The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy Series #1)

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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 ...

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The Winner's Curse

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
The first book in a planned trilogy sets an age-old story of star-crossed lovers in a richly imagined new world marred by class warfare. Seventeen-year-old Kestrel doesn’t want to marry, nor does she want to join the military, but as a general’s daughter, she has few other choices. But when she purchases Arin, a slave, on an inexplicable whim, she begins to find her cause in him. Unfortunately, Arin has plans of his own. Eyre narrates this tale with a melodic and smooth voice that can be hypnotizing. As the point of view switches back and forth between the two protagonists, she captures Kestrel’s emotions and tangled thoughts. She also does well by Arin, communicating clear restraint and turmoil in him. Erye’s attention to detail helps flesh out intricacies of this unfamiliar society through tone and deliberation. Ages 12–up. An FSG hardcover. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly
★ 01/06/2014
Fans of Rutkoski’s Kronos Chronicles will devour this spellbinding first book in a trilogy about a pair of star-crossed lovers in a society marred by class warfare. When 17-year-old Kestrel, daughter of an esteemed Valorian general, pays too steep a price for a Herrani slave at auction, the audacious maneuver reveals more than just a lapse in judgment. What Kestrel doesn’t know is that Arin is really a spy for Herrani rebels plotting to overthrow the Valorian empire. On equally deceptive footing, Arin manipulates Kestrel’s trust to mine her for military secrets while Kestrel uses Arin to deflect attention from unwanted suitors. As their relationship unwittingly evolves from master and servant into one of guarded mutual respect (and blush-worthy sexual tension), the two are torn between loyalty to their peoples and traditions and a love that can never be realized. Like any epic page-turner worth its salt, Rutkoski’s richly imagined world is full of dynamic repartee, gruesome battle scenes, and shifting alliances. A high-stakes cliffhanger will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next book. Ages 12–up. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy, Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
*"[A] spellbinding first book in a trilogy about a pair of star-crossed lovers in a society marred by class warfare....Like any epic page-turner worth its salt, Rutkoski’s richly imagined world is full of dynamic repartee, gruesome battle scenes, and shifting alliances. A high-stakes cliffhanger will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next book."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW


*"Rich characterization, exquisite worldbuilding and rock-solid storytelling make this a fantasy of unusual intelligence and depth...Precise details and elegant prose make this world fresh and vivid. The intricate and suspenseful plot, filled with politics, intrigue and even graphic violence, features neither heroes nor villains; every character displays a complex mixture of talents, flaws and motives...Breathtaking, tragic and true." —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

*"A forbidden romance. The romance is heartstoppingly lovely and admittedly steamy . . . but the raising of stakes and the reluctance of the couple to give up their respective cause, even as they confess their love for each other, lends their relationship a complexity not often seen in the genre . . . A last-minute compromise between the lovers secures a sequel, and fans of Kristin Cashore and Robin Lefevers will be pleased to have a new romance to follow." — BCCB, STARRED REVIEW

“Every line in The Winner’s Curse is beautifully written. The story is masterfully plotted. The characters’ dilemmas fascinated me and tore at my heart. This book gave me a rare and special reading experience: I never knew what was going to happen next. I loved it. I want more.” —Kristin Cashore, New York Times bestselling author of the Graceling Realm books


"The Winner's Curse is breathtaking, a lyrical triumph in YA fantasy. Marie Rutkoski writes with tremendous power and has created an epic of fearless beauty. This book should not be missed."—Ann Aguirre, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of the Razorland trilogy


"The Winner's Curse is magnificent.  Gorgeous writing graces every page, and the story of Kestrel and Arin unfolds with all the complexity and beauty of a sonata.  I was completely transfixed by them and their world." —Sarah Beth Durst, author of Conjured

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—As a member of the ruling Valorian class and the daughter of General Trajan, 17-year-old Kestrel must either marry or enlist in the army before she turns 20. She does not want to do either. A talented musician and gambler, the headstrong teen would rather play the piano or a game of Bite and Sting than fight. When she impulsively purchases a 19-year-old Herrani slave called Smith at an auction, she makes a decision that pierces her hermetic, privileged world. The more their paths cross, the more their relationship evolves and changes into something undefined and new. Unbeknownst to Kestrel, however, the mysterious and talented Smith, whose real name is Arin, is part of an uprising that is plotting to free the Herrani by destroying their enslavers. Winner's Curse is a riveting novel about social stratification, mistrust, and honor-but even more, it's a book that challenges readers to think about morality and the way deep emotion and a lust for revenge can make the separation between right and wrong as hazy as shifting clouds. Where should Kestrel's loyalty lie: with her people or the exploited Herrani? Do years of mistreatment justify annihilating an entire people? In this well-paced novel, there is violence, action-packed battle scenes, and descriptions of gruesome deaths. There is also hope that love will be the real winner and faith that it can be greater than the curse of war.—Chelsey Philpot, School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-12-11
Rich characterization, exquisite worldbuilding and rock-solid storytelling make this a fantasy of unusual intelligence and depth. Brilliant and wealthy Lady Kestrel seems destined for either an illustrious military career or a magnificent marriage, but all she cares about is her music--a passion her Valorian culture disdains, almost as much as they despise the Herrani they have enslaved. After Kestrel pays an outrageous sum for the slave Arin, society has even more to gossip about, particularly when Kestrel betrays her growing attachment to him. But Arin harbors his own deadly secrets, and the price might cost Kestrel everything she holds dear. Precise details and elegant prose make this world fresh and vivid. The intricate and suspenseful plot, filled with politics, intrigue and even graphic violence, features neither heroes nor villains; every character displays a complex mixture of talents, flaws and motives. Kestrel is an especially compelling protagonist, both determined and hesitant, honest and manipulative, ferociously observant and painfully naïve. Her bond with Arin develops slowly and naturally from congruent personalities. As much as it informs their choices, neither can (nor wishes to) elevate an impossible romance over loyalty to friends, family or nation. This integrity keeps them apart right through the heartbreaking (yet necessary) conclusion--but also kindles a tiny spark of hope for the next volume in the trilogy. Breathtaking, tragic and true. (Fantasy. 12-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804167826
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/11/2014
  • Series: Winner's Trilogy Series , #1
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Shadow Society and the Kronos Chronicles, which includes The Cabinet of Wonders. She is a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt




She shouldn’t have been tempted.

This is what Kestrel thought as she swept the sailors’ silver off the impromptu gaming table set up in a corner of the market.

“Don’t go,” said one sailor.

