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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski ARC {4 Stars}

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is the first in a new fantasy trilogy and tells the story of forbidden love in a rich high-fantasy world filled with war and intriguing questions of morality. The Winner’s Curse is addictive and I highly advise you schedule out some time so that you don’t have to break from reading this one! I’m not even much of a romance fan and I was desperate to find out what Kestrel and Arin would decide to do!

Note: I received The Winner’s Curse from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski ARC {4 Stars}

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner's Trilogy #1)
Published by Farrar, Giroux, Strauss on March 4th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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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.

4 Stars


  • The Winner’s Curse has the kind of writing that you just can’t put down. I actually found myself standing at my kitchen counter reading when I had gotten up just to get a snack. There is something about the quality of Marie’s words that pulls you in and makes you happy to keep reading :).
  • The forbidden love element of The Winner’s Curse is really the main plot focus and it is done very well. Kestrel and Arin have to make some tough choices and are really forced to ignore their growing affection for each other for most of the book. I’m excited for the build-up that this trilogy promises!
  • While The Winner’s Curse isn’t set in a fantasy world with magic and whimsical critters, the alternate world that Marie Rutkoski has made is really quite awesome. This is the sort of fantasy world that I love even though there aren’t overt magics: subtle differences such as food and the games people play that make it clear this is a very different place. In particular there is a tile game called Bite and Sting that I really want to exist >.>.
  • I really liked Kestrel as the heroine of The Winner’s Curse since she is a great example of a female character being strong by playing to her strengths. Kestrel isn’t the greatest fighter, she doesn’t have magic super powers to go kick enemy butts. She is clever and good with strategy and figures out how to use that to her advantage even in situations where strength would be more helpful. Yey for characters with obvious weaknesses as well as strengths!


  •  There is this huge even that happens 2/3 into the book and then there was a bit of a lull. I couldn’t really tell where things were going to go and everything had been so exciting previously that it felt a bit anticlimactic.
  • I loved the world that The Winner’s Curse has introduced us to, but I want to know even more. I feel like Kestrel knows so much about her world since she’s studied geography and cultures and I wish that I could get inside her head a bit more on that. Hopefully the rest of the trilogy helps with this ;-).
  • That ending… I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it except that I know it won’t please some readers. I’m also conflicted since I’m pretty sure book two isn’t going to go in the direction I wish it would now. It’ll be interesting to find out though!


The Winner’s Curse is quite an excellent book and the only hangups I had are really just my personal taste. I can see this trilogy developing into another fan favorite and can’t wait to see where things go. If you enjoy a character-driven plot in an alternate medieval world then you should definitely check out The Winner’s Curse!

4 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Ah this book! I have been anticipating to read this book. I’m glad you all enjoyed it. I’m hoping to pick this one up asap (but I first kind of want to go through that huge TBR pile that I already own). Loved how you did this review :)

  2. LeKeisha Thomas says:

    It arrived yesterday! Squee!! The swag are bookmarks, stickers, and eyeshadow.

  3. I agree I thoroughly enjoyed the fantasy world even with the lack of magical elements. Now I’m aching to know what direction you had WANTED it to go in and where you think it IS going.

    I agree there was quite a bit of a lull there after that point.
    Pabkins recently posted…Review: Dangerous by Shannon HaleMy Profile

    • Haha, I had been expecting a happily ever after romance plot line, so that was a pleasant surprise actually, though now I’m worried about angst in book 2 ;-)

  4. Hmm…it sounds interesting, but I may hold off until the next book in the trilogy is out. I’m not a huge romance fan, and while I love the idea of a heroine playing to “strategic” strengths, I’m not overly excited about this one.
    Kel recently posted…Updates: March-nessMy Profile

    • Fair enough! I could see the second book going in a number of directions, so I think waiting is a good plan, see if the second book is going to be heavy romance or not ;-)

  5. I’m glad you liked this one so much! I actually love when fantasy books don’t have magic in them. It makes the stories a little more human and relatable. My two favorite aspects of this story are the romance and the fact that Kestrel isn’t your typical fighting heroine, but she uses her incredible mind to win. I’m very curious about what you are/were expecting for the direction of book 2!
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Murder of Crows by Anne BishopMy Profile

    • I do love that Kestrel isn’t the typical heroine, it’s nice to have other kinds of role models for us to love and hopefully the teenagers reading will be happy to root for a smart heroine :D

  6. I am 50% done and I have to admit the moment up till the “explosion” I questioned why everyone was giving this book 5’s. I thought the beginning was just ok. I am liking the 2nd half more but I am holding out an overall opinion. I liked your review though. I guess there is another lull coming but at least I am prepared.
    Felicia S (The Geeky Blogger) recently posted…Favorite Quotes Mother TeresaMy Profile

    • I think you have to be geeked about the romance to be into the first half. I hear ya though, I really liked it and think it’s a solid start to a series, but I’m not quite as enthused as a lot of reviewers ;-)

  7. I’m right with you on wanting to know more about the world. It was intriguing for the book to be dubbed “fantasy”, and then have no magic — weird but kind of awesome! I felt like it was developed REALLY well for a first book, but there’s so much richness there, which just HAS to be further explored.

    And that surprises me that you didn’t like the ending! I LOVED the ending. Even though it doesn’t resolve as much as I was expecting, I felt like the tension in the book was one thing that I really loved, so as torturous as that is, I’m excited for it to continue… if that makes sense, lol.
    Nikki recently posted…There Were Books Involved turns 1!!My Profile

    • Haha, so for the ending, I think that I’m of two minds. I feel the need to warn people who like HEA that they might be disappointed, but I do like being surprised so I was kind of okay with it. Whatever happens in book two will decide me though, since it just depends on which direction it goes ;-)

  8. LeKeisha Thomas says:

    So excited to read this! I won this yesterday along with a swag pack from McMillan! I’ve read nothing but great reviews and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.


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