Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Bloomsbury Australia on April 10, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Kestrel lives the lavish lifestyle of a Valorian General’s only daughter, and such riches come at a cost for Valoria’s captives – and for her. As the Herrani face death or slavery, Kestrel’s destiny is shaped by her father. He gives her two choices: join his army or get married. Desperate to realise her own future and knowing that it will invite scandal, she pays a small fortune for a handsome Herrani blacksmith at a slave auction. Arin not only plays Kestrel’s power games, he understands what she needs and soon she is torn between loyalty to her people and her feelings for him. But Arin is not all he seems and Kestrel will learn that the price she paid for him is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
The first novel in a stunning new trilogy, The Winner’s Curse is a story of romance, rumours and rebellion, where dirty secrets and careless alliances can be deadly – and everything is at stake.
The Winner’s Curse occurs when you outbid everyone by an exorbitant amount, which means your loss was more than your gain. This was an interesting concept that was carried out throughout the novel, as Kestral gets a lot more than she bargained for when she bids on a slave.
Don’t come into this book expecting it to be a fantasy with world building and lots of action, because you’ll be disappointed. Instead, get ready to experience an amazing forbidden romance between two characters who are made for each other, yet are from different classes and cultures which have a violent history.
Kestral, the General’s daughter of the Valorian ruling class and Arin, a cunning slave from the Herrani minority, were a couple I shipped all the way through. I loved how they first formed a tentative friendship with each other, and then discovered that their strategic thinking, appreciation for the arts and intelligence were on par. The romance is developed through the course of the novel, but with layers of secrets and lies.
“You might not think of me as your friend,’ Kestrel told Arin, ‘but I think of you as mine.”
Kestral is a fantastic character who was strong and intelligent, it was great to see a girl who could be girly and love her dresses, but also be respected for her brilliant mind as a strategist. I loved how she used intelligence and strategic thinking to get herself out of situations when it seemed there was no other way out. Arin was someone who had a few tricks up his sleeve and I really liked his cunning wit and ability to deceive. The couple couldn’t be better matched, if it wasn’t for their class and culture.
The world building is limited, it’s coined as a fantasy but purely focuses on the tensions between the Valorians and the Herrani. We’re told what we need to about the two cultures, one as the ruling class and the other as slaves. I loved the distinction between each, they are explored well throughout the novel.
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.
The writing was completely enveloping, sweeping, beautiful, and succinct in a way. It’s clear Marie Rutkoski is skilled at her craft, and it comes through fantastically in her work. Be patient as you are reading this novel, while the bulk of it focuses on the character and relationship development, it really takes off in the last quarter of the novel.
The Winner’s Curse is a fantastic, expertly written novel with a classical forbidden romance, between a brilliant strategist and a cunning slave. What it excels in, is excellent character and relationship development, with a limited view of the world around the Herranis and the Valorian. This is a couple that everyone could ship, and I can see why this is a strong contender for the best YA novel of 2014.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.