“Stay,” said another, but Kestrel cinched her wrist-strap velvet purse shut. The sun had lowered, and caramelized the color of things, which meant that she had played cards long enough to be noticed by someone who mattered.

Someone who would tell her father.

Cards wasn’t even her favorite game. The silver wouldn’t begin to pay for her silk dress, snagged from the splintery crate she had used as a stool. But sailors were much better adversaries than the average aristocrat. They flipped cards with feral tricks, swore when they lost, swore when they won, would gouge the last silver keystone coin out of a friend. And they cheated. Kestrel especially liked it when they cheated. It made beating them not quite so easy.

She smiled and left them. Then her smile faded. This hour of thrilling risk was going to cost her. It wasn’t the gambling that would infuriate her father, or the company she had kept. No, General Trajan was going to want to know why his daughter was in the city market alone.

Other people wondered, too. She saw it in their eyes as she threaded through market stalls offering open sacks of spice, the scents mingling with salty air that wafted from the nearby port. Kestrel guessed the words people didn’t dare whisper as she passed. Of course they didn’t speak. They knew who she was. And she knew what they would say.

Where was Lady Kestrel’s escort?

And if she had no friend or family available to escort her to the market, where was her slave?

Well, as for a slave, they had been left at her villa. Kestrel did not need them.

As for the whereabouts of her escort, she was wondering the same thing.

Jess had wandered off to look at the wares. Kestrel last saw her weaving like a flower-drunk bee through the stalls, her pale blond hair almost white in the summer sun. Technically, Jess could get in as much trouble as Kestrel. It wasn’t allowed for a young Valorian girl who wasn’t a member of the military to walk alone. But Jess’s parents doted on her, and they hardly had the same notion of discipline as the highest-ranking general in the Valorian army.

Kestrel scanned the stalls for her friend, and finally caught the gleam of blond braids styled in the latest fashion. Jess was talking to a jewelry seller who dangled a pair of earrings. The translucent gold droplets caught the light.

Kestrel drew closer.

“Topaz,” the elderly woman was saying to Jess. “To brighten your lovely brown eyes. Only ten keystones.”

There was a hard set to the jewelry seller’s mouth. Kestrel met the woman’s gray eyes and noticed that her wrinkled skin was browned from years of working outdoors. She was Herrani, but a brand on her wrist proved that she was free. Kestrel wondered how she had earned that freedom. Slaves freed by their masters were rare.

Jess glanced up. “Oh, Kestrel,” she breathed. “Aren’t these earrings perfect?”

Maybe if the weight of silver in Kestrel’s purse hadn’t dragged at her wrist she would have said nothing. Maybe if that drag at her wrist hadn’t also dragged at her heart with dread, Kestrel would have thought before she spoke. But instead she blurted what was the obvious truth. “They’re not topaz. They’re glass.”

There was a sudden bubble of silence. It expanded, grew thin and sheer. People around them were listening. The earrings trembled in midair.

Because the jewelry seller’s bony fingers were trembling.

Because Kestrel had just accused her of trying to cheat a Valorian.

And what would happen next? What would happen to any Herrani in this woman’s position? What would the crowd witness?

An officer of the city guard called to the scene. A plea of innocence, ignored. Old hands bound to the whipping post. Lashes until blood darkened the market dirt.

“Let me see,” Kestrel said, her voice imperious, because she was very good at being imperious. She reached for the earrings and pretended to examine them. “Ah. It seems I was mistaken. Indeed they are topaz.”

“Take them,” whispered the jewelry seller.

“We are not poor. We have no need of a gift from someone such as you.” Kestrel set coins on the woman’s table. The bubble of silence broke, and shoppers returned to discussing whatever ware had caught their fancy.

Kestrel gave the earrings to Jess and led her away.

As they walked, Jess studied one earring, letting it swing like a tiny bell. “So they are real?”


“How can you tell?”

“They’re completely unclouded,” Kestrel said. “No flaws. Ten keystones was too cheap a price for topaz of that quality.”

Jess might have commented that ten keystones was too great a price for glass. But she said only, “The Herrani would say that the god of lies must love you, you see things so clearly.”

Kestrel remembered the woman’s stricken gray eyes. “The Herrani tell too many stories.” They had been dreamers. Her father always said that this was why they had been easy to conquer.

“Everyone loves stories,” Jess said.

Kestrel stopped to take the earrings from Jess and slip them into her friend’s ears. “Then wear these to the next society dinner. Tell everyone you paid an outrageous sum, and they will believe they’re true jewels. Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”

Jess smiled, turning her head from side to side so that the earrings glittered. “Well? Am I beautiful?”

“Silly. You know you are.”

Jess led the way now, slipping past a table with brass bowls holding powdered dye. “It’s my turn to buy something for you,” she said.

“I have everything I need.”

“You sound like an old woman! One would think you’re seventy, not seventeen.”

The crowd was thicker now, filled with the golden features of Valorians, hair and skin and eyes ranging from honey tones to light brown. The occasional dark heads belonged to well-dressed house slaves, who had come with their masters and stayed close to their sides.

“Don’t look so troubled,” Jess said. “Come, I will find something to make you happy. A bracelet?”

But that reminded Kestrel of the jewelry seller. “We should go home.”

“Sheet music?”

Kestrel hesitated.

“Aha,” said Jess. She seized Kestrel’s hand. “Don’t let go.”

This was an old game. Kestrel closed her eyes and was tugged blindly after Jess, who laughed, and then Kestrel laughed, too, as she had years ago when they first met.

The general had been impatient with his daughter’s mourning. “Your mother’s been dead half a year,” he had said. “That is long enough.” Finally, he had had a senator in a nearby villa bring his daughter, also eight years old, to visit. The men went inside Kestrel’s house. The girls were told to stay outside. “Play,” the general had ordered.

Jess had chattered at Kestrel, who ignored her. Finally, Jess stopped. “Close your eyes,” she said.

Curious, Kestrel did.

Jess had grabbed her hand. “Don’t let go!” They tore over the general’s grassy grounds, slipping and tumbling and laughing.

It was like that now, except for the press of people around them.

Jess slowed. Then she stopped and said, “Oh.”

Kestrel opened her eyes.

The girls had come to a waist-high wooden barrier that overlooked a pit below. “You brought me here?”

“I didn’t mean to,” said Jess. “I got distracted by a woman’s hat—did you know hats are in fashion?—and was following to get a better look, and…”

“And brought us to the slave market.” The crowd had congealed behind them, noisy with restless anticipation. There would be an auction soon.

