A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
They were never meant to be together. As a general's daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can't help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other. Set in a new world, The Winner's Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
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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.”
“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.”
“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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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
4.5 stars. I SERIOUSLY underestimated The Winner's Curse. The cover and blurb are, much like the story itself, full of deceptions and little tricks. I only saw them AFTER finishing The Winner's Curse, when I looked at them again thinking, "This isn't the story that they made me think it would be." But it was. I just didn't look or read closely enough. And that is why you have to read The Winner's Curse. Every detail is put together perfectly, for a deadly combination. I say deadly, because, if - like me - you're thinking that this will be a somewhat sweet YA romance, tinged with some sort of conflict, you missed the same little details I did. This is absolutely a romance, but there's really nothing YA or sweet about it in my opinion. The Winner's Curse is about a deadly game, confused by intrigue, deception, brutality, and love. My ONE complaint - and it's not a big one - is that I could always see every step. The Winner's Curse is written from a dual POV and the result was that I watched the game unfold, fully aware of the intricate plans. I would have liked to be as shocked by the twists and turns as the characters sometimes were. And yet, I can't fault the dual POV, because it was Rutkoski's own little scheme - worked out on me. It was an evil little plan that tore me apart as much as the main characters - Kestrel and Arin. I grew to love them both, which left me with a confusing lack of clear villains. Kestrel is a young woman living in a world where she has two choices - marry or enlist. On one hand I loved that this world had no qualms about women being tough and fighting. On the other, for their only other option to be marriage just sucked and reminded me that this was still a paternalistic world. Kestrel's father is one of the most celebrated war generals of her people, so what he wants for her is no secret. It's what everyone expects from her. But Kestrel isn't a great fighter. She has the basic skills, but she has no desire to kill. And she's always slacked in her fighting in favor of a frowned upon skill, playing the piano. Don't let that fool you though. Kestrel is no weakling. She is cunning and, when she chooses to be, is ruthless. She's a master strategist, reads people incredibly well, and is not easy to fool. The heart can confuse things though. Arin immediately strikes a note inside Kestrel's heart - from the moment she sees him on the auction block and pays a ridiculous fee for him. He's strong and stubborn and as you grow to know him, you see what Kestrel sees. You see his intelligence. You feel for him, for the life he had ripped away when Kestrel's people invaded his land and turned his people into slaves. And that's the heart of why The Winner's Curse is so good. On one hand you love Kestrel and grow to like her friends and even her father. You want them to be happy. But you hate that Arin and his people are enslaved, and you want their freedom. This is a war society - reminiscent of the Roman Empire, after their conquest of Greece - and the brutality of living off the spoils of war is painted vividly. I think this story will speak to so many different kinds of readers, but I especially recommend it to history buffs, like me. I found so many connections to geek out about. This is a war society - reminiscent of the Roman Empire, after their conquest of Greece - and the brutality of living off the spoils of war is painted vividly. Finally, I have to add that the narration was fantastic. I've never listened to anything narrated by Justine Eyre before, but she is now on my short list. She brought the characters to life and I easily forgot she was reading a script. Even her male voices were strong and varied, making The Winner's Curse a real treat to listen to. I can't wait to pick up the next book! I'm so glad book club made me pick up The The Winner's Curse I really had underestimated it.
Stunning! 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)
I'm not exactly sure what I think about this book? It's a weird feeling. It's... forgettable, I guess. It was an entertaining enough read, butI don't feel any emotional connection to the characters and the romance was hella cheesy. There were moments where I thought that Kestrel was going to have some real depth or purpose - Arin too, I suppose - but then they just kept turning back to this fated love story? That's such a pet peeve for me... when all pretense of a great political action drama is put on the back burner for a cringy romance? *sigh* At the same time... I dunno, I guess I felt compelled to keep reading? I listened to 85% of this in one sitting and it was such a breath of fresh air at the time. Not because of itself, I suppose, but because it was *not* the other book I was listening to? I'm not sure if this comparison gave it more love than it deserved from me, or if I transferred some of my impatience on to it. As for being shelved as fantasy... ... no? There's no fantastical elements for me here, nor dystopian ones. It's an alternate world with a Romanesque vibe. I'd call it historical fiction if it wasn't a made up place, which I suppose is what makes it fantasy... but it didn't feel like fantasy to me. The world itself was good, the political elements were interesting. So were the customs and social classes. These were all presented as background, though. The book would have been stronger with the romance as a subplot and everything else front-and-center. I'll be reading the next book - I'm intrigued, if not attached. I think The Winner's Curse is worth reading, but it's not something I'll be adding to my personal collection.
