Title: The Winner's Curse.
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #1.
Author: Marie Rutkoski.
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2014.
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Format: Paperback, 368 pages.
Source: Provided By Publisher.
My Rating:

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, Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. Kestrel has other ideas.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in Arin, a young slave up for auction. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him - and for a sensational price that sets the society gossips talking. 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 is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The Winner’s Curse is one of those novels that it so hyped up, that you start to worry that when you finally get around to reading it – it won’t live up the high expectations you’ve set. Luckily, this really wasn’t the case for me! The Winner’s Curse is a really unique and brilliantly written novel with an incredibly detailed and wonderfully developed storyline that draws you in and keeps you ensnared until you’ve turned the very last page. I almost immediately fell in love with the world Marie Rutkoski has written and I loved reading about the war and all the conflict that has been brewing for years. I found myself torn between the two sides in the story; the Valorians and the Herrani. Just when I thought I’d decided which side I was rooting for, something (or someone!) would do something to completely shift my opinion. I still don’t have a firm answer to the question!

Kestrel is the general’s daughter, and a wonderfully developed and intriguing character. I loved her pretty much right from the beginning. Kestrel is smart, witty, and rebellious and has this independent streak in her. Although she’s interested in her father’s military career, she doesn’t want to join. And although she would like to get married, she doesn’t want to settle and become a complacent house-wife. Kestrel just wants to keep who she really is; a musician and an idealist, and she truly believes that if she joins the military to please her father, or gets married, she’ll loose who she really is. Kestrel’s determination and the spark of life and willpower in her are what make her so fantastic; she was a brilliant character – unlike any I’ve ever read about before!

Arin just happens to be a slave Kestrel buys on a whim from the market one afternoon. I had rollercoaster feelings about Arin’s character throughout The Winner’s Curse. During the beginning of the novel, I thought he was an interesting character, but not overly likeable. When the novel progressed some more, I really started to like his character and grew quite attached to him in my own weird sort of way. He wasn’t one of the characters I absolutely fell in love with, and he’s personally not really my type – but he was sweet, kind, compassionate and really seemed to care about his people and his cause. There were a few instances where I thought he seemed like a complete ass, and acted like one too – but hey, no one’s perfect!

Kestrel and Arin’s relationship develops slowly and cautiously throughout The Winner’s Curse – which I thought fit the storyline perfectly. The romance is definitely not a huge part of the novel, as it focuses more on the battle aspects, the war and complications – but I loved it all the same. Neither of the pair is willing to admit their growing feelings for each other, although it’s plainly obvious how they feel. There are so many complications, and barriers that naturally try to keep them apart, and I really felt for them – their relationship was doomed not to work before it even started. They’re from completely different worlds, yet they understand each other in a way that no one else seems too. I thought their relationship was really beautiful and the ending of The Winner’s Curse really killed me.

Overall, I absolutely adored The Winner’s Curse – it was a phenomenal, action-packed novel that’s full of twists, turns and scenes that I never expected. Marie Rutkoski’s writing is so beautiful and intricately detailed that I could just picture myself right alongside the characters she’s created. My only complaint about The Winner’s Curse is that there were quite a few times where I felt like the storyline dragged and became slightly boring and slow to read – but luckily these times eventually did pick up and I could continue on with the wonderful story. I believe it well and truly deserves the 4.5/5 star rating I gave it, and I’d highly recommend this novel and/or Marie Rutkoski’s writing to anyone who’s a fan of fantasy and forbidden romance. I honestly can’t wait for the release of the second book in this trilogy so I can get my hands on it – I really need to find out what happens next, where everything goes and where all the characters end up!

Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not. - Page 111.

It took some time before Arin realized he was humming a dark tune. For once he didn't stop himself. The pressure of song was too strong, the need for distraction too great. Then he found that the music caged behind his closed teeth was the melody Kestrel had played for him months ago. He felt the sensation of it, low and alive, on his mouth.
For a moment, he imagined it wasn't the melody that touched his lips, but Kestrel.
The thought stopped his breath, and the music, too. - Page 179.

“You’re not mine.” Arin said.
And he kissed her.
Kestrels’ lips parted. This was real, yet not simple at all. He smelled of woodsmoke and sugar. Sweet beneath the burn. He tasted like the honey he’d licked off his fingers minutes before. Her heartbeat skidded, and it was she who leaned greedily into the kiss, she slid one knee between his legs. Then his breathe went ragged and the kiss grew dark and deep. He lifted her up onto the table so that her face was level with his, and as they kissed it seemed that words were hiding in the air around them, that they were invisible creatures that feathered against her and Arin, then nudged, and buzzed, and tugged. - Page 323.


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