Kestrel stepped back. She heard a smothered oath when her heel met someone’s toes.

“We’ll never get out now,” Jess said. “We might as well stay until the auction’s over.”

Hundreds of Valorians were gathered before the barrier, which curved in a wide semicircle. Everyone in the crowd was dressed in silks, each with a dagger strapped to the hip, though some—like Jess—wore it more as an ornamental toy than a weapon.

The pit below was empty, save for a large wooden auction block.

“At least we have a good view.” Jess shrugged.

Kestrel knew that Jess understood why her friend had claimed loudly that the glass earrings were topaz. Jess understood why they had been purchased. But the girl’s shrug reminded Kestrel that there were certain things they couldn’t discuss.

“Ah,” said a pointy-chinned woman at Kestrel’s side. “At last.” Her eyes narrowed on the pit and the stocky man walking into its center. He was Herrani, with the typical black hair, though his skin was pale from an easy life, no doubt due to the same favoritism that had gotten him this job. This was someone who had learned how to please his Valorian conquerors.

The auctioneer stood in front of the block.

“Show us a girl first,” called the woman at Kestrel’s side, her voice both loud and languid.

Many voices were shouting now, each calling for what they wanted to see. Kestrel found it hard to breathe.

“A girl!” yelled the pointy-chinned woman, this time more loudly.

The auctioneer, who had been sweeping his hands toward him as if gathering the cries and excitement, paused when the woman’s shout cut through the noise. He glanced at her, then at Kestrel. A flicker of surprise seemed to show on his face. She thought that she must have imagined it, for he skipped on to Jess, then peered in a full semicircle at all the Valorians against the barrier above and around him.

He raised a hand. Silence fell. “I have something very special for you.”

The acoustics of the pit were made to carry a whisper, and the auctioneer knew his trade. His soft voice made everyone lean closer.

His hand shifted to beckon toward the open, yet roofed and shadowed structure built low and small at the back of the pit. He twitched his fingers once, then twice, and something stirred in the holding pen.

A young man stepped out.

The crowd murmured. Bewilderment grew as the slave slowly paced across the yellow sand. He stepped onto the auction block.

This was nothing special.

“Nineteen years old, and in fine condition.” The auctioneer clapped the slave on the back. “This one,” he said, “would be perfect for the house.”

Laughter rushed through the crowd. Valorians nudged each other and praised the auctioneer. He knew how to entertain.

The slave was bad goods. He looked, Kestrel thought, like a brute. A deep bruise on the slave’s cheek was evidence of a fight and a promise that he would be difficult to control. His bare arms were muscular, which likely only confirmed the crowd’s belief that he would be best working for someone with a whip in hand. Perhaps in another life he could have been groomed for a house; his hair was brown, light enough to please some Valorians, and while his features couldn’t be discerned from Kestrel’s distance, there was a proud line in the way he stood. But his skin was bronzed from outdoor labor, and surely it was to such work that he would return. He might be purchased by someone who needed a dockworker or a builder of walls.

Yet the auctioneer kept up his joke. “He could serve at your table.”

More laughter.

“Or be your valet.”

Valorians held their sides and fluttered their fingers, begging the auctioneer to stop, stop, he was too funny.

“I want to leave,” Kestrel told Jess, who pretended not to hear.

“All right, all right.” The auctioneer grinned. “The lad does have some real skills. On my honor,” he added, laying a hand over his heart, and the crowd chuckled again, for it was common knowledge that there was no such thing as Herrani honor. “This slave has been trained as a blacksmith. He would be perfect for any soldier, especially for an officer with a guard of his own and weapons to maintain.”

There was a murmur of interest. Herrani blacksmiths were rare. If Kestrel’s father were here, he would probably bid. His guard had long complained about the quality of the city blacksmith’s work.

“Shall we start the bidding?” said the auctioneer. “Five pilasters. Do I hear five bronze pilasters for the boy? Ladies and gentlemen, you could not hire a blacksmith for so little.”

“Five,” someone called.


And the bidding began in earnest.

The bodies at Kestrel’s back might as well have been stone. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t look at the expressions of her people. She couldn’t catch the attention of Jess, or stare into the too-bright sky. These were all the reasons, she decided, why it was impossible to gaze anywhere else but at the slave.

“Oh, come now,” said the auctioneer. “He’s worth at least ten.”

The slave’s shoulders stiffened. The bidding continued.

Kestrel closed her eyes. When the price reached twenty-five pilasters, Jess said, “Kestrel, are you ill?”


“We’ll leave as soon as it’s over. It won’t be long now.”

There was a lull in the bidding. It appeared the slave would go for twenty-five pilasters, a pitiful price, yet as much as anyone was willing to pay for a person who would soon be worked into uselessness.

“My dear Valorians,” said the auctioneer. “I have forgotten one thing. Are you sure he wouldn’t make a fine house slave? Because this lad can sing.”

Kestrel opened her eyes.

“Imagine music during dinner, how charmed your guests will be.” The auctioneer glanced up at the slave, who stood tall on his block. “Go on. Sing for them.”

Only then did the slave shift position. It was a slight movement and quickly stilled, but Jess sucked in her breath as if she, like Kestrel, expected a fight to break out in the pit below.

The auctioneer hissed at the slave in rapid Herrani, too quietly for Kestrel to understand.

The slave answered in his language. His voice was low: “No.”

Perhaps he didn’t know the acoustics of the pit. Perhaps he didn’t care, or worry that any Valorian knew at least enough Herrani to understand him. No matter. The auction was over now. No one would want him. Probably the person who had offered twenty-five pilasters was already regretting a bid for someone so intractable that he wouldn’t obey even his own kind.

But his refusal touched Kestrel. The stony set of the slave’s shoulders reminded her of herself, when her father demanded something that she couldn’t give.

The auctioneer was furious. He should have closed the sale or at least made a show of asking for a higher price, but he simply stood there, fists at his sides, likely trying to figure out how he could punish the young man before passing him on to the misery of cutting rock, or the heat of the forge.

Kestrel’s hand moved on its own. “A keystone,” she called.

The auctioneer turned. He sought the crowd. When he found Kestrel a smile sparked his expression into cunning delight. “Ah,” he said, “there is someone who knows worth.”

“Kestrel.” Jess plucked at her sleeve. “What are you doing?”

The auctioneer’s voice boomed: “Going once, going twice—”

“Twelve keystones!” called a man leaning against the barrier across from Kestrel, on the other side of its semicircle.

The auctioneer’s jaw dropped. “Twelve?”

“Thirteen!” came another cry.

