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.
Last year I heard about a book called the Winner’s Curse, a book that everyone loved and praised and a book that I was very curious about especially because it was so loved and praised. And because of the cover, I mean look at that cover. It’s goddamn gorgeous. I bought it last month fully expecting to love it as much as the rest of the world, but I was very disappointed.
The Winner’s Curse is about a general’s daughter, Kestrel, who has two choices – join the army, or get married. But of course, she doesn’t want to do either. At an auction, at the beginning of the story, she decides to buy a slave called Arin, for a high price – and that’s when everything starts to go downhill. There is some romance, there are deaths, and it really sounds like a story I would love – but I just didn’t.
I found the first half of the book incredibly boring. There was nothing really going on at all, except for Kestrel going to parties with Arin as her escort. Then there was a duel that wasn’t really a duel and more boring party stuff. It only started to get interesting after a Winterball that Kestrel went to, but even that couldn’t get me excited anymore. I had honestly expected a book filled with fighting and death and all that stuff – but it was more a romance book than anything else, and yeah I just don’t like those kinds of books that much.
There was some nice world building, there were two races – Valorian and Herrani – the former (V) having invaded the latter’s (H) country (? I guess) and forcing them (H) to be their (V) slaves. I had hoped for a map of the country they were in, or perhaps even of the entire world this story happens in, but it wasn’t there – which was a bit of a shame because I had a hard time imagining where the characters were and how (long) they had travelled. There is a map, but it’s just not in the book. Maybe it’s in the second book, but honestly, I don’t know if I’m ever going to pick that up.
The characters were likeable but I just couldn’t really give a damn about them. When I read that some of them were either dead or dying, I felt nothing at all. The only characters I did care about a little were Kestrel and Arin, but as separate people – not together. Which brings me to the romance: I don’t ship it. At all. I don’t know how Kestrel could have even fallen for Arin, because he was nothing but rude to her – but apparently, that’s what chicks dig (I don’t). I just didn’t care about them being together and I just – no.
In the end, I thought The Winner’s Curse had so much more potential, and I was severely disappointed in how the story turned out to be. There is a 20% chance I’ll be reading the next book, maybe only to look at the map and imagine the world better, but I honestly do not care that much about the story. I gave it three stars, but only because the last part of the book got more interesting, otherwise it would have been two stars.