Author: Marie Rutkoski
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: I would like to start this review with the warning that the second-half of The Winner’s Curse is exceedingly better than the first. So if you are in a bit of a struggle then please do not give up!
In the beginning it looked as if this book and I were going to have a difficult time. The protagonist, Kestrel, is intelligent, as is known by her father, her friends, and everyone around her. Yet she remained determined to linger in the life of her past, filled with society gossip and gowns and music and other frivolities, despite the change she could feel begin to take root deep within her. Because once Kestrel made the spur of the moment decision to purchase a male slave up for auction, her world is completely altered. She has begun to suffer from “the winner’s curse,” which is a phrase used to express when one can no longer keep what they have won.
To read about the development of Kestrel and her slave, Arin’s, relationship was to go on a very slow-burning journey. Neither of them knew what to make of the other or the inexplicable thoughts and feelings that could be wrought out of them. At first, I considered the much talked about romance of this book to be incredibly weak, but then I began to realize what the author had done: she had allowed the readers into the minds of her characters on a completely vulnerable journey to love. If the thoughts and actions were frustrating to read, it was because Arin and Kestrel were also experiencing the same things in a struggle to rationalize their positions and loyalties. Towards the middle of the book things had progressed in such a way that I often had to re-read passages the author had written to describe their emotions because the words were so beautifully done.
And as the romance improves so does the plot. Because I do not want to give anything away in terms of spoilers I will only say that Kestrel is finally put in a position where she must use her intelligence and it was a wonder to behold. Arin, too, is an extremely competent and adaptable individual; the journey and development of both these characters was very well done. With so many things set-up towards the end of this first book in the series, I eagerly look forward to what the author will give her readers next.