Kestrel inwardly winced. If she had to bid anything—and why, why had she?—it shouldn’t have been so high. Everyone thronged around the pit was looking at her: the general’s daughter, a high society bird who flitted from one respectable house to the next. They thought—


They thought that if she wanted the slave, he must merit the price. There must be a reason to want him, too.


And the delicious mystery of why made one bid top the next.

The slave was staring at her now, and no wonder, since it was she who had ignited this insanity. Kestrel felt something within her swing on the hinge of fate and choice.

She lifted her hand. “I bid twenty keystones.”

“Good heavens, girl,” said the pointy-chinned woman to her left. “Drop out. Why bid on him? Because he’s a singer? A singer of dirty Herrani drinking songs, if anything.”

Kestrel didn’t glance at her, or at Jess, though she sensed the girl was twisting her fingers. Kestrel’s gaze didn’t waver from the slave’s.

“Twenty-five!” shouted a woman from behind.

The price was now more than Kestrel had in her purse. The auctioneer looked like he barely knew what to do with himself. The bidding spiraled higher, each voice spurring the next until it seemed that a roped arrow was shooting through the members of the crowd, binding them together, drawing them tight with excitement.

Kestrel’s voice came out flat: “Fifty keystones.”

The sudden, stunned quiet hurt her ears. Jess gasped.

“Sold!” cried the auctioneer. His face was wild with joy. “To Lady Kestrel, for fifty keystones!” He tugged the slave off the block, and it was only then that the youth’s gaze broke away from Kestrel’s. He looked at the sand, so intently that he could have been reading his future there, until the auctioneer prodded him toward the pen.

Kestrel drew in a shaky breath. Her bones felt watery. What had she done?

Jess slipped a supporting hand under her elbow. “You are sick.”

“And rather light of purse, I’d say.” The pointy-chinned woman snickered. “Looks like someone’s suffering the Winner’s Curse.”

Kestrel turned to her. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t come to auctions often, do you? The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”

The crowd was thinning. Already the auctioneer was bringing out someone else, but the rope of excitement that had bound the Valorians to the pit had disintegrated. The show was over. The path was now clear for Kestrel to leave, yet she couldn’t move.

“I don’t understand,” said Jess.

Neither did Kestrel. What had she been thinking? What had she been trying to prove?

Nothing, she told herself. Her back to the pit, she made her foot take the first step away from what she had done.

Nothing at all.


Text copyright © 2014 by Marie Rutkoski

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2014

    5+ stars Before I really get into reviewing The Winner's Curse

    5+ stars

    Before I really get into reviewing The Winner's Curse I just want to say that I love the cover! I also love the way the hardcover book was made. It has those uneven edges like collector edition books do (such as my Sribner's Illustrated). I just absolutely loved opening it up, smelling that new-book smell, and feeling it's pages!! The book is pretty much a work of art itself. Yes, so I'm definitely a book geek. I claim it! Lol! It does bring back memories of growing up reading with my family and reading on my own when I first fell in love with books. Okay. On to my review...

    Going in I was expecting a decent read because so many others, who were lucky enough to receive an ARC, recommended it. I was not expecting to be pulled in from the first page, not be able to put the book down, and love it so completely. This is my kind of book!!!

    The writing style and pacing of this story were fabulous! I was immediately engaged and even though the story slowly builds towards the end, my interest never waned. I knew almost from the beginning what Arin was about. I knew that Kestrel would struggle with her relationship with him. I knew that things would change and that there would be dire circumstances. I just didn't know how it would all happen and what choices would be made.

    I really loved the setting. It was an amazing storybook world with all of the society's gaiety and expectations. The servants, formal clothing, and social gatherings. It reminded me a little of Austen, especially some of the dialogue that was so well done. I loved that you see how the aristocrats live, but also get a small picture into the servants and slaves lives. It was a well developed world.

    I LOVED the characters! Kestrel and Arin are both very intelligent, musically talented, and at the mercy of their stations. They both are vulnerable in different and similar ways. I loved Kestrel's friends. I loved that she wasn't perfect. Even though she is the general's daughter, she isn't the best fighter. She doesn't always make the best choices or see all that she should. Arin is also flawed. He tries to hide so much from those around him, but sometimes his anger flairs when it shouldn't. I loved Kestrel's father because he was a force in Kestrel's life and taught her so much. He has high expectations of her, but also loves her deeply.

    The romance was absolutely perfect!! This was probably one of the things I loved the most! It isn't instant love. It builds slowly and against the two main characters' wills. They are friends first before anything. I loved that you could feel the tension and that the author let that tension grow. The romance wasn't ruined with too much and didn't take over the story even though it is a driving force for both of the main characters' choices. Then there is that ending. I can't say anything more, but I am dying to read the next book!!

    This story had it all: strong characters, exciting plot, dangerous circumstances, difficult choices, grief, friendship, war, love, with a bittersweet ending that left me wanting so much more! This would be a book I would love to rate higher than five stars. I loved it that much!! I just wish I didn't have to wait for the next book!

    Content: Clean (there is some innuendo and violence, one instance of intended rape, but I would still consider this clean)
    Source: Purchased

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014



    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Upon getting this ARC from the publisher I was intrigued by the

    Upon getting this ARC from the publisher I was intrigued by the story line. I was ready to dive into the story but at the beginning the pool of excitement and suspense was shallow. I was looking for a story to wrap me up in fantasy, romance, and suspense and sadly the beginning of this book fell a little flat for me. I kept reading until I was about 150 pages in and then I starting reading some reviews. I read many reviews that felt the same: the book was so-so at the beginning but definitely picked up after the 50% mark. 
    I have to say that I agree with most of the reviews that mention sticking with this title past the middle. The story line definitely launched into turbo speed after the first 150 pages which I was very thankful for. The story became suspenseful to a certain extent and I was vested in what happened to the characters and how their relationships built, much more than I was in the first half of the book.
    In regards to the characters, I found them believable and intriguing. I will say that I felt that Arin could be arrogant and a bit out of character at times, but when you consider his past it was a little understandable. 
    The end of the novel was an interesting approach to the story line that I did not see coming but I enjoyed it. It kept me reading and the author finished off the novel in a way that has us wanting to read book 2 to see what happens next. Overall, not the best book I have ever read but I was definitely intrigued by the story and it kept me reading. For a story that was a little out of my usual reading matter, I think it was a refreshing change. 3/5 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Stunning! Don't let the gorgeous cover or the summary fool you


    Don't let the gorgeous cover or the summary fool you, The Winner's Curse is no light, swoony romance. It's a beautifully written, brilliantly crafted high fantasy story of love, betrayal, politics, and the fight for independence. (It will make anything you've ever written look like you've been finger painting with poo. Okay, so maybe that's just me, but still.)