pooled ink Reviews: The book’s description had me intrigued enough to add it to my TBR list but the cover had me doubtful enough to put off seeking it out. I’ll just say it, I don’t like the covers for this book (not a huge surprise since I almost never favor covers with people on them but this one just doesn’t feel like it quite captures the story right). I am pleased to report that this book is definitely far more than the cover promises. THE WINNER'S CURSE is deliciously captivating as it charms you with expectations, teases you with games, and slices you with consequences. All is fair in love and war…just remember, you can’t have both and either choice comes with a heavy loss. Read my full review on my Wordpress blog: Pooled Ink (https://pooledink.com/2017/03/22/the-winners-curse/ )
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski begins with Kestrel enjoying the city with her appointed escort and they are both doing things that they know are not allowed for them, such as gambling with the locals. They wander into the slave auction and a slave with blacksmith skills and singing talent comes up for bid. The slave is told to sing for the audience, but he refuses. Kestrel admires him for his pride and bids on him. She outbids everyone else at the steep price of fifty keystones and she's told this is the Winner's Curse. Kestrel spends time with Arin, her slave, and she's not sure what to think about him or his background because he is strong like a slave with manners and knowledge like an aristocrat. Strange events began to happen and Kestrel is trying to figure out why. This story has espionage, intrigue and suspense and the romance is kind of a mystery all of its own. The Winner's Curse is an enjoyable read and it left me anxious to read the sequel - 4 stars!
About: The Winner’s Curse is a fiction novel written by Marie Rutkoski. This book was published on 3/4/2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux, 355 pages. There are 3 books in The Winner’s Trilogy: book 1 is The Winner’s Curse, book 2 is The Winner’s Crime, and book 3 is The Winner’s Kiss. The genres are fantasy, young adult, romance, and dystopia. This author has a Ph.D from Harvard University. Much respect for her, to write good books and to be educated by the best school. My Experience: I started reading The Winner’s Curse on 8/13/16 and finished it on 8/15/16. This book is an amazing read! I like that this book started out interesting and continue to capture my attention throughout the book. This hardcover book is unique. I like the sideway layout and the pages are soft to the touch. Kestrel is an ideal character I like to read about. She’s clever, brave, beautiful, talented, and leaders respect her opinions. She has weaknesses, but I enjoy the narrative of her thinking and reasoning. I would hope to have more point of view from Arin. He has a strong self control, a bit secretive. Something about the forbidden love that excited me and the read is fun surrounding that. There are some romance scenes and it’s very appropriate for any age. I like that the title has everything to do with the book. I like that Kestrel’s father is a strategist. I like strategy before the actions. I like that the author give us readers glimpses of the plan: Arin’s plan and the Emperor’s plan. I only didn’t like the dream story Enai told because I didn’t like the ending of the dream. During the read, I felt tense. I shed tears. I smiled. I couldn’t get enough. I am ready for the second book. The story is well written and flow well. No actions were dived in blindly. I highly recommend the read. The rave on this book has not failed me. Pro: forbidden love, a different world, strong female lead, page turner, couldn’t put down kind of read, full of actions Con: Enai’s story in the dream. ***Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from my local public library and my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com
This was an amazing read. I loved every page. For the first time a captured woman did what was right. She never gave up the fight.
