Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on February 18, 2014 | 15 Comments

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux (3.4.2014)
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Format: ARC, 368 pages
Source: Borrowed, From Publisher
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4.5 Stars

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.

My thoughts

“The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”

It’s no secret that I had been DYING for this book for months. It was THE most anticipated 2014 release for me! I was kinda worried that the Hype Monster would strike again, that I would be disappointed because my hopes were sky high. But I was pleasantly surprised! It didn’t blow me away, but I still loved it!

This book had a very historical feel to it, but it was really more of a high fantasy. To be honest, when I started out I wasn’t sure I would like it because of that historical quality; I wasn’t particularly on board at first. But it snuck up on me! I found myself to be more invested than I expected, and connected to the story in a way that I’ve never been able to connect to anything even remotely historical before.

The romance was perfect, AMAZING, freaking perfect…seriously! Arin and Kestrel’s relationship was beautiful and tragic; all odds were stacked against them. I looove the unlikely romance and star-crossed lover stories! A slave and an aristocrat: Forced together, but slowly became something else. Despite the hatred and resentment, after a time it changed, evolved into more. The development was slow, delicious, and I found myself rooting for them. Every hardship and betrayal they faced hurt. I could feel it like they were part of me – I have to give kudos for Marie Rutkoski for her beautiful storytelling. It’s vivid and realistic; it draws you in and gets under your skin! I really can’t stress enough how much I loved the romance, and I’m not even a romance person. But this one just worked for me!

My only complaint about this novel is that I would have liked to see more world building in the beginning. I was confused at first about the Herrani and Valorians because the terms are kind of thrown at you with little to no explanation. I wanted to know more about them: Where are they from, how did they come to hate each other? Although I never fully understood their background, I did eventually get a feel for the bone-deep hatred and rivalry of the feuding sides, and it was realistic. That aspect was very well done!

View Spoiler »


Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?

People in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.

Overall Assessment

Plot: 4.5/5
Premise: 4.5/5
Writing style: 4.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World-building: 4/5
Pace: 4.5/5
Feels: 5/5
Cover: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5

Jessi (Geo)

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15 responses to “Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

  1. I love star-crossed lover stories too!!! Eeeeks this sounds amaaaazing! It’s always good to hear that a book lives up to the hype. I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Haha!!! YES! Jessi liked a historical-esque book! Why I’m so excited about that I don’t know? Because I’m back in my historical groove again? Who knows. Anyway I’m so glad you LOVED IT!!!!! I adore fantasty like this (and actually need to finish it. haha. I had to set it down for another priority)

    AWESOME review Jessi!
    XOXO, Inky

  3. OH OH OH this is so exciting! I’m so glad that it lives up to the hype, because I’ve been getting caught up in it these past couple of months. I love historical, and I love high fantasy so this should be a win. And a perfect romance, you say?! YES. I’m soooo excited.

  4. The reviews for this one are just so positive and I can’t wait for this book to come out so I can read it! I’m so glad that you thought the romance was perfectly done. All of the reviews I’ve been reading are all positive and they all praise the romance. I love a slow-burning romance that takes its time, because the chemistry is always so breathtaking. Fantastic review, Jessi! <33

    • I hope so hard that you love it too Leeny! Although for some reason I get the feeling you wouldn’t =/ You’ll have to let me know what you think when you read it!

  5. Glad you enjoyed this one as well. I enjoyed the romance in this one, which was nice. And the ending made me pretty excited for the next book and to see what Kestrel will do!

  6. Yayyyy!!! I’m so glad you liked this one. I adored it. I was expecting more of a fantasy-world (like… maybe magic?) rather than a historical feel, but the depth and richness of it totally drew me in anyway. And Kestrel and Arin… omg. I can’t even. So perfect. <3333

  7. I really liked your review!
    I was drawn to it instantly because of how beautiful the book cover is, and it sounds like a really interesting book, even though a lot of romance isn’t typically something I enjoy.
    I would love to give this one a try, and I think I’ll add it to my goodreads right away!

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