Friday, May 1, 2015

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

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)

Author: Marie Rutkoski

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Synopsis: 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.

Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz



I can’t even begin to describe the emotional rollercoaster a reader will endure when reading this book. I am still REELING from everything Arin and Kestrel had to go through. 

And that ending nearly KILLED me!!

The Winner’s Curse is a love story unlike any other. Kestrel and Arin aren't exactly the type you would think would end up together. They don't exactly like each other at the beginning. Kestrel is the daughter of the General, has wealth and power at her disposable by her name alone, and purchases Adin during an auction done for salves. Arin may be a salve but he is a defiant and stubborn one. He has sharp eyes and a sharp mind which surprises Kestrel but Arin is even more surprised to find that Kestrel can keep up with him both in words and action. Their relationship grows slowly, having to gradually break down through walls of prejudice, anger, enslavement, and pain in order for Kestrel and Arin to learn to trust each other. It's a tentative trust, a trust on the precipice of turning into love, but fear and betrayal get in the way. Then all hell breaks lose in the kingdom as war begins and Kestrel and Arin find themselves dancing around fear and anger and pain again, trying to determine whether or not their love can work or if it's been a lie all along. 

I just couldn't handle the ups and downs these two had to go through with each other! Arin and Kestrel know they can't be together unless they are equals within the empire but that will not be easy for either of them. Changing the perceptions of the society around them will require sacrifices and they aren't prepared for them. What I appreciated about their relationship was how gradual it was built and how Arin and Kestrel were able to maintain their common sense. They didn't allow themselves to be clouded by their emotions even though that comes at a cost too. They are completely honest with each other and know what they feel toward each other is EXTREMELY complicated. A war stands between them and the loss of loved ones, country, and possible freedom make those complications even more real. While reading through their journey, you'll find yourself struggling to agree whether they should be together or not because of what's going on around them. There are no easy answers so it's hard to determine what is wrong and what is right. They both have very valid reasons for their actions which makes it even harder to decide what is the right or wrong course of action.

The Valorian world is a very interesting culture. They are conquerors and warriors. All children, including girls, are trained from very young to fight and handle battle. The girls carry daggers under their skirts which is awesome! Balls and duels are a fun part of the Valorian society. But I also really appreciated that the author didn't simply a paint a picture of a beautiful country. The ugliness of enslavement is very much present throughout the story and the line between higher and lower class. It's one of biggest issues Arin and Kestrel have to deal with. 

Kestrel is not a warrior though. Not in the way her father wants her to be. She isn't good with combat but she has a mind for tactics. She can read people and pinpoint their weakness, secrets and lies just by watching them. She speaks her mind with as much calculation as those around her and faces her fears even when part of her wants to run. She is cunning and driven and determined to find a way to change her fate since she's only given two options by her father: either enlist in the military to fight alongside him or marry. Kestrel was free to decide for herself what should become of her life. Music is the only thing that centers her, that gives her an escape from the world around her and the decisions threatening to destroy her. It's commonality she shares with Arin.

Arin is just as calculating as Kestrel and even better at reading people. He is a FORCE to be reckoned with and Kestrel learns this very quickly after purchasing him. He carries himself with strength and power despite his role in society. He is bitter and angry from his treatment as a slave but he also has the ability to be kind. He is incredibly smart and gifted at tactics as much as Kestrel. It's two qualities that bound them. Arin also has talents as a blacksmith and can create weapons from scratch. It also doesn't hurt that Arin is GORGEOUS. *giggles* Even Kestrel has moments were she's swept away by Arin's beauty. 

There are so many scenes that pull at your heartstrings and leave you wanting to scream or rejoice or cry. But the ending will leave you SHATTERED! It's sad and heartbreaking yet noble and hopeful at the same time. And there are two other scenes that will just leave you SWOONING and SHIPPING for Arin and Kestrel to be together SO HARD! 

I ABSOLUTELY FELL IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK! I read it in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. Like it was physically difficult to set the book down at times to deal with real life. The NEED to know what will happen to Kestrel and Arin will drive you to stay with the book until you know all the things and because all the feels!! 

I've already put the second book on hold at the library. I can't stop thinking about what will happen next and NEED to know. 

If you aren't a fan of the Winner's Trilogy yet, then get yourself to the library or the bookstore ASAP and grab a copy! Trust me when I tell you, it's totes worth it! 

About the Author

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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