If you're a fan of all things scheming, yes this is the book for you. If you love a great high fantasy, this the book for you. If you like great books in general, this is the book for you. Kestrel must choose to marry or enlist as a soldier by her twentieth birthday. She knows she would like to marry at some point but hates the constraints society puts on her if she chooses that path. She'll have more independence as a soldier, but there's the small fact that she can't fight worth beans. On the other hand, Kestrel's scheming and stratagem is some of the best out there. She's not someone I would want to get on my bad side. I would just like to first say that one of the reasons I love high fantasy is because it's usually written in third person and it's written really well that way. The Winner's Curse's world is well-constructed and filled with just about every type of character. There's the despicable guy everyone wants the main character to punch (or worse), the smart best friend who comes off as rather simple, the young bachelor whose compliments are more sincere than they seem, the tough but caring father, the motherly figure, the young fragile girl, and the very stubborn but very handsome guy who we all know belongs with the main character. Yup, the cast is full and ready to go. The Winner's Curse had me hooked from page one. I could very clearly visualize the setting and I could tell that, even if I didn't, Miss Rutkoski knew all about her world and was just waiting for the right moment to reveal parts of its history. In the mean time, she showed us the games of Valorian high society, their gossiping ways, and the ripple effects of Kestrel's actions within it. As I said before, the writing was fantastic. I had no problems connecting with the characters or falling deep into the story. I was immersed in Kestrel's world and it was such a pleasure to spend time there. Kestrel herself is the schemer who sometimes wishes she couldn't scheme, yet who takes pride in the fact that she can outsmart most people. Kestrel is three dimensional and oh so intelligent. Her father conquered a whole country and she's in competition with him, trying to scheme her way out of his schemes. Yeah. Can I say the word scheme again? Arin was perfect. He's a slave, so of course he'd be angry with Kestrel at first. Then he starts opening up and I was sitting there thinking, more, give me more. Arin isn't just a simple slave though, he's a blacksmith and his scheming's have no problem competing with Kestrel's. Oh yes, we have yet another one of those. Even with his anger though, Arin doesn't wish to slaughter Valorian society. At his heart, he's a very noble guy. The love story was fantastic. Miss Rutkoski didn't rush anything. She let their relationship as master and slave develop and snowball until their first kiss. Arin would do anything for Kestrel and proves it. But Kestrel has a lot more going on than just being in love with Arin. Things are complicated. In the end though, she proves what we all know. But what that is I won't say because that's complicated too. The plot was well-thought-out and perfectly executive. Who doesn't like a good rebellion? I did seem some things coming but that didn't make it all any less enjoyable. I'm just glad Cheat got what he deserved. And Irex. The Winner's Curse is the high fantasy I have been craving. It didn't disappoint (not that I thought it would; I was 100% sure it wouldn't). It's been one of my top antici
Wow that was GREAT! Excellent writing, drew me right in, and I couldn't put it down. Great story. The tension of the characters having to make tough decisions true to the conflict, true to each being a strategist, usually against their internal needs. I've read plenty of YA and of course war/conflict comes up but I think this was one of the most genuine (true to life) depictions. It wasn't simply "exciting situation" "drama" "everything works out", and not that I haven't enjoyed that too. I simply felt this story, the story telling, never went over the top, very believable, loved it. Equally strong lead characters. Can't wait to read the next books.
Made for 13 year olds.... maybe? it was boring with lack of detail very childlike writing.
The last time I read two books in less than a week was The Selection series( I read two of them in one day and I read two of The Winner's Curse books in two days)! This is by far one of my favorite series. Pretty early on in the book you learn a secret that makes you boil with anger and throw the book at a wall then pick it back up to find out what happens. It definitely makes you feel the feels. The characters in this series are so dimensional. They make choices that surprise you and they're very interesting. Kestrel (such a cool name) is this strong female main character who is very inspiring, but like everyone she makes mistakes, which is okay because everything will work out in the end.... i hope. Arin is this mysterious boy who you can't help but love even after you learn some not-so-pleasant things about him. The romance in this book is amazing but there is also a lot of action, with wars and such. There is also a lot of character development, which is always fun. You will find yourself conflicted with who to side with and you will see that your perspective changes as you read. Also, the covers are beautiful, a great collection to your bookshelf! Though, they have changed the paperback cover, I think, but I prefer the old one. But you know what they say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but the book is just as beautiful as its cover!