    The romance between Kestrel and Arin is a slow burn, one that is both heart racing and frustrating. Plot twists and constant strategizing keep the story moving and it all leads up to an ending that left me clutching my heart and eager to read the next installment!

    I just wish I didn't have to wait so long for it!

    P.S. The line for Arin starts behind me. Sorry Kestral. (Not really)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2014

    4.5 Stars I know it's only October but I'm going to call it, th

    4.5 Stars

    I know it's only October but I'm going to call it, this is my favorite read of 2014. 

    Plot: I read this book over six months ago and I still remember every little detail about this book! The Winner's Curse is a book that stays with you forever (if you're me it does).  The one thing that readers might complain about is the pacing. Marie Rutkoski takes her time building the world and all of the characters, this means main characters and secondary characters. There are times where the story takes a turn from the overall conflict, but the purpose it to build character and show development. There are times when I wondered why there was no action in the book, but I was wrong. You just have to be patient. Marie Rutkoski writes a beautiful story that flows wonderfully with a pseudo-cliffhanger that makes you want to know more immediately!

    Characters: You can tell that Rutkoski loves her characters, all of them. She puts so much heart and personality into each character. The Winner's Curse is told through the perspective of Kestrel and Arin who both have very distinct voices and guess what, they function without the other person as well! There is no dependability, there is no instant love, these are two independent characters who have their own conflicts and backgrounds. The love story between these too is a simmer. Kestrel purchases Arin at a slave auction and they pretty much have no interaction with the other for several weeks which is really refreshing (not to mention, probably more realistic). I absolutely adore these two as a couple and what's beautiful is that they each still have to work at their relationship, this book does not end in sunshine and rainbows, which again, is more realistic. 

    World Building: A-frickin Plus! I was immersed in this world and could imagine everything vividly. This is in part that the book was told by two people from different social classes. We get to see the world through Kestresl, the warrior's daughter, and Arin, the slave who seems to have lost everything. The book takes place in Kestrel's world, but if you want to know more about Arin's childhood you can read the novella Bridge of Snow for $.99.

    Short N Sweet: The Winner's Curse is utter perfection and it's a must for all fans of books. Seriously, go read this, you will not regret it! 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    Skyhearts reviews

    An amazing read. This author surpassed my expectations. I have read this book mulitple times and i always get caught up in the love story that unfolds in this novel i reccomend it to anyone who loves love stories. Check out my review of the book The Thirteenth Unicorn, a good read. Skyheart is out fools :p

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  • Posted July 16, 2014

    more from this reviewer

        I wanted to read The Winner's Curse because I am a big f

        I wanted to read The Winner's Curse because I am a big fan of forbidden love when written correctly and what is that more than "master" and a slave. I also appreciate when a female lead is strong and Kestrel certainly fills that role. I've also read so many positive reviews from blogger buddies, that I knew I had to give it a read. 

        The world building is nice and it transports me to a different world where women must marry or be a soldier and the in between required escorts among other restrictions. I could picture Kestrel walking down the street to the market with her friend Jess, sweating it out in the slave auction, and playing furiously on the piano or in the stables or blacksmith forge with Arin. 

        I don't know if I am just getting more used to it but the 3rd pov didn't distract me or take away from how much I enjoyed the read. It also gives us a different access to both Arin and Kestrel.

        The characters of both Arin and Kestrel fascinated me and I really enjoyed their scenes together, working around their chemistry, but also the entire forbiddeness of it all. But neither can resist spending time with the other. Even with the complications of Kestrel officially owning Arin, and then the whole twist of Arin's purpose and how that effects their relationship. 
        Its hard to talk about some of the things that really impacted me, because the twists are serious spoilers and some of it surprised me and others it just hurt to watch all of the heartache and tragedy. The changing dynamics between Arin and Kestrel though was fascinating to watch and how each responded to the changes. I can totally see where both are coming from keeping their secrets and doing things that may seem wrong but just having the other's best interest at heart. 

        Not only is Kestrel dealing with her feelings for her slave, she also has the expectations of her high ranking father. She doesn't want to marry, and she doesn't want to enter the military. But she feels the pressure and wants to please her dad. She has some interest in warfare but not so much sword play and she doesn't want to give up her music. That is one of the things that created the initial combined interests/loves between her and Arin. But she also has no interest in the kind of men courting her. 

        The ending was shocking and full of action and changes, betrayals, secrets that catch up to each other, as well as the feelings for each other that just won't go away and complicates their every decision. I can't wait until the next book and I am so glad that I paid attention to the hype for this book and was finally able to get a chance to read it. 

    Bottom Line: Character steal the show but still lots of action and a seriously forbidden love. 

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  • Posted July 14, 2014

    I really enjoyed the fact that amazon allowed me the opportunity

    I really enjoyed the fact that amazon allowed me the opportunity to read the first five chapters of this book for free i was totally brought in hook, line and sinker. Yes their romance in this story, but their also political intrigue and banter between characters that keeps you wanting to read.  It a fast read in the fact that the plot moves along a quick quip.  

    The cover is breathtaking and i really want to see how the story plays out between Kesteral and Arin.  Is it time for book two yet?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    One of my all-time favs

    Loved this book so much. It did start off a little slow and builds and builds to something really great. Once I finished I immediately read it again. Amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If I could i would rate this book more than a billion stars. Thats how good it was. I also liked it because of twists of the story. Marie did a really good job writing this book!
    I love the romance between kestrel and arin. I love/hate the last sentence in this book by arin: You dont kestrel even though the god of lies loves you. It made me cry.
    In the story enai says to kestrel i think kestrel is the seamstress.
    I loved the twists in the story. I feel bad for kestrel when she has to marry a different person other than arin.

    I cant wait for the next book to come out!!! Ill probably be one of the first people to buy the book. I dont ever want the series to end! I think this will be one of the books i cant stop reading!!!

    EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Posted June 7, 2014

    I follow a ton of blogs via email, and it seems every second blo

    I follow a ton of blogs via email, and it seems every second blog I follow has been reviewing – and adoring – The Winner’s Curse. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me and I made haste to get my copy of this book. Being the skeptic I sometimes am, I went in guns blazing; ready to sow seeds of blistering contempt should it not live up to what was promised by multiple glowing reviews. I have been disappointed too many times before by books everyone passionately recommended as a must-read to blindly trust a host of recommendations. In this case, though, I have to admit defeat. 

