificing. And ugh, she’s the type of character that I totally could not stop reading about.
  • Arin – Hello swoons my old friend. But no seriously, he’s all let’s start a revolt and it’s kind of inspiring to see him as a leader. Also, he has an interesting past and you can’t help but feel for his character. He also does not hold back from telling Kestrel what he feels which is basically that it’s jacked up that his people are slaves to such barbarians as the Valorians.
  • World building – The society and sociology of this book are rendered perfectly. It’s really like the Romans versus the Greeks. The Valorians are totally Romans and they have an empire that is almost too large for them to control. They are way more into militarism and fighting than they are culture. The Herrani are the Greeks in that they are into art and music and stories. They actually have gods unlike the Valorians. They are quite clever too. Oh and at first they are not at all like the Spartans. JUST WAIT THOUGH. Because there’s totally a 300 moment in this book.
  • Romance – LET US BE REAL FOR A MOMENT. This is the reason I am head over heels for this book. There are pretty much all of my favorite romance tropes here. First off, slow burning yes m’am. It takes Kestrel and Arin a long time to realize that they were kind of made for each other. You see, they have the love-hate thing going on at first. They kind of antagonize each other and like perceive each other as really different even though they have a lot in common. And then, they do fall for each other and it’s a love against all odds because society does not at all approve of a slave and master falling in love. AND THEN THERE IS THE TURNING POINT and there is much sad and sacrifice and omg. JUST OMG. That is how I can describe this, by becoming a gibberish spouting mess.
  • Friends – Kestrel has two close friends, Jess and Ronan who are siblings. Jess is kind of air-headed, but she’s also a solid and good friend and willing to stand by Kestrel’s side when she disobeys society’s rules. Ronan is sort of a love interest for Kestrel in that he is pursuing Kestrel but she’s not interested even though they would be a good match because you know, reasons. Also, Ronan talks to Kestrel through flirtation and it’s kind of funny and awkward to read.
  • Revolution – I will forever and always LOVE when the oppressed rise up against tyranny and overthrow the yoke of their oppressors. ALWAYS. But in the case of The Winner’s Curse I wasn’t sure who I wanted to win, because slavery is whacked, but I loved Kestrel and her dad and Jess and Ronan. But then I was like, I feel bad for the Herrani and they should not be subjugated by the Valorians. But yo, this revolution is totally bloody and awesome and brilliantly maneuvered.
  • Writing – This book has no boring or dull moments. I thought it would feel slow at certain points, but it never did. I was never like, goodness when do we get to the good? Instead it was like I was panting to read this when I had to do other things instead. This is the kind of book that absorbs you heart and soul and that’s due to the perfect blend of writing and characterization and world building. Basically this is another favorite of 2014.

Who Needs To Read This Book:

  • Fantasy fans
  • People who have taste that is shockingly similar to mine
  • People who want to try fantasy but have no clue where to start
  • Revolution lovers
  • Romance fans
  • Girls who like reading about strong girls
  • Boys who like reading about strong girls
  • People who are down for well imagined societies
The following two tabs change content below.
April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. So. Fabulous. It’s rare a book lives up to its hype but this one DID. *Muppet flail*

  2. I wasn’t planning on reading this, but you just sold me on it. Now I can’t wait to get it!

  3. YES!!! I AM SO SO SO HAPPY YOU LOVED THIS BOOK!! I am so on board with everything you said! The turning point–OMG and the slow burn romance is just epic and beauitful. I love revolution stories, too and this one was just …wow. Brutal and sad and just all the feels. And I think this book as one of the best last lines EVER. THIS and The Sea of Tranquility. Boom. Love your review!

  4. Great review, your post portrays the book very well and shows a good insight for the reader.

  5. Awwww, I’m totally surprised you had not already read this, but you are probably sick of hearing that. Anyway, TOTAL APRIL BOOK. I feel remiss in not having been like “um April no worries”.

    Hmm, the only thing this book did not give me is the swoons, but I’m glad that it worked for you. I’m pretty sad about that, but I’m hoping book two brings even more pain and swooniness.

  6. I love pretty much everything you mentioned in your review! I bought this book on release day and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since… I have to say the hype scared me a bit at first because like you said eeeverybody loves this book, but I think it’s time! Your review pushed me over the edge (in a good way!).

  7. Great review


  1. […] reviews: Fantasy Cafe Good Books and Good Wine Ivy Book Bindings Shae Has Left the Room The Bookish […]