Take my wordfor it. Just read it.
When I read The Winner’s curse I was delightfully surprised; Rutkoski created such an incredible and believable world that seemed to be bordering between a historical and modern world. The writing was beautifully done; it wasn’t exactly fast-paced, but it also wasn’t slow – I guess that means it was just right. We’re introduced to some well thought out characters that are presented as a mystery to us, but as you read along in the book, those mysteries are slowly revealed, but not all of it (as it is a trilogy). Kestrel is a Valorian woman and General Trajan’s daughter – who is favored by the Emperor. Kestrel is a very independent person; she relies solely on reasonableness and logic most of the time, but when she meet’s Arin she starts to deals with some things through emotion and sentimentality – which he seems to bring out in her. Kestrel has a best friend named Jess, and a sort-of suitor named Ronan – who is Jess’ brother. Coincidence? Yes, Jess wants her and Kestrel to be actual sisters, maybe not by blood but by name. Jess is a very sweet girl, you can definitely tell that she has a strong relationship with Kestrel. I actually really liked her, even when she seemed to be annoying to Kestrel at times, I found her to be thoughtful and a friend (because, let’s be honest: isn’t that what friends do? Annoy you? Yes, I think so). Arin is introduced to the story when Kestrel impulsively purchases him as a slave. The Herrani and Valorian’s went to war many years ago for Herrani land. The Herrani lost everything and those that did not die in the war became slaves. Arin is a professional blacksmith, and Kestrel tries to make that the only reason for why she bought him, but Arin is a terrible slave; he’s arrogant, doesn’t follow orders as he should, outspoken and stubborn – surely not the characteristics you’d want to have in a slave, but Kestrel buys him, nonetheless, and doesn’t plan on selling him again. In my opinion, I felt that, in some aspects, you could relate to each of the characters you meet: Kestrel – who’s trying to please her father and make up for the lack of not being the perfect son/daughter, Arin – who’s fighting the attraction of someone he can’t possibly fall in love with, while trying to be the hero of his nation, Jess – who’s always attempting to become like that model friend who everyone admires, trying to be as pretty and talented as she is, and lastly, Ronan – who’s endeavoring to gain the affections of the girl he’s sure is the love of his life. One of the things that I also loved about this book was the fact that Kestrel and Arin were independent. They had their own problems that needed to be handled and other situations that arose for each individual alone. Too many times have I read books where the female is weak-willed and puny; they make girls look like they need men to survive or get through a situation. Ok, ok, I understand the fact that two people can share the problem with each other, but, really? We do not live in a caveman world. Girls can be independent. That is also why I liked Kestrel, maybe she wasn’t physically bad-assed, but mentally? That girl could kick butt. All in all, this was a great book. I would recommend this to people who enjoy romance, a sort-of-maybe historical setting, also those who like fairy tales (but more realistic), and suspense/mystery (this book excelled at that). I gave The Winner’s Curse 4 out of 5 stars. Hit List Reviews
Original Review Link on As Dreams are Made: http://asdreamsaremade.com/2015/01/book-tuesday-the-winners-curse/ Just. ALL THESE FEELS Yep. Kestrel is the General’s daughter in the Valorian Empire. She lives in what is the conquered country of Herran. In an act of fate or destiny, she finds herself bidding on a young slave at auction, not knowing what draws her to him. Slowly, she realizes she’s falling in love with him, but Arin has his own secrets and role to play. When a life changing event occurs, Kestrel is forced to make a choice between what wants and what will save everything she loves. I just. Wow. This book. Guys. Kestrel is an wonderful character who is extremely intelligent, but torn between her allegiance to her country and the native Herrani who are now slaves to it. She is extremely intelligent, especially with battle tactics which is why her father wants her to join the army. I loved her complicated relationship with her father. You could see they both love one another, but fear of rejection or disappointment causes them to be reserved and withdrawn, even though Kestrel wants nothing more than to make him proud. Arin. Oh Arin. I loved his hot-headedness and refusal to bow down to anyone–even though he is a slave. He allows Kestrel to see a different side of herself she never knew existed. Jess, Kestrel’s best friend, and her brother Rohan are solid supporting characters and add an element of indecisiveness to Kestrel’s decisions. I loved Kestrel’s and Arin’s complicated relationship. After the main conflict (which I won’t reveal to you!) you wonder how they can ever be together again. And the ending!! DYING. Thank goodness I had an ARC of The Winner’s Crime that I immediately had to start reading. You will be getting that review soon as well! Guys do yourself a favor. Seriously. Pick up this book. I haven’t read anything like it. And that is saying something.