    Rutkoski 1, Angie 0. 

    The Winner’s Curse was a spectacular read! 

    I’ve never read any of her books before, so Rutkoski’s writing was brand new to me. From the onset I was plunged head first into her world of Valorians and Herrani. Having a dueling protagonist as the lead character, Kestrel is simply awe-inspiring. She is a keen observer and shrewd strategist. She’s fearless, cunning, and definitely not a damsel in distress. Some may even consider her eccentric, but I found her fascinating, perceptive, considerate, and inspiring. Arin is also a complex character; one who can effortlessly make himself at home in any environment, under any circumstances. He plays the role of slave, surrounded by an air of mystery, wonderfully, but he is so much more than ‘just’ a slave. Like Kestrel, he is also a perceptive strategist, and in the second half of the story proves he’s a force to be reckoned with.  

    This is what I loved about the romance. It wasn’t love at first sight for either Kestrel or Arin. When she saw Arin for the first time at the slave auction in the market, she decided to purchase him for reasons other than his physical appearance. About ninety-nine percent of novels I’ve read up to this point where two people fell in love, it was mostly because the one was physically attracted to the other. So of course I appreciated Rutkoski having her two main characters fall in love for different reasons, and it happening gradually. There was no swoony puppy love, or lust, between them. At first Kestrel has no clue what to do with her new, impulsive purchase, and in return Arin responds to her with contempt and resentment. Eventually, and only through circumstance and relentless persistence, do they begin to open up to each other. It was beautiful watching their defenses crumble and seeing them slowly revealing layers of themselves to each other and the reader.

    Magnificent supporting characters, with specific mention to Kestrel’s father, General Trajan, and her old nursemaid and confidante, Enai. What also stood out for me is the father-daughter relationship Kestrel has with her father. They don’t always see eye to eye on the choices Kestrel wants to make for herself, but the affection they have for each other is unmistakable. Moreover, I understood these characters; their passions, needs, motivations, and making heartbreaking choices. I felt for them when they were forced to choose the lesser of two evils. It wasn’t hard to fall head over heels in love with them once I became emotionally invested in their lives. And until the next book, I will surely miss them.

    Lastly, very few books make me cry. Neither did this one...except for the very last sentence in the very last chapter. It was an awesome, but heartbreakingly sad ending, which made me wish the second book was already written so I can grab my copy and pick up where this one left off. 

    Filled with imaginative analogies and wordplay, the prose is absolutely gorgeous and had me rereading entire paragraphs and sections of dialogue to really take in the sheer beauty of it. Rutkoski introduces the reader to a world where the balance between master and slave is shifted by misplaced trust, falling in love with the one who becomes the enemy, and freedom that can only be won through sacrifice and war. The Winner’s Curse stands apart from other romance novels. It is character-driven, and has its own rhythm. Whether you’re a fan of romance, or not, it doesn’t matter. You should read this. There is something for every reader’s taste in here, and like every other reviewer who recommends this superb novel with the highest praise, I say: go for it! 

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  • Posted May 11, 2014

    Looking at my list of books, I realized that I haven't reviewed

    Looking at my list of books, I realized that I haven't reviewed many books this month. Partially because for the first half of the month, I was in a horrible reading slump. One word: ugh. I simply could not read. Last week, I got back on the boat, and have read six books, and I've only reviewed one of them. I loved them all, and feel that I am breaking my New Year's resolution to review more. So, here I am, reviewing The Winner's Curse!

    I'd been hearing a lot about this book, but had never been truly interested. Finally, a little after its release, I thought to myself, enough is enough. EVERYONE is saying how amazing this book is, so I must read it to see if it is true. Hence, I got a copy from the library and OH MY GOD, WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE! I can't believe that I didn't pick up The Winner's Curse sooner. I started it at school, but didn't get much read. So that evening, I started reading what I promised myself would be one chapter, but ended up staying up way too late (like, until the next morning), to finish the book.

    The book is dual POV between Kestrel, a rich girl who's father is the head of the military, and Arin, a slave with a secret. I liked Kestrel from page one. She was headstrong and did not bow to the views of her people. She has been told that within the next few years, she can either marry or join the military, neither of which Kestrel wants to do. Kestrel is shrewd, and easily makes plans to avoid this as long as possible. It is really fun to be in Kestrels' head, and I love her character. She's intelligent, and sees things long before others do, but in a few ways, ways that bite her in the butt, she is naive.

    Arin is really something. I like his character, that's for sure, but grr, he keeps SO many secrets! And these secrets end up causing a ginormous rift between him and Kestrel, a rift I do not like. Arin has much more brute strength than Kestrel, and is willing to do things others aren't, but can also be easily persuaded into doing the wrong thing. I admire Arin's loyalty, as well as the times when his kindness shines past his stoic exterior.

    The plot in this book is fast, yet not fast enough. For a large chunk of the book, I'm being surrounded by action and plot, yet the reader is waiting for a few key moments. And then suddenly, those moments have passed and things are blowing up! The book was really fun to read, and I am dying for the second book! Readers of Legend by Marie Lu would definitely enjoy The Winner's Curse. This book surpassed my expectations and I give it a full five stars!

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  • Posted May 9, 2014

    This book was everything I hoped for, yet nothing I expected. I

    This book was everything I hoped for, yet nothing I expected. I loved it. It was beautiful. None of the characters are who they seem to be. Everyone has secrets. The author set up an beautifully imagined world where battles are fought not only with blood and steel, but with strategy and wit.

    The characters are flawed and wonderful. They have history and depth. I loved Kestrel and the fact that she loved the things she shouldn't, and cringed away from the things she should have embraced. Arin was strong, but he had weaknesses too. The things that made him weak were the same things that endeared him to me.

    If you are looking for a good fantasy to seek your teeth into give this book a try. It's one of the best YA books I've read this year. I'm already looking forward to the next book.

    Content: Violence and kissing, but it's a pretty clean book.

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  • Posted May 1, 2014

    The cover for The Winner's Curse is pretty (YES, it is) but it d

    The cover for The Winner's Curse is pretty (YES, it is) but it doesn't do the story justice at all. This story is, in a few words, devastating, gripping, and thrilling! I haven't stopped thinking about this book since I finished reading it. I've just been pining away for more!

    The Winner's Curse is a low fantasy read, ideal for those who like a little bit of political intrigue and a great setting in their books.

