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Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse is a stunning YA debut that will demand to be finished in one day. And, you’ll do it because it’s the smart choice.

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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the winner's curse marie rutkoski

Title & Author: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy) by Marie Rutkoski

Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fantasy

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

How I Got the Book: ARC from Publisher


“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.”

An Absolute Must-Read

There is absolutely NOTHING I disliked about The Winner’s Curse. There was simply everything to love.

From the imagined world of peoples – Valorians and Herennis – to the harsh social structure to the charming game of Bite and Sting, The Winner’s Curse simply enchanted me.

The funny part is, although the story reads like a historical fantasy, there isn’t in fact any magic (at least as far as I can tell). The story is simply set in a fictional land with fictional ethnic backgrounds and histories.

The real magic is in the person of Kestrel. She’s the daughter of the top Valorian general, who is none-too-shy about his feelings about Kestrel’s life choices. She can other join the military, where her razor sharp mind would be valued for its strategical thinking, OR she can get married. End of choices.

And it’s too bad because what Kestrel really wants is to play music – she’s a masterful pianist. Sadly, though, when the Valorians conquered the Herennis, now slaves in the new empire, playing music became something only the low (i.e. Herenni’s) would do.

The story had the same feel of books like Graceling and The Bitter Kingdom. All the elegance and poise with the added bonus of super smart heroines and lots and lots of plotting.

One Choice To Rule Them All

The Winner’s Curse is such a smartly written novel. The backstories of both Kestrel and Arin are beautiful and devastating, and I found myself relating to both of them. The changing POVs between them probably helped with that.

You know I loved Kestrel best. She’s fiercely loyal and self-sacrificing. And other thing about high fantasy and fierce heroines: they almost NEVER succumb to instalove and are more likely to hate their “love interest” first. This to me is a beautiful thing. Die instalove, die.

I will be re-reading this book. And, I will be telling everyone I know about it. It’s THAT good.

I absolutely 100 million percent love this book, am totes invested and cannot flippin wait for MORE! It even made me interested in reading Rutkoski’s other books (she has a middle grade series and another YA book).


You must, must, MUST read this book. It is beautiful and heart wrenching, and it will tear your heart into pieces but instead of crying you will be thanking Marie Rutkoski for bring The Winner’s Curse into your life.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.