The Winner's Curse. A love story. A drama. A means to no end. There is so much to talk about this book. The character development was built to a perfect climax where Kestrel and Arin - the main protagonists - battled using both precision of wit and intelligent flirtation. Overall the book was excellent and I could not put it down, which inevitably led me to burn the midnight oil and thus be cranky but fully satisfied in the morning. Kestrel is a powerful heroine, not by physical means but by her intelligence and sly means of evasion. Rutkoski brilliantly shaped her by using Kestrel's weaknesses to be overwhelmed by her strength that carried her all the way to the end of the book and left the reader wanting for more. As a lady of high standing, she cleverly avoided the folly of hubris and kept her head more than once through sheer will alone. Arin, once an esteemed man himself now a slave was taken under Kestrel's wing by the fate of the Gods and has fought for every breath, every step he must take to reach his goal. Fighting to stay alive, he must now fight for another who has overridden every plan Arin accounted for, but not until he must shatter the fragile cut steel Kestrel is beginning to hesitantly surrender. The Winner's Curse should be indeed one of Rutkoski's proud achievements due to its musical flowing plot, indescribable harmonization of her creations, and a world where two must find themselves in one another.
I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. I thought the story line was original while also reflecting the history of slavery. It was a little bit slow in places which is why I took off one star but overall, I am excited to receive the second book and see what happens next. The characters were also a bit touch and go as the book went along. I don't want to give away any spoilers for those who have not read it, but sometimes I couldn't tell if Kestrel was being real or not. In her point of view, she was feeling one way but it never came across that way in the dialogue-- at least not to me. I think overall, Arin was a pretty solid character and even though as a reader, I knew what he was going to do before it actually occurred in the book, it still broke my heart
Choices for Valorian women are limited. Kestrel can join the military, as her father the general has planned for Kestrel since her childhood, or she can marry. No one would ever guess the path Kestrel truly wants to take. No one could imagine another choice in an empire that glorifies war and enslaves all it conquers. Kestrel shouldn't have been tempted at the slave auction. Certainly not by a defiant slave whose every move broadcast contempt and disdain for his surroundings. Even knowing she will pay too much--knowing it will set off a series of disasters even Kestrel can't fully predict--she buys the slave. At first Kestrel is too busy hiding her own activities to think much of the new slave. But Arin has his secrets too. As Arin and Kestrel circle each other they will embark on a journey together that will change both them and their countries forever in The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski. The Winner's Curse is the first book in Rutkoski's Winner's Trilogy. Rutkoski has created a vibrant world with a heroine who is shrewd and pragmatic even as she makes terrible decisions. Kestrel is a brilliant strategist--a skill that shows throughout the novel as she negotiates various obstacles throughout the story. Secrets and lies are key to both Kestrel and Arin's characters, creating a story that is as much about what is said as it is about subtext. This novel is brimming with non-verbal communication and other subtle cues that Rutkoski expertly manipulates as a story of love and other--somewhat darker--matters slowly unfolds. With a fully-realized world and vibrant, flawed characters there is a lot to absorb in The Winner's Curse. Readers will be rewarded with several surprising revelations and a story that manages to succeed both as a standalone story and as the launching point for a stunning trilogy. Grounded in the Ancient Roman Empire's practice of enslaving conquered peoples and all of the ramifications therein, The Winner's Curse is a rich, meditative story on what freedom truly means and the efforts some will take to procure it. Highly recommended for everyone but especially fans of historical fiction and/or Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series. Possible Pairings: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