    Reasons to Read:

    1. Low fantasy at its best:

    I love (all) fantasy books and while I prefer high fantasy, The Winner's Curse is a one of the best low fantasy books I've ever read. (Sidenote: I'm putting The Winner's Curse in the low fantasy category because while it's a fictional world, the way the world works is rational and real and doesn't contain magical or impossible elements). There's less suspension of belief for readers, which is fantastic for readers who are less interested by magic. While the world is fictional there are some aspects which reminded me of other historical settings.

    2. Oh my, swoons!:

    Do you like your romance to be epic?! Pick up The Winner's Curse - trust me. While the romance takes centre stage in this story, it also wasn't sappy or ridiculous. I was absolutely swept away by Arin and Kestrel and I couldn't get enough of these two. Most of all I loved how they tried to figure each other out, but still remained their rational thinking. And the tension just dragged on forever! So much tension that just wouldn't go away and it was brilliant. I liked Kestrel so much - she stood out on her own and had a vivid personality. She was such a clever girl, yet she had her own faults and she had to overcome those and work with it. But overall, Kestrel is an incredibly strong heroine.

    3. An explosive story:

    I couldn't get enough of the politics and culture incorporated in The Winner's Curse. I was enthralled by these little details, and I'm dying to know what happens to this world in the next book. The plot development was my absolute favourite part of this book! It is beautifully written and the story is so captivating. I am dreaming about this book, its characters, and its world. I cannot let it go. I'm in love with it too much.

    The characters are flawed which is good, but this also means they aren't instantly likeable. My appreciation for them only grew over time as the story progressed and I was skeptical of Kestrel, in particular, at first. There were also a couple subplots that didn't seem to influence the main plot; maybe they'll come up in later books, but they didn't seem particularly relevant for this book.

    The Winner's Curse was one of my favourite books released this year so far. I've rarely felt so invested in a book series before, and I have such high hopes for the next one! The situation Arin and Kestrel are put in is so difficult as they're both forced to question values and beliefs they've held for such a long time - The Winner's Curse is reading for that alone.

    ARC received from Macmillan for review; no other compensation was received. 

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  • Posted April 29, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Winner¿s Curse is one of the most hyped books for this winte

    The Winner’s Curse is one of the most hyped books for this winter of 2014. I am pretty sure every single book blogger and book tuber has heard about this book, read it, or already pre-ordered it (and received it!). Initially it took me a while to get to a place where I started to enjoy The Winner's Curse. The 3rd POV writing isn't my favorite way of storytelling and I initially actually thought there was a third person in the scene. However Once I got used to it and all the characters were introduced and we got a bit of background history on the world, I stated to really enjoy it. This is about a territory that was invaded by the Volarians that resulted in the enslavement of the Herrani people. Kestrel, the daughter of the General Trajan, has to make a decision soon, whether to join the army or get married. She has a knack for strategizing and her father has tried multiple times to recruit her to the army but she wants neither. She wants to choose her own future. This is when she meets Arin, a slave she buys on a whim and takes back to her father's home. If you are expecting a typical predictable romance then you'll be pleasantly surprised. This is more than the romance and I loved that about this book. Kestrel is such a strong character and she is a smart one too. Also, the incorporation of music into the novel brought something unique and delicate to a novel that would otherwise be a bit dark and depressing, which book wouldn't with the topic of slavery and non existent women rights? I have read one book by Rutkoski before and it didn't blow me away or capture my attention the whole time, this however did just that. I wanted to know what would happen next. None of my predictions were correct and this is something that I loved. I am tired of predictable novels and even ones that have a "shocking twist" when in fact it was a twist that was obvious. Also, the ending? wow.. it blew me away. I seriously need the second book immediately! I have no idea what direction Rutkoski is taking with the next novel but I am excited to dive back into this complex and fascinating  world she has created. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    This is one of those few times when I can confirm that the synop

    This is one of those few times when I can confirm that the synopsis does not lie. The Winner’s Curse most certainly has everything we are told to expect, and goes above and beyond with these attributes. I anticipated a well-written novel, but I was not expecting one as groundbreaking, as enchanting as what I have just read. The Winner’s Curse is by far one of the best young adult fantasy novels I've had the pleasure of stumbling upon in quite a while. This polished novel strikes down each and every requisite I need from my fantasies with enviable ease. Never once did I find myself particularly urged to set the novel down, internally reassuring myself, One more page, one more page!, only to find myself finishing the novel in a few sittings. Nor did I ever feel bored, frustrated, or angry at the quality of this brilliant tale.

    Before reading Rutkoski’s novel, I actually hadn't noticed how much I have been deprived of quality young adult fantasy, how much I craved a book that did not pathetically butcher my favorite genre. I cured my famished self by reading this, and thankfully, enjoyed each second of my reading experience. 

    In my opinion, one of the most noteworthy traits of this novel is its lovely writing. Rutkoski truly does have a knack with prose, so much so that I feel compelled to quote pages upon pages of this very superbly written book. I am pleased. Included in The Winner’s Curse is a good blend of romance, suspense, action, and political intrigue to keep anyone enthralled. While I do believe this is the perfect read for all fantasy lovers out there, I also think this will appeal to readers with diverse tastes in literature. There isn't an excess amount of drama to weigh down the novel, nor is there a romance that is overdone, which usually is the downfall of countless “fantasy” novels.  What I would consider as a major feat on the author’s part is the ingenious worldbuilding. There is absolutely no info-dumping, and while I do admit I did get a bit confused between the Valorians and Herranis for the first few chapters, the fog faded as I became familiar with the terminology. The intricately written plot added to the complex world, equating to a very joyous Summer.

    The incorporation of music into the plotline felt perfect and just right. It didn't feel forced, or fake; it felt genuine. The impeccable way which Rutkoski described the music was spot-on, and it was as if I was right next to Kestrel, listening to her playing her music.

    Probably the most touching part of the novel was its depiction of father and daughter and their relationship. It was portrayed in a very accurate and relatable fashion, and I found myself tearing up while reading about their interactions.

    A stunning, thrilling start to a series, The Winner’s Curse has earned its spot on my 2014 favorites list. I cannot wait until the next novel comes out, and have very high hopes for the next installments to this beautiful, compelling novel. 

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  • Posted April 21, 2014

    Okay all, I don't say this lightly, but seriously, The Winner's

    Okay all, I don't say this lightly, but seriously, The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski is NOT TO BE MISSED!  This is by far, one of my favorite YA books of the season!  Beautifully written and incredibly engaging, Rutkoski will absolutely captivate and hold you until the very last page.