A wonderfully written composure of social structure blended with a devious plot of regime overthrow, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, is a beautiful creation of romance and historical fantasy. Themes are an essential part of all stories, however it is not often that they are done well, though most are on par. The Winner’s Curse took this to another level, making the theme, the story. It was woven into the plot and continually grew greater and stronger as the book advanced. Marie Rutkoski has created a vivid and contagious new world in this book. It’s a familiar world, one of conquests, hierarchies, and societal gatherings involving schemes and betrayal. It is a world very close to what ours has been like in the past millennium. Set in a world where the Herranis have be conquered by the Valorians and subjected to slavery, the story follows a young 17 year old girl named Kestrel, the daughter of the prominent and respected General Trajan. Kestrel not hopeful about the future of her exist, which basically involves her choosing between becoming a soldier in the military (which her father continues to pressure her to do) or marriage, both of which Kestrel loath and disfavors. “But when you are faced with only two choices, the military or marriage, do you wonder if there is a third, or a fourth, or more, even than that?” In an unexpected moment Kestrel and her best friend Jess go to a slave auction, where without thinking of the consequences, Kestrel buys a slave. Independent and vigilant, Kestrel’s new slave, Arin intrigues her, and soon she finds herself going out of her way to be with him. But with such different backgrounds, is a future together even a possibility? Kestrel and Arin, our protagonists, are a pleasure as we divulge into their stories, both separately and combined. Kestrel, our first protagonist, is intelligent, strategic, cunning, and quick-witted, nothing like the society ladies she associated with (though there were not many to compare her to). She is compassioned and at often times to trusting. Being the daughter of a military General of the Valorian Empire, the victors of the war with the Herrani people, Kestrel is trained in basic military self-defense. The fact that she is not perfect in this make her character seem more realistic and also adds to her characteristics of wanting to be more a musician. However, the fact that she seemed to overcome all the challenges given to her too easily put the book back into the unrealistic mood. Arin, our second protagonist and the slave of Kestrel, is complex and secretive. Much like Kestrel, Arin is strategic and intelligent, but he is also observant and rebellious. Together Arin and Kestrel were a perfect match, being both keen and perceptive. Arin managed to match her when other men couldn’t, despite his inferior rank. Though their slowly developing romantic relationship, which had the potential to be extremely problematic (as one was the slave to the other and among other things), was instead handled carefully and thoughtfully, with both characters aware of the imbalance of power between them and the problems it could cause. Rutkoski’s detail to their relationship made to story slow at times but give us a better insight to the thinking of each character. Though the characters added a great side bar, the focal point of the world however, was the history between the Valarians, Herranis, and the rest of the known world. The people and their contrasting outlooks on life and each other explained more of how the two main characters interacted with each other, coming from diverging factions. The only shortcoming that made this story a bit undesirable was the world building aspect. Rutkoski’s detailing to the characters pushed the lack of detailing of the world aside. A trade that should have never been comprised considering that these characters are involved in this world and the focal point of the history is based on it. But overall, Marie Rutkoski has presented an absurdly well thought out and exceptionally executed book. It is a story that discusses more than what one can see only on the surface (the romance), and dives into social cultural, expanding into historical diverges and governmental influences. It features intelligent characters, mind games, and a lot of strategizing. I highly recommend it to those looking for a romance historical fantasy.
When I started this one, I was all, "Okay, it's good, but I'm not getting the looooove" everyone has. (I'm a contemp reader; involved worldbuilding is new to me. Bear with me.) Then at some point during reading, it became, "What was it I wasn't so into again? Because...I feel like I love everything happening here? I love this father-daughter relationship, I love this feminist society, I love the worldbuilding, I love the stakes, and love is not a strong enough word for how I feel about Arin-Kestrel, so...oh, no, I finished. WHERE IS BOOK 2?" So, yeah. Good. Which apparently everyone else on earth knew before I did. SHOCKING.