    What was so great about this novel?  Can I say EVERYTHING? Seriously, from the GORGEOUS cover art to the storyline, the characters and the building romance...EVERYTHING!  

    I always find it hardest to write reviews for books that I completely fall in love with and this proves to be no easier but here goes....

    Let's start with the storyline and plot...amazing.  Really, Rutkoski really outdoes her self and provides us lucky readers with a pacing and storyline that does not disappoint.  This one will hook into you and keep you up until midnight (or 2am in my case)...and even after you finish you will be so excited you want to go back and start it all over again just so you don't have to have it all come to an end.    The world building is fantastic!  The Winner's Curse is so beautifully written that you can hear the water lapping and taste the salty air.  Throughout most of the novel it is not hard to feel like you're actually there.

    The characters are delightful and full of depth and texture.  They really don't even feel like characters but rather friends that you grow to know inside and out.  From our lovely main characters to even those you despise, absolute care is taken with each.  The chemistry between Kestrel and Arin is complex and continually builds and is powerfully vivid and intense....and did I mention complex?  Seriously, these two are so complicated but it's almost refreshing because really, what relationship doesn't come with confused entangled intricacies? 

    I cannot say enough good things about this novel but take my word for it!  You will not be disappointed!  The Winner's Curse is a fast paced, engaging novel that has a multitude of complexities including twists and turns, jealousies, duels, betrayal and honor all wrapped in one!  Do not miss out on one of the best novels of 2014!

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  • Posted April 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I loved every aspect of this book, not only did Marie Rutkoski g

    I loved every aspect of this book, not only did Marie Rutkoski grabbed my attention with the synopsis and the lovely cover, but the whole story as a whole was just amazing. With a romance between a general's daughter and a slave, plot twists, a love triangle and secrets,The Winner's Curse is a must read.

    From the start we meet Kestrel,a seventeen-year-old girl who is the daughter of a general of a very powerful empire that also happens to be known for their warriors/fighting skills. But living in such a powerful empire comes with its sacrifices. Kestrel has been given two choices: she can join the military and fight or get married. But she doesn't want to do neither one. 

    Having lost her mother, Kestrel lives with her dad, which doesn't make things easier for her when he is constantly insisting her to make a choice, especially the one guided towards the military. Kestrel knows that she has to make a choice, but everything changes the minute she accidently attends a slave auction. She wasn't expecting to bid for a defying slave, but his eyes and how he was being treated made her want to bid for the slave even more without thinking of the consequences that it would bring to her and her people in the future.

    Soon the two start to form a bond over their experiences, and it sort of forms into a friendship. The more time they spend together, the more Kestrel starts to feel for the young slave. She trusts him by inviting him to her home and by telling him more about her life and likes. But in reality she doesn't know that Arin has been hiding a secret, one that will make her regret ever biding on him from the start and for giving him her heart. That's the minute she realizes that she has to make a choice, whether to help her enemies and betray her people or figure out a way to stop the rebellion going against her people. 

    There are so many things that happen in the book that were intriguing and interesting. The writing and the different perspectives in the book made it that much more interesting to read as well. Rutkoski does a good job describing this new world and the characters. Kestrel is a strong, independent girl that just wants to do what she wants. She may not be good in combat, but she has a passion for music and her planning skills when it comes to planning a combat come naturally to her. She is a very brave and smart character. On the other hand, Arin is kind and attentive that anyone would really like. Overall, the story was amazing, from the characters to the setting, everything was well thought out and I'm really looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy. I highly recommend it. :) 

    *ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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  • Posted March 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Winner's Curse is a very interesting look at war and strateg

    The Winner's Curse is a very interesting look at war and strategy. I have read several reviews that list this as a romance - but I saw it as more of a fantasy novel about revolution, compromise, and war. Kestral is the daughter of the general and many expect her to follow in her father's footsteps, becoming a great soldier and leader. But Kestral has a secret - she can't fight. While she is excellent at strategy, she has never been able to grasp the fine art of physical combat.

    Arin is a slave. He is Herrani, one of the people captured by the empire and forced to choose death or slavery. But he is more than just an ordinary slave. When Kestral purchases him she discovers that he is intelligent and sly. As her strategic mind begins to put the pieces together, she isn't quite fast enough. Disaster strikes Kestral's people and while she may be the only chance they have of survival, she is also the reason it succeeded.

    I think I loved the mental sparring in this book the best. It was very political, with moves and counter-moves throughout society and on the field of war to be analyzed with fast minds that could make quick decisions. Is there a romance? Sort of. It certainly isn't one that I would want to be a part of, but it is incredibly important to the story. There was not a lot of physical action or conflict until after the half way point of the book, but the author managed to create a lot of tension without it.

    I found this book very hard to put down. There were a few small things that bothered me about Arin and the way he reacted and accomplished things - especially when it came to Kestral. I'm definitely going to be watching for the next book. While the story didn't exactly end in a cliffhanger, you can tell there is much more to come and I'm hoping some things aren't exactly as they seem.

    *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

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  • Posted March 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    After finishing this book I closed the cover trying to compare i

    After finishing this book I closed the cover trying to compare it to other books I have recently read. I wasn't able to come up with a single one. This book stands alone, which is refreshing with all the books that are replicas of each other. It deals with friendship, social status, and making tough choices.

    The story follows Kestrel and Arin. Kestrel purchases Arin as a slave from an auction. For her a friendship builds between the two, but Arin tries to deny it. She doesn't fully understand who Arin is or what his intentions are, he keeps himself closed off throughout the book. As the story progresses Kestrel's friends see the affection she has for her slave, which is frowned upon. This causes rumors to spread about her, lowering her in the eyes of the upper class. Arin, on the other hand, has no desire to remain a slave and seeks his freedom. Both have decisions to make, choices to make that may not be favorable.

    I have to say I loved this book. I think the setting, the story, the characters, everything drew me in as soon as I cracked the cover. The story doesn't take long to develop, it dives right in. The characters were completely believable, you, as the reader, become invested in them as you progress. Not only are they believable, but their stories deal with current issues. Kestrel struggles to be accepted by her peers because of her actions, her affection towards Arin, her slave. Arin faces the same rejection from his peers later in the book. Both characters are forced to make extremely difficult decisions throughout the book. Each decision leads them both down different paths.

    I would recommend reading this book, it is a truly refreshing, great read. From the moment I cracked the cover I was hooked. It is different from other books on the market today. It's a book you find yourself turning the pages late into the night, unable to set it aside. I can't wait for